Lancaster Legal Issues Blog

New year, clean slate in Pennsylvania

Many people see the start of a new year as an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and start again. Thanks to a new law that took effect in Pennsylvania last month, many people with histories of arrests or convictions will be able to seal criminal records so that landlords and employers, among others, will no longer be able to access them. The law goes by the name Clean Slate because that is essentially what it does for the people it affects. 

Sealing a criminal record is not the same as an expungement, which results in the destruction of criminal records. In other words, the record will be inaccessible to public view, but not destroyed entirely. However, once sealing of the record takes place, only certain people will have access to it: certain employers, such as those who utilize FBI background checks and those required by federal law to consider the record, as well as law enforcement. 

What are the differences between burglary and robbery?

In Pennsylvania, there are numerous types of charges that are related to theft crimes. Not all of them carry the same weight, either. Marinaro Law Firm is here to illustrate important differences in two types of theft crime: burglary and robbery.

Generally speaking, robbery is the charge that will come with the most severe consequences. Why, exactly? Because burglary by definition simply means that you have entered a building or property unlawfully. Robbery, on the other hand, means that force - or even the threat of force - was used while the theft was taking place.

What should you know about marijuana in Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania is one of many states that allow you to purchase marijuana for medical reasons. However, there are still strict limitations regarding the sale, purchase, and consumption of this plant. Breaking laws related to marijuana can still result in steep penalties.

The Pennsylvania state website has a page that tells you what you need to know about legally getting medical marijuana. Since it is classified as a prescribed medicine, you can't just walk into any store and buy marijuana-based products. Instead, you need to register through the Medical Marijuana Registry. Then, you need a doctor to write you a prescription, which must then be taken to a licensed dispensary. Marijuana dispensing is heavily regulated here. Dispensaries are licensed and approved to sell certain doses of marijuana to patients. It's safer than illegal marijuana, since you don't have to worry about your product being "cut" with other substances the way street-sold illegal drugs have.

How do the best interests of a child affect custody?

The process of negotiating how to raise a child separately is one of the most difficult parts of divorce. Without a sturdy divorce strategy, divorcing parents may lose many of their parental privileges and priorities.

A court prefers to give parents the first opportunity to create a custody plan, but if they cannot come to an agreement that represents their child's best interests, then the court will create a custody order and hand it down. If the conflict reaches this point, it is less likely that the parents will consider it a fair arrangement and abide by its terms.

Have a past DUI? Beware new Pennsylvania law

The families of 30 victims who perished in drunk driving accidents have worked with state legislators for years to increase penalties for repeat DUI offenders in Pennsylvania. On Sunday, their efforts finally came to fruition as a new law cracking down on those caught driving under the influence more than once went into effect, just in time for year-end holiday celebrations. 

Those who led the effort to pass the bill hope that it will serve as a deterrent for future DUI arrests, whether because it will prevent people from driving under the influence in the first place or result in jail time for those who do, thereby keeping them off the roads. 

Preparing for a Pennsylvania child support hearing

Child support is often requested from parents who are not the primary custodian of their children. The calculation method for how much child support a parent should be paying is generally straightforward, and is primarily dependent on the parent's income. However, personal situations are never so simple, and you may have found it difficult or impossible to keep up with child support payments.

If you need to attend a child support hearing to discuss your situation in the state of Pennsylvania, it is important that you prepare adequately. This will help you to present your situation correctly, and enable you to resolve any issues in a fair and civilized way.

Is alimony the same thing as spousal support?

In many states, the terms "alimony" and "spousal support" are essentially interchangeable. The legal system in these states may consider the term "alimony" out of date and prefer the term "spousal support" instead. In Pennsylvania, however, the terms alimony and spousal support refer to arrangements that take place at different points in the divorce process. If you and your spouse are in the midst of a divorce, it may be helpful to understand the difference between the two terms in the eyes of Pennsylvania law.

According to FindLaw, after finalization of the divorce proceeding legally ends the marriage, the financial support provided by one ex-spouse to the other is specifically referred to as alimony. The purpose of alimony is rehabilitative, to give the spouse who earns less money a chance to secure a source of independent income. Though not meant to be a permanent arrangement, the length of time and the amount of an alimony award can vary greatly from case to case according to the seventeen factors Pennsylvania courts use to determine the receiving spouse's need. 

Making one household into two

Nothing about divorce in Pennsylvania is easy, but some of the most significant concerns you may have in a divorce are financial in nature. Where you and your spouse once shared the same home, all your possessions in common and the financial responsibility for your children, now you will have to find a way to divide the property equitably and arrange for the continued support of your children and, potentially, your former spouse.

We at Marinaro Law Firm know that the divorce process can be difficult and emotional. A closer look at the financial issues you will need to resolve may help you to navigate the process more easily.

What constitutes shoplifting?

Shoplifting may seem like a minor crime, but it affects everyone in Pennsylvania. When someone shoplifts, it costs money to retailers and eventually impacts consumers. That is why retailers are very strict when it comes to suspected shoplifting situations. However, there may be a time when a retailer accuses you of shoplifting when you do not feel you are guilty. To understand what this crime is, you need to know how the law defines it.

The National Association for Shoplifting Prevention explains the law defines this crime as an instance where you take merchandise with the intent of not paying for it. While this may be the obvious definition, the law goes on to say that shoplifting has additional definitions. If you do anything to try to deprive the retailer of the full price of an item, this is also a criminal act. This may include changing sales signs or price tags. It could also mean changing containers.

How to challenge evidence in your DUI trial

When it comes to any criminal law matter, the defendant will remain innocent until -- and only if -- the prosecution proves that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The burden of proof, therefore, lies in the hands of the prosecution. During the criminal law process, the defendant will have every opportunity to cast doubt on the prosecution's interpretation of the facts.

In a DUI trial, one of the best ways for a defendant to "cast doubt" on the prosecution's case is to attack the allegedly "hard" evidence that the prosecution plans to use for the purpose of conviction.

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