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Domestic-Violence Deaths In Allegheny County

BU010665The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence this month plans to release its annual report on domestic-violence fatalities throughout the state, which includes summaries of each incident and a county-by-county statistical breakdown.

In 2013, there were 158 domestic-violence fatalities in Pennsylvania, including 28 in Allegheny County, which for two straight years has tallied more than any other Pennsylvania county.

Spivak Law Firm provides strong, aggressive representation for plaintiffs and defendants in Protection From Abuse (PFA) hearings in Pittsburgh and all nearby counties, including: Allegheny County, Beaver County, Butler County, Fayette County, Indiana County, Washington County, and Westmoreland County.

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

Who Can Testify At My Summary Trial?

99190846At a summary trial, judges tend to not want to hear from character witnesses.

Generally, to be a competent witness, the person testifying must have been present at the event that gave rise to the charges. All testimony must be relevant to the charges or defense, and the judge will likely not permit irrelevant testimony, such as information about the defendant’s good reputation, good driving history, etc. Each witness can be cross-examined. The judge is charged with the responsibility of conducting the trial, determining who can testify, admitting evidence, and ruling on evidentiary objections.

After all testimony and argument, the judge will announce a decision in open court at the conclusion of the trial. Once a decision has been announced, the trial is ended and the result is final.

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

Summary Offenses Can Carry Stiff Penalties

133338146Although a summary offense is low-level crime, you should seriously consider retaining an experienced criminal defense attorney to fight the charge because a conviction can have long-lasting adverse effects.

Summary offenses may carry stiff penalties, including fines and up to 90 days in jail. Additionally, you cannot even begin the process of expunging a summary offense from your criminal record for five years.

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

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.

5 Goals of ARD in Allegheny County

133338146In Allegheny County, the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program is commonly offered to most first-time, non-violent offenders. If participants complete the program’s requirements, they may get their criminal records expunged or erased. There are five goals of the ARD program:

(1)  Clean Slate: To provide first-time, non-violent offenders an opportunity to have their criminal charges expunged

(2)  Atonement: To hold offenders responsible while providing them an opportunity to atone for their criminal behavior

(3)  Rehabilitation: To provide offenders with treatment options

(4)  Restitution: To restore the financial burden incurred by the victim

(5)  Efficiency: To enable the courts to dispose of cases in a cost-effective manner

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

Spivak Law Firm Wins Summary Trial

99190846 copy2It was St. Patrick’s Day, and Sam (not his real name) and his wife went out with some friends to a bar on Carson Street in Pittsburgh’s South Side to celebrate. The place was noisy and crowded. They were there for maybe half an hour when a bouncer grabbed Sam and told him to leave for pushing a waitress. Sam had no idea what the bouncer was talking about. Neither did his wife, who was standing beside Sam the entire time. Sam was naturally upset; he ignored the bouncer. A police officer then led Sam outside. Sam protested that he didn’t push anybody, but the officer cuffed him anyway.

Months later, Sam appeared with his attorney from Spivak Law Firm for a summary trial at Pittsburgh Municipal Court downtown. Sam faced charges of public intoxication and defiant criminal trespass. Sam wanted to fight these charges, which he felt were unfair. He also did not want any convictions on his record. At the courthouse, the arresting police officer refused to drop the charges, so we asked for a hearing. In the end, the judge dismissed the charges.

“Mr. Spivak was very responsive to all my questions and concerns,” said Sam. “His professional demeanor was excellent in court.”

Many people charged with summary offenses make the mistake of pleading guilty rather than fighting the charges. Spivak Law Firm provides strong, aggressive defense for people facing criminal charges. When the charges are dropped, we also help to erase our clients’ criminal records by petitioning the court for an expungement.

If you’ve been charged with a crime, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

Erasing Your Criminal Record in Pennsylvania

95732591There are many reasons why a person may wish to expunge criminal records. For example, a background check will produce details of criminal cases that might affect future employment opportunities, the ability to be bonded or to obtain a gun permit.

Under Pennsylvania law, you may be eligible to have your criminal records erased if your case resulted in a non-conviction, such as: not-guilty verdict, dismissal, withdrawal or charges, or nolle prosequi. Expungements are also available to people who complete the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program or receive Probation Without Verdict pursuant to the Controlled Substances Act.

Convictions for misdemeanors or felonies cannot be expunged in Pennsylvania, but convictions for summary offenses can be expunged so long as the defendant has been free of arrest or prosecution for five years following the conviction of that offense.

Spivak Law Firm offers a low, one-time fee for expungements, which includes obtaining a certified copy of your criminal records from the state police, filing a motion for expungement with your county’s Department of Court Records, and monitoring your case to ensure that the records are removed from statewide databases.

It may take up to one year for the expungement process to be completed after a judge signs an Order of Expungement.

To speak with an attorney about expunging your criminal records, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.



ARD Requirements in Allegheny County

200488043-001The Allegheny County ARD Probation Program was designed to supervise the first-time, non-violent offender who has been given a second chance at having a clean criminal record. Participants in the ARD Program are expected to serve a term of supervision lasting from six month to two years. Conditions of supervision depend on the charged offense and may require the offender to complete one or more of the following:

  • DUI classes
  • Substance abuse treatment
  • Community service
  • Domestic abuse classes
  • Anger management classes
  • Retail theft classes
  • Mental health treatment
  • Restitution
  • Court costs

To learn if you qualify for ARD in Allegheny County, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

3 Types of Bail in Pennsylvania

139378055Bail is typically set shortly after a defendant’s arrest. In Pennsylvania, courts may not use bail as punishment. Rather, bail is security used to guarantee a person’s appearance in criminal court. There are three types of bail:

(1)  Cash Bail

Cash bail requires the posting of the full amount of the face value of the bond. So, for example, a $5,000 cash bond requires the posting of $5,000.

(2)  Percentage Cash Bail

This form of bail requires the deposit of 10 percent of the face amount of the bond. For instance, a $5,000 percentage cash bond requires the posting of $500.

(3)  R.O.R.

R.O.R., which stands for Release on Own Recognizance, is when a person is released without having to put up any cash in order to guarantee their appearance in court.

You can post bail by cash, real property, private bondsman, or professional surety company. To speak with a Pittsburgh criminal defense attorney, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.