If a marijuana dispensary or brothel opened up anywhere in Pennsylvania, complete with a tacky neon sign, the place would be shut down within hours, and the owners and employees would all face criminal charges. Yet for some reason, law enforcement looks the other way when it comes to the criminal bullshit-artists known as psychics, astrologers and fortunetellers. Fortunetelling, which is defined under Pennsylvania law as engaging in the likes of astrology, soothsaying or predicting the future for compensation, is a third degree misdemeanor punishable by up to one year incarceration and a $2,500 fine. Psychics and astrologers who con people out of substantial amounts of money could face more serious theft by deception charges, which could even be graded as a felony, if the gullible victim is bilked out of more than $2,000.
A teacher and football coach in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania has been charged with the summary offenses of criminal mischief and harassment, arising from a March 25, 2014, incident in which Pennsylvania State Police allege that 45 year old Michael C. Smith shoved a student into the wall of his classroom, breaking a thermostat. Police allege that Mr. Smith became angry when a 16 year old male juvenile farted in his classroom. Mr. Smith has since been suspended by the school district. What is unclear from media reports is whether the juvenile did it on purpose or under what circumstances, but one of Smith's supporters, who is a softball coach at another high school posted online "I guess the elephant in the room is, what do you do if a kid farted in your face?"
I am a hardcore Penn State football fan, and it appears that only we ultras seem to care enough about position battles, player evaluations and the new coaching staff's schemes to venture into Beaver Stadium to actually watch the game. For the casual fans and those not even into football, the Blue and White Game has become a major springtime holiday in Central Pennsylvania. It celebrates the return of warm weather by "tailgating," which can mean anything from elaborate outdoor feasts to standing in the parking lot drinking cheap beer.
Even though there is no chance that Penn State can lose, not everyone will leave the Beaver Stadium parking lots happy. The nicer the weather, the greater the number of alcohol-related summary offense citations like underage drinking, public drunkenness, disorderly conduct and criminal mischief, not to mention far more serious misdemeanor charges like DUI, simple assault and resisting arrest. Wherever there is a large concentration of people drinking, there will be a certain percentage of people who fail to drink responsibly.
But not everyone charged with an alcohol-related offense was necessarily out of control or obnoxious. For Penn State, State College and Pennsylvania State Police, handing out underage drinking citations around Beaver Stadium is like shooting fish in a barrel, and a lot of these young people do not even get a chance to finish their first drink before being hassled by the Man. If you look young, and are holding a beer or even a red plastic cup, the police are going to check your ID. Obviously, there are so many underage drinkers at a Penn State game that only a tiny fraction of young people will be cited, but small percentage of a very large number is still a lot of people.
I understand that the lure of partying is far stronger for most people than an inter-squad scrimmage game with interest only to football nerds like me, but if you are not going into the game, you really should not drink around Beaver Stadium if you are under 21. Normally, when people commit a crime, they at least try not to get caught. Drinking in a public place in broad daylight in an area patrolled by hundreds of cops simply invites trouble.
If you are charged with underage drinking or any other alcohol-related offense, it is important to talk to a local criminal defense lawyer, who knows the cops, judges and the local rules of criminal procedure. Even if you are factually guilty, an attorney can often find ways to mitigate your damages, such as assuring that you escape without a criminal conviction on your record.
Matt McClenahen is a Penn State alumnus and State College criminal defense lawyer, whose office is a five minute walk from campus. http://www.mattmlaw.com/Criminal-Defense-Overview/Alcohol-Offenses-DUI.shtml
The marijuana decriminalization bill recently introduced by Pennsylvania State Senator Mike Stack is a nice first step, but does not address all the current problems caused by Prohibition. The bill would reduce possession of a small amount of marijuana for personal use (less than 30 grams) to a summary offense for the first two offenses. Anyone unlucky enough to receive a third small amount of marijuana charge could be charged with an ungraded misdemeanor, at the discretion of the district attorney. Most Pennsylvania summary offenses are punishable by up to 90 days in jail, but Senator Stack's bill would eliminate the possibility of jail time for the first two convictions. Rather than jail time or probation, defendants would be subject to court costs and a fine not to exceed $500.
