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Criminal Defense

Pennsylvania Expungement Law Draws Criticism

As Pennsylvania recently enacted a sweeping new expungement law, thousands of people across the state stood to benefit from new opportunities to clean their criminal records so they could move on with their lives.

Some employers and landlords oppose the new clean-slate law on grounds that they have a public-safety interest in knowing the criminal records of their employees and tenants.

The new law seeks to strike a balance by making people with criminal records wait as much as five or ten years before they are eligible for an expungement.

Based in Pittsburgh, Spivak Law Firm has helped people across Allegheny County to expunge their criminal and PFA records.

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

Access to Criminal Records

If you have a criminal record, it is visible to the public through a basic docket search using your first and last name. If your criminal record is wiped clean through the expungement process, it will not appear on public dockets.

But district attorneys and the Pennsylvania State Police Central Repository will still have access to your record. Other law enforcement agencies and courts may obtain access to your record by request. They retain access to your record for the following purposes:

  • To identify people in criminal investigations;
  • To determine the grading of future criminal offenses; and
  • To determine eligibility for diversionary programs.

Erasing your criminal record may open new opportunities for employment.

Spivak Law Firm expunges criminal records for a low, one-time fee. For more information, call us at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

PFA Hearings: Child Testimony

A child under 13-years-old who alleges physical or sexual abuse may not have to testify at a Protection From Abuse (PFA) hearing under Pennsylvania Law.

The Tender Years Hearsay Act allows a psychologist or caseworker from Children Youth and Families (CYF) to testify on the child’s behalf.

The purpose of the Act is to protect children from the added trauma of appearing in court to describe the details of the alleged assault.

New legislation may expand the Act to include children under 17-years-old.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania opposes the bill on grounds that it violates the defendant’s right to due process.

Courts heavily rely on other professionals to determine whether abuse on a child actually occurred.

There may be a forensic interview conducted by a child abuse specialist in the presence of a police detective and a CYF caseworker.

Spivak Law Firm handles all areas of family law and criminal defense with a special focus on PFA, domestic abuse and high-conflict child custody.

Call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

Domestic Abuse and Mass Shootings

Experts say there are striking parallels between the factors that drive domestic violence and mass shootings.

FBI data on mass shootings from 2009 to 2015 show that 21 percent of the attackers had previously been charged with domestic violence.

For instance, Omar Mateen, the gunman in the nightclub massacre in Orlando, Florida, had reportedly beaten and attempted to control his ex-wife during their brief marriage.

“Take the dynamic of coercive violence to its most horrible extreme,” according to an article in The New York Times, “and it looks an awful lot like how the Islamic State treats women. It is intimate violence on an industrial scale.”

Spivak Law Firm handles all areas of family law and criminal defense with a special focus on domestic abuse.

Call us at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

Domestic Violence and the “Boyfriend Loophole”

Existing federal law forbids people convicted of domestic violence against a current or former spouse to buy or own a firearm.

But what if the abuse was perpetrated by an intimate partner who is not your spouse?

Lawmakers may close the so-called “boyfriend loophole” to expand protections for abuse victims.

Efforts to renew the Violence Against Women Act include a provision to prohibit firearm ownership by those convicted of abusing, assaulting or stalking a dating partner, or to those under a restraining order.

Spivak Law Firm provides strong, compassionate, cost-effective representation. We handle all areas of family law and criminal defense with a special focus on domestic violence, child custody, and Protection From Abuse (PFA).

To schedule a consultation, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

Plea Deals in Criminal Cases

People facing criminal charges accept a plea agreement more than ninety percent of the time.

In exchange for a guilty plea, some of the charges may be dropped or reduced. In some cases, the deal may include a recommendation for probation rather than incarceration.

Domestic violence cases usually involve charges of assault, harassment, terroristic threats, reckless endangerment, strangulation and stalking.

Typical plea deals involving such charges may include: reducing misdemeanor charges to a summary conviction if the defendant:

  • Undergoes a substance-abuse evaluation
  • Undergoes a mental-health evaluation
  • Completes anger management or batterers-intervention classes
  • Avoids abusive contact with the victim for a period of time
  • Avoids negative police contact for a period of time

Spivak Law Firm handles all areas of criminal defense with a special focus on domestic-violence defense. We successfully resolve many cases through plea deals at preliminary hearings and pretrial conferences.

For more information, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

Automatic Expungements In Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania has led the way nationally by enacting the first major automatic expungement law.

“States should follow the approach of Pennsylvania,” according to a recent article in The New York Times, “and make expungement automatic once the legal requirements are met.”

Expungements of criminal convictions seals them from public view, removes them from databases, and neutralizes most of their legal effects.

People usually have to wait years after completing their sentences and go through an elaborate process to have their records cleared.

Interested in expunging your criminal records? Spivak Law Firm handles all areas of family law and criminal defense. For a free consultation, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

PFA Law: 24 Hours to Relinquish Guns

Under Pennsylvania law, a person subjected to a Final Protection From Abuse (PFA) order was given 60 days to turn over his or her firearms.

A new law speeds up the time that people have to relinquish their guns to 24 hours after they have been convicted of a misdemeanor domestic-violence crime or had a Final PFA order approved against them by a judge.

The 24-hour provision intends to close a loophole that exposed domestic-abuse victims to continued risk of violence even after obtaining a PFA order.

The new law applies even in cases of alleged stalking, harassment, and assault where guns were not involved.

Spivak Law Firm provides strong representation at PFA hearings. For more information, call us at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

Criminal Court: The Process

If your criminal case cannot be resolved at the preliminary hearing before a magistrate, it moves to the Court of Common Pleas in the county where the alleged crime occurred.

First, there will be a formal arraignment. Your attorney will enter his or her appearance and obtain your next court date.

Next, there will be a pretrial conference. Your attorney will meet with the prosecutor to discuss everything from documentary evidence to key witnesses to potential settlement options including plea deals.

If the case cannot be resolved, it will move to a trial. Your case may be tried before the assigned judge or a jury of your peers.

Spivak Law Firm handles all areas of criminal defense with a special focus on domestic-violence defense.

For a free consultation, call us at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

Don’t Let A Criminal Record Hold You Back

If a criminal record is holding you back, you now have several options for relief under Pennsylvania law.

First, if the charges were withdrawn or dismissed, or if you were convicted on a low-level offense and five years have passed, you can have your record expunged, which effectively erases the information from the public dockets.

Second, Pennsylvania recently adopted a new law allowing for limited access orders, which restricts employment agencies and internet websites from accessing any information relating to a conviction or arrest for people convicted of second- and third-degree misdemeanors.

Third, if you are currently serving a sentence for a crime, you can seek total forgiveness through by formally requesting a pardon from the governor. Obtaining a pardon tends to be more expensive and challenging the administrative processes for obtaining an expungement or limited access order.

To learn more about options for dealing with your criminal record, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.