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LAW NEWS: Pennsylvania changes DUI prior conviction standard for sentencing

On October 20th, 2014, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed a law changing the way courts handle prior drunk driving (DUI) convictions at sentencing.

In Pennsylvania, you face harsher punishments if you have prior DUI convictions.  Before the change, prior DUI convictions only led to an increased punishment if the defendant was convicted of the prior DUI before committing the new offense.  With the change in the law, any DUI conviction that exists at the time of sentencing will lead to an increased punishment.  By changing the law, the General Assembly invalidated the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s ruling in Commonwealth v. Haag.  Governor Tom Corbett approved the law, which took effect immediately, on October 27th, 2014.

For more information, go to:

Senate Bill 1239 of 2014: “An Act amending Title 75 (Vehicles) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, in licensing of drivers, further providing for occupational limited license; in driving after imbibing alcohol or utilizing drugs, further providing for grading and for prior offenses; and, in enforcement, further providing for reports by courts.”

LAW NEWS: Pa Legislature changes retroactive effect of Adam Walsh Act

On December 20, 2012, the Adam Walsh Act (SORNA) required many individuals who were convicted of sex offenses but not classified as violent sex offenders to begin registering as sexual offenders.  A new law passed in March 2014 has removed the registration requirement for individuals convicted of second-degree felony Indecent Assault between January 22, 2006, and January 1, 2007; Unlawful restraint (18 Pa. C.S.A. Section 2902(b)); False Imprisonment (18 Pa. C.S.A. Section 2903(b)); Interference with the Custody of Children (18 Pa. C.S.A. Section 2904);  Statutory Sexual Assault (18 Pa. C.S.A. Section 3122.1); Corruption of Minors (18 Pa. C.S.A. Section 6301); Invasion of Privacy (18 Pa. C.S.A. Section 7507.1); and second-degree misdemeanor Indecent Assault (18 Pa. C.S.A. 3126) between January 23, 2005 and December 19, 2012. 

Individuals who did not have to register as a sexual offender before December 19, 2012 and were convicted of one of the offenses listed above should contact a criminal defense attorney for advice on whether the new law applies to them.

IN THE NEWS: PGH area man allegedly shoots and kills intruder

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that a Munhall, PA man shot and killed a man who had broken into his garage.  After calling 911, the homeowner informed the intruder that the police were on their way.  Munhall police reports that the intruder began an exchange of gunfire and was killed in the encounter.  Under Pennsylvania law, a person may defend himself and his home from intruders with deadly force.


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Homeowner, intruder involved in gunfight in Munhall; intruder shot dead


IN THE NEWS: Drivers cited in Parkway North HOV Lane enforcement

WPXI reports that 60 Pittsburgh-area drivers received traffic citations for improper use of the carpool/high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane on the Parkway North.  Under the law, the HOV lane may only be used by motorcycle operators and cars that are carrying at least two human passengers inbound from 6:00 AM to 10:00 AM and outbound from 3:00 PM to 7:00 PM.  There are no exceptions for fuel-efficient vehicles.


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“Police crackdown on HOV lane offenders, Morning rush impacted”-WPXI



IN THE NEWS: Allegheny County DA explains right to videotape police

Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala issued a statement outlining the public’s right to videotape police officers. DA Zappala explained that a person has the right to videotape police officers who are on duty but people do not have the right to antagonize the officers or attempt to provoke an arrest. He also advised that police officers are not permitted to arrest individuals for videotaping police actions.  DA Zappala also advised individuals who are being arrested to submit to the arrest regardless of whether they believe the arrest is valid.

For more information, go to:

DA: Videotaping an exchange with officers is within a citizen’s rights

*UPDATED*: IN THE NEWS: 43 cited for Underage Drinking at Kenny Chesney concert in Pittsburgh, 73 More People Arrested for Other Offenses

According to the latest information, 73 people were arrested for crimes or were issued citations during the Kenny Chesney concert.  News outlets earlier reported that 43 individuals were cited for underage drinking.  The 73 arrests and citations are in addition to the underage drinking citations.  The offenses included “assaults including an indecent assault in the stadium concourse, public urination, disorderly conduct, underage drinking, drunken driving, ticket scalping and a robbery.” (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)


For more information, go to:

Chesney concert spins off mayhem, tons of garbage (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Police arrest, cite 73 at Chesney concert; medics treat 150 (Pittsburgh Tribune Review)

Chesney Concert Ends With Fights, Arrests (KDKA)

IN THE NEWS: 43 cited for Underage Drinking at Kenny Chesney concert in Pittsburgh

Yesterday, thousands were at Heinz Field for the Pittsburgh leg of Kenny Chesney’s “No Shoes Nation” Tour.  The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that, during a law enforcement sweep of the Heinz Field parking lots, 43 individuals were cited for underage drinking and related offenses.  WPXI noted that, in addition to the underage drinking citations, five people were arrested.

For more information, go to :

Dozens cited for underage drinking at Chesney concert (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Massive clean-up begins following Kenny Chesney concert (WPXI)

Kenny Chesney Fans Pack North Shore For Concert (KDKA)

IN THE NEWS: PA to upgrade firearms background check system

Pennsylvania is in the process of updating the Pennsylvania Instant Check System (“PICS”).  The PICS system permits firearms dealers and sheriffs departments to run background checks on firearms purchasers and concealed carry permit applicants.  Currently, firearms dealers and sheriffs departments have to call in to an automated telephone system to retrieve results.  After the upgrade, users will have the option to dial in under the old system or use the new computer access.


For more information, go to:

Pennsylvania to upgrade background check system for concealed-carry license requests


IN THE NEWS: NTSB seeks to lower legal drinking limit to .05

The National Transportation Safety Board has recommended that the limit for blood alcohol levels for drivers be lowered to 0.05.  The NTSB has also recommended that measures be taken to encourage broader use of interlock devices. Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the American Automobile Association have not yet endorsed the NTSB’s recommendations.

In its report, the NTSB renewed its recommendation that all DUI/DWI offenders be required to install an interlock device on their vehicles.  The NTSB also reiterated its support of pre-conviction license confiscation and recommended that those charged, yet not convicted of DUI, be required to have an interlock device installed before having their licenses returned (administrative license suspension/administrative license revocation).

*Note: Pennsylvania most recently lowered the legal limit for blood alcohol to 0.08 in 2003.  In Pennsylvania, you can be convicted of driving under the influence with any amount of alcohol in your system if your level of impairment renders you incapable of safe driving.

For more information, go to:

“Reaching Zero: Actions to Eliminate Alcohol-Impaired Driving”-National Transportation Safety Board

“Safety Board Recommends Defining Legally Drunk With Lower Blood Alcohol Level”-Time Magazine 05/15/2013

“Could Lower DUI Standards Be Decades Away in PA, NJ?”

Changing drunken driving threshold from .08 blood alcohol level to .05

In The News: Audio recording missing in PGH officer-involved shooting case

On November 11, 2012, Leon Ford was shot by a city of Pittsburgh police officer during a traffic stop.  Although a video of the incident has been recovered, the audio recording doesn’t include anything between the time the officers exited their car to the time that the gunfire started.  Pittsburgh Police Department policy requires officers in vehicles with cameras to record the audio of the taped encounters.  Officers are “are required to ‘carry the audio transmitter throughout their tour of duty’ [and] are not permitted to deactivate the microphones.”  An assistant city solicitor speculated that the officers may have accidentally left the microphone in their vehicle.

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