A Pennsylvania woman charged with aggravated assault for allegedly trying to cut off her husband's penis with a box cutter created tabloid headlines around the world earlier this month. Lisa Jones-Orock of Lawrence County was arrested on March 15, 2014, on both an outstanding bench warrant in a DUI case, as well as aggravated assault, simple assault, harassment and small amount of marijuana based upon a domestic dispute, which apparently got way out of hand.
Emily Nesbit, a 31 year old former English teacher in Cumberland County, found out the hard way that it is now illegal in Pennsylvania for a teacher to have consensual sex with a student, even if the student is over 18. In 2012, Pennsylvania modified the Institutional Sexual Assault statute to include situations where a teacher, coach, school employee or school volunteer has consensual sex with any student, including those over the age of 18. Previously, a school district employee who had consensual sex with an 18 or 19 year old student could not be charged with any crime, which apparently irked enough moral scolds to lead to a change in the law.
Institutional sexual assault with a consenting adult "victim," is a third degree felony punishable by up to seven years in prison. The sentencing guidelines, however, would allow for probation, if the defendant has no prior record, which would include almost anyone facing this charge, as a person with a prior record never would have been working for a school in the first place. But even if a defendant receives probation, he or she will not only have a felony record, but also have to register as a sex offender for 25 years pursuant to SORNA, The Sexual Offender Registration and Notification Act.
I do not agree with the new expansion to the Institutional Sexual Assault Sexual statute. Teachers or coaches who have sex with consenting adult students never went unpunished, even if they could not be criminally prosecuted. They were always fired, and often publicly humiliated once the news spread. Also, I don't think that the young male in this case is truly a victim, in any traditional sense of the word. He is an adult who is old enough to vote, serve in the military, drive a car, enter contracts, appear in a porn film and legally consent to sex. Ironically, he will probably be far more psychologically traumatized by the fact that his older girlfriend is having her life ruined because of something he did. He consented to sex with her, and now she has lost her job, will likely lose her teaching certificate, and is facing a felony charge and the possibility of being required to register as a sex offender. This young man may rightly or wrongly blame himself for being a willing participant; he was not a prepubescent child who was manipulated into doing something he did not understand.
There are a lot of reasons why teachers should not have sex with adult students, and that is why a teacher who has sex with a student should be fired. But there is no reason to bring criminal charges. It is unnecessary pile on. Loss of one's job and teaching certificate and damage to one's reputation are punishment enough. Also, it is absurd to place a woman who had consensual sex with another adult in the same category as pedophiles who either molested children or possessed child porn. Fortunately, Ms. Nesbit has one of the most highly respected criminal defense attorneys in South Central Pennsylvania. I hope he can work with the District Attorney to achieve a fair and just result in this case.
A Pennsylvania teen is accused of receiving stolen property in a very unique manner. Hanover Police allege that 18 year old Christopher Scheller managed to conceal four stolen bracelets, 11 stolen rings, a metal smoking device and synthetic marijuana in his rectum, which may every well defy everything physicians had known about human anatomy and physicists had known about the space time continuum.
With the start of 2014, Colorado became the first state since the 1930s to allow the sale of marijuana in retail establishments for recreational use. As a Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney who handles a lot of marijuana cases, I am frequently asked when Pennsylvania will legalize cannabis for either medicinal or recreational purposes. Well, my stock answer is both simple and vague: some time in our lifetimes, but no time soon.
Santa Clause faces charges of indecent assault in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts following allegations that he groped the buttocks of an 18 year old female elf while the two were working at the Hanover Mall on November 23, 2013. Santa Clause impersonator Herbert Jones, denied groping the teen, claiming that her 18 year old butt accidentally brushed against his 62 year old hands. Jones was released on $1,000 bail, and either through perfect timing or the aid of a court clerk with a sense of humor, his next court appearance is slated for Christmas Eve.
Understandably, subjects of a criminal investigation are reluctant to hire a criminal defense attorney before they are charged. They think to themselves that they might be wasting money, if they are ultimately not going to be charged anyway. This flawed logic is akin to believing that you should not quit smoking until you have lung cancer. Just as a smoker can greatly improve his health by quitting smoking before he contracts a serious illness, so too can a suspect greatly ameliorate or even eliminate his damages by hiring an attorney before he has been charged.