experienced defense counsel
serving clients throughout
central pennsylvania

Call Today! 866-806-1061 814-308-0870

State College Criminal Law Blog

Misdemeanor Charges Filed Against Catfish Thrower

Misdemeanor and summary offense charges have been filed against a Nashville Predators fan who had the audacity to throw a dead catfish onto the sacred ice of PPG Paints Arena during Game 1 of the 2017 Stanley Cup Finals last night. Jacob Waddell of Nolenville, TN, who was lucky enough to procure a ticket which should have gone to a more-deserving Penguins fan, erroneously believed that throwing a dead catfish onto the ice would be as legally permissible in Pittsburgh as it is at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. Neither Pens fans nor the Pittsburgh Police were amused by this rude gesture, and not only was Wadell ejected from the game, he now also finds himself charged with possessing instruments of crime, disrupting meetings and disorderly conduct. catfish.penguins-predators.jpg

Pennsylvania Man Charged with Miniature Horse Molestation

A 21 year-old, Pennsylvania man has been charged with a non-residential burglary and sexual intercourse with an animal following an August 16, 2016, incident in Lancaster County. Ephrata Police allege that Travis Wagner entered a barn with the intent of committing a crime therein. Usually, theft is the crime intended to be committed when a person unlawfully enters a building and is charged with burglary. But in this case, the only thing allegedly stolen was the poor miniature horse's dignity and innocence. miniature.horse.jpg

Why Penn State Should Encourage Beer Drinking!

The Penn State alcohol policy has been an abject failure. Irresponsible and excessive alcohol consumption appear to be at an all-time high in Happy Valley, yet attempts to curtail drinking have only made things worse. So how did we get to a place where Mount Nittany Medical Center can expect alcohol overdoses every weekend and underage drinking an public drunkenness charges clog the local magisterial district courts? The sad reality is that Penn State's alcohol policies have had the unintended consequence of encouraging students to drink hard liquor instead of beer. we.want.beer.jpg

State College Marijuana Decriminalization is Misunderstood

"Marijuana is decriminalized in State College! It is now the equivalent of a parking ticket!" Thanks to some irresponsible and inaccurate media reports coupled with a misunderstanding of criminal law, this is the misinformed belief a lot of Penn State students and Centre County residents now have. Given all the confusion generated by this ordinance, it is incumbent upon criminal defense lawyers like me to set the record straight. The bottom line is that the decriminalization ordinance is essentially symbolic, and will have little if any effect on the Penn State community. stoner-girls-smoking-weed-gallery-2-50.jpg

State College Marijuana Decriminalization is Misunderstood

"Marijuana is decriminalized in State College! It is now the equivalent of a parking ticket!" Thanks to some irresponsible and inaccurate media reports coupled with a misunderstanding of criminal law, this is the misinformed belief a lot of Penn State students and Centre County residents now have. Given all the confusion generated by this ordinance, it is incumbent upon criminal defense lawyers like me to set the record straight. The bottom line is that the decriminalization ordinance is essentially symbolic, and will have little if any effect on the Penn State community. stoner-girls-smoking-weed-gallery-2-50.jpg

DUI and Underage Drinking Charges against Amish Teens

DUI charges are not limited to those who drive motor vehicles on public roads. In fact, a Pennsylvania Amish teen recently learned the hard that you can get a DUI operating ANY vehicle on a public roadway, including a horse-drawn buggy. Pennsylvania State Police recently filed charges of DUI and underage drinking against an 18 year old Amish man in Indiana County. The police pulled over the buggy when they saw two young men riding on the roof. All four buggy passengers were under 21 and were charged with underage drinking. amish.police.jpg

Should Penn State Follow OSU's lead with Stadium Beer Sales?

