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Legalize Pot, Says Allegheny County Coroner

200273900-001Former Allegheny County Coroner Cyril Wecht presents strong and convincing arguments for legalizing medicinal marijuana and decriminalizing the drug in Pennsylvania.

“As a forensic pathologist performing autopsies on hundreds of people each year who die as a result of drug toxicity,” Wecht wrote recently in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “I have never signed out a death due to cannabis, nor have I ever seen such an autopsy report from any other forensic pathologist.”

Wecht decries the decades-long propaganda campaign against marijuana. “Marijuana is not an addictive drug that leads to physiological habituation and tolerance,” he writes, contrasting it with the countless deaths directly caused by popular legal substances such as alcohol, antidepressants, sedatives, and opioids.

Wecht supports legalizing medicinal marijuana and decriminalizing marijuana use and possession. Currently, two states have completely legalized marijuana and 18 other states have decriminalized it. “There simply is no rational reason, medical logic or justifiable legal basis for the refusal of the federal government and most states to decriminalize marijuana,” Wecht writes.

To speak with an experienced Pittsburgh criminal defense attorney, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

What To Expect At Your Summary Trial

In every criminal trial, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania bears the burden of proving that the accused committed the alleged offenses. This is also true for traffic and other summary offenses such as public drunkenness, disorderly conduct, underage drinking, harassment, defiant trespass and others.

The summary trial is conducted in a courtroom. First, all the parties who are expected to testify will be sworn to tell the truth. This makes lying in the proceeding a crime: perjury. Then it is the Commonwealth’s turn to present its case. The Commonwealth goes first in every criminal case. It must prove each “element” of the crimes or offenses that the accused allegedly committed.

In summary traffic trials, it will likely be the police officer that represents the Commonwealth and testifies as to what he or she saw. The officer may call other witnesses to testify as to what they observed. In some cases, an Assistant District Attorney may appear and take charge of the prosecution.

After the Commonwealth has presented its case, the Defense gets its turn. This will be your opportunity to be heard by the Court. You can offer any testimony, explanations or defenses that you may have. You can also call witnesses to testify on your behalf.

To speak with an experienced summary trial attorney, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

Child Support and Social Security Disability

83496541Are Social Security Disability benefits includable as income for support purposes? It depends what kind of disability benefits you receive. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits are includable in “income” as defined by Pennsylvania law; but Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits are not income for support purposes.

Whether you qualify for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) depends on your work history. To qualify for SSD benefits, you must have paid into the Social Security system by working for a certain amount of time. To qualify for SSI benefits, you need not have any work history at all. Unlike SSD, SSI is similar to a welfare program. SSI recipients must be disabled and have a monthly income that does not exceed a certain level.

To speak with a Pittsburgh family law attorney, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

Becoming a Better Parent Through Divorce

78287715Divorce can be an awakening for parents that results in them actually becoming better parents and taking more active roles in the children’s lives. If you were the main caregiver before divorce and did most of the work, wondering why your ex couldn’t take a greater parental role, his or her turnaround after the divorce can be frustrating.

But while it may be upsetting at first, ultimately you should come to realize that it is better for your children to have both parents involved in their lives. It may also make things easier for you if you find that you can share responsibilities such as driving the children to their friends’ homes, program, and other events.

To speak with an experienced Pittsburgh family law attorney, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

PFA Law Adding Protections for Abuse Victims

702075.TIFPennsylvania will likely expand its Protection From Abuse (PFA) law to offer more protections for rape victims. A PFA, also known as a restraining order or protection order, is a powerful tool that restricts a perpetrator from having any contact with the victim.

Under the current PFA law, victims of abuse can get a PFA against (1) their spouse, (2) their live-in boyfriend or girlfriend, (3) a parent of their child, (4) their child, (5) their former sexual or intimate partner, (6) their parent, or (7) any family member related to them by blood or marriage.

But the PFA law does not currently protect survivors who were sexually assaulted by strangers or acquaintances. This loophole in the law will be closed if Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett signs the Protection of Victims of Sexual Violence or Intimidation Act.

Spivak Law Firm provides strong, aggressive representation for plaintiffs and defendants in PFA cases. To speak with an experienced Pittsburgh PFA lawyer, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

No Guns For Domestic Violence Offenders

99190846 copy2The United States Supreme Court recently ruled that federal law prohibits anyone convicted of a felony or misdemeanor domestic violence charge from possessing a gun. The ruling specifically states that the federal law applies even in cases where there is no proof of violent acts or physical injury.

In Pennsylvania, criminal domestic violence charges generally include but are not limited to simple assault, aggravated assault, harassment, stalking, child abuse, and reckless endangerment of another person.

The federal law prohibiting gun possession does not encompass Protection From Abuse (PFA) orders. A PFA is a civil matter and only becomes criminal if the person restricted by the PFA is accused of violating the order.

To speak with an experienced Pittsburgh PFA and criminal domestic violence defense attorney, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

Brainwashing Children in Custody Battles

ConflictParent alienation syndrome often occurs in the most bitter and hard-fought custody battles. In this scenario, one parent becomes obsessed with destroying a child’s relationship with the other parent when there is no good reason to do so. Alienation can be mild, moderate, or severe. A parent is engaging in parent alienation anytime children hear him or her speak in a negative way about the other parent.

In extreme situations, children are turned against a healthy parent. The children’s will and choice are removed from them through a form of brainwashing. This is a serious form of child abuse, because if isn’t stopped, the children may be headed for psychiatric disturbances, failed relationships, and dysfunctional lives in which they may pass the behavior on to their own children.

To speak with an experienced child custody and family law attorney, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

China Mulls PFA Law Similar to Pennsylvania

China appears close to passing a law empowering courts to issue restraining orders for victims of domestic violence, child abuse, and elder abuse.

Chinese culture has traditionally regarded family abuse as a private, not a criminal, matter, according to a recent article in The New York Times. Currently, someone who goes to the police seeking help against a violent family member will generally be advised to return home and “work it out,” the article states.

The Chinese bill is comparable to Pennsylvania’s Protection From Abuse (PFA) law, which nearly 40 years ago enabled courts to issue emergency no-contact orders at a time when filing criminal charges was the only legal recourse for victims of family abuse.

To speak with an experienced Pittsburgh PFA lawyer, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

Understanding Your Finances is Key in Divorce

111787230Getting a handle on your financial situation is key when going through a divorce. Organizing your finances can be difficult if you were not the one responsible for them during your marriage. If possible, try to become more financially aware before you separate:

  • Get more involved in your finances. Know the basics – pay the bills and file the statements. Learn how your daily and monthly expenses are managed.
  • Determine where the money is coming from and how it is applied toward your budget.
  • Take part in setting up investments such as retirement funds, and understand where and what the other assets are.

To speak with an Allegheny County family law attorney, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

Building Relationships with Children of Divorce

Little girl wearing sundress holding flowersSome parents are adamant that their children spend time with them when it’s “their time.” They may even stop the children from participating in activities or programs or spending time with their friends.

Family therapists advise against placing your desire for contact with your child above promoting his or her healthy development. Try not to think in terms of minutes and hours; think in terms of the quality of the relationship your are building and sustaining.

To speak with a Pittsburgh custody lawyer, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.