Penn State has long resisted alcohol sales at Beaver Stadium, but as universities search for new revenue streams, the trend is moving towards college-stadium beers sales, just as pro-stadiums have done for as long as anyone can remember. In May of this year, Penn State announced that it would allow beer and wine sales in the hoity-toity suites and club seats, while the masses would have to get their drink on the old fashioned way in the Beaver Stadium parking lots. In 2015, Ohio State took the exact same segregated alcohol sales approach, but in 2016, all of Buckeye Nation will be able to drink beer in the stadium, not just the well-heeled in club seats. penn-state-blue-white-game-tailgating-b70ae620a2659d08.jpgThis begs the obvious question as to whether Beaver Stadium will allow stadium-wide beer sales after the 2016 season. It should be noted that the revenue generated by Ohio Stadium beer sales has been ear-marked to fund two full-time positions with Ohio State University Police. College sports in now a multi-million dollar business, and it is becoming increasingly hard to justify "leaving money on the table." Perhaps Penn State will likewise be tempted to use beer sales to fund police services or offset other university expenses. Penn.State.tailgating.jpg

Indecent Exposure Charges Filed Against Penis Prankster

Sixty-nine misdemeanor indecent exposure charges and one felony count of furnishing harmful items to a minor have been filed against a 19-year-old Arizona boy who exposed his penis in a yearbook photo prank. I call him a "boy" despite what the AP style manual says, because anyone who does this lacks the maturity to be considered an adult man. As the Red Mountain High School football team posed for its team picture last year, two players in the front row created a small gap for Hunter Osborn, standing in the second row, to expose his penis in the picture. Since the penile prank has come to light, Osborn has been very apologetic, indicating that he succumbed to peer pressure when his friends dared him to do it. Osborn was 18 when the photo was taken, so he has been charged as an adult. red.mountain.highschool.jpg

Is Marijuana Decriminalization Coming to State College?

Marijuana decriminalization will soon be the subject of a public hearing before the State College Borough Council. This hearing could come as soon as May 2, 2016. Although a local government has absolutely no authority to override state or federal criminal laws, it can create borough ordinances subjecting violators to fines and court costs, but not jail time. Thus, if the Borough Council creates an ordinance subjecting a person who possesses a small amount of marijuana to a fine, then the State College Police would have the option of issuing a borough ordinance citation rather than charging a suspect with a misdemeanor under the Pennsylvania Drug Device and Cosmetic Act. The proposed ordinance would cover up to 30 grams of marijuana or up to eight grams of hashish, and subject violators to a $250 fine for possession or a $350 fine for violators smoking in public. students.smoking.weed.jpg
So the natural question is whether such an ordinance will have any impact on Penn State students and others in the local cannabis community. I think it is too early to tell. State College Police have already made possession of marijuana for personal use the lowest law enforcement priority. Charges for possession of drug paraphernalia and small amount of marijuana in the borough are very rare, especially when one considers the ubiquity of cannabis consumption these days. There were only 29 small amount of marijuana charges filed in State College Borough in 2015, and based upon my experience, I suspect most of these were "collateral damage" cases. Collateral damage is a term used by both law enforcement and defense attorneys to describe a situation where the police get a search warrant following a controlled-drug buy, and then the police find drugs in the possession of roommates who had nothing to do with the drug sale to a confidential informant.
Personal use marijuana cases in State College Borough are so rare that I remember most of cases I have had in this category. By contrast, the Penn State Police aggressively enforce the marijuana prohibition laws, even going so far as wake up judges in the middle of the night to obtain search warrants for dorm rooms in response to the smell of marijuana. I have had so many personal use marijuana cases on the Penn State campus that I lost track years ago.
It will be interesting to see whether the State College Police actually enforce the marijuana laws more if they have the option of handing out a citation rather going through the more time-consuming process of filing misdemeanor charges. Perhaps they will, but I doubt that State College Police are going to seek a search warrant every time they smell burnt cannabis in a student apartment hallway. That would be a waste of valuable police resources. The State College Police are far too busy dealing with the mayhem wrought by drunk people.
Matt M. McClenahen is a Penn State alumnus, criminal defense attorney in State College, PA, and member of the NORML Legal Committee. http://www.mattmlaw.com/Criminal-Defense-Overview/Marijuana-Related-Offenses.shtml

What if State Patty's Day Were a Different Kind of Green

State Patty's Day made a resurgence in 2016, with a corresponding increase in alcohol-related arrests and overdoses over 2015. After the Penn State drinking holiday gradually decreased in magnitude over the past few years, restrictions were relaxed on bars, fraternities and apartment parties this year. Although arrests and police calls were up, 2016 paled in comparison to 2011, the year with the worst State Patty's Day behavior. Naturally, some responsible adults in State College and even some undergrad students are alarmed and outraged by the collateral damage caused by a massive army of drunkards. hash_bash.jpg