Alimony, Support and Division of Assets Explained in Pennsylvania

Spousal Support

Spousal Support is available to a married spouse, when the couple resides in separate homes and one spouse earns more than the other spouse. There are defenses against spousal support and it is important to have an attorney assist you in your claim for or against spousal support.
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Alimony Pendente Lite

Alimony Pendente Lite is a type of support that is limited in nature and paid to the lesser income earning spouse by the higher income earning spouse in accordance to a statutory formula until the divorce is finalized. This support was enacted to equalize the parties incomes during the divorce proceedings and allow each spouse to afford the divorce process and expenses.
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Alimony

In Pennsylvania, there is not a set formula to determine post-divorce alimony. Whether or not to award post-divorce alimony payments lies within the exclusive discretion of the court. The court relies on the following 17 factors to determine whether to award post-divorce alimony.
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The 17 Factors of Alimony

The relative earnings of both spouses.

The duration of the marriage.

The ages and physical, mental and emotional states of the two spouses.

The sources of income of both spouses. This includes medical, retirement, insurance or other benefits.

The expected future earnings and inheritances of the two spouses.
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The degree to which one spouse has contributed to the other spouse’s education, training or increased earning potential.

The degree to which a spouse will be financially affected by their position as the custodian of a minor child.
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The standard of living of the spouses established during the marriage.

The relative education of the parties. This also considers the amount of time it would take for the spouse seeking alimony to acquire the education or training necessary to find employment.

The relative assets and liabilities of the two spouses.
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The property each spouse brought to the marriage.

The degree a spouse contributed as a homemaker.
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The relative needs of the two spouses.

The marital misconduct of either of the spouses during the marriage.

The federal, state and local tax consequences of the alimony.
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Whether the spouse seeking alimony lacks sufficient property to provide for their reasonable needs.

Whether the spouse seeking alimony is incapable of supporting themselves through appropriate employment.

[1] Title 7, Pennsylvania Code, §6102.

Division of Assests

In Pennsylvania “marital property” means all property acquired by either party during the marriage and the increase in value of any non-marital property acquired. However, marital property does not include:

Veterans’ benefits exempt from attachment, levy or seizure pursuant to the act of September 2, 1958 (Public Law 85-857, 72 Stat. 1229), as amended, except for those benefits received by a veteran where the veteran has waived a portion of his military retirement pay in order to receive veterans’ compensation.

Property to the extent to which the property has been mortgaged or otherwise encumbered in good faith for value prior to the date of final separation.

Any payment received as a result of an award or settlement for any cause of action or claim which accrued prior to the marriage or after the date of final separation regardless of when the payment was received.

Property acquired prior to marriage or property acquired in exchange for property acquired prior to the marriage.

Property excluded by valid agreement of the parties entered into before, during or after the marriage.

Property acquired by gift, except between spouses, bequest, devise or descent or property acquired in exchange for such property.

Property acquired after final separation until the date of divorce, except for property acquired in exchange for marital assets.

Property which a party has sold, granted, conveyed or otherwise disposed of in good faith and for value prior to the date of final separation.

Pennsylvania states that the increase in value of any non-marital property acquired pursuant to subsection shall be measured from the date of marriage or later acquisition date to either the date of final separation or the date as close to the hearing on equitable distribution as possible, whichever date results in a lesser increase.

Legal Claims in Pennsylvania Involving Stormwater Onto Your Property

In Pennsylvania, there is a law of surface waters found in legal case law. That is, a municipality or another property owner is responsible for harm to an adjoining landowner if that first owner or municipality artificially diverts or channels surface water (including storm water) onto that adjoining property.

Even if there is not additional volume of water, if the storm water is diverted resulting in higher intensity or concentrated flow, then there is liability if damages result.

A municipality has the right to manage storm water and to protect public health and safety. However, it must balance that with the rights of adjoining landowners.

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If a storm drain system or runoff pipes are negligently constructed such that they do not adequately control the runoff, then there is liability for harm caused.

This can be found at the Pennsylvania Storm Water Management Act (32 PS Section 680.13 et seq). The Act requires that there be a plan in place to handle water runoff resulting from construction that involves drainage or alteration of storm water runoff.

If the soil disturbance from a construction project is large enough, or if the soil disturbance is close enough to a protected waterway, then a permit and/or a soil erosion control plan must be filed with the PA Department of Environmental Protection.

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So, there are two main things to be aware of that may give rise to a legal claim in Pennsylvania regarding storm water. First. if you are doing construction involving a large amount of soil disturbance or you are within proximity to a protected stream or waterway, you should determine whether you need a permit and soil erosion control plan. Second, if you are a homeowner or landowner in which you believe that storm or surface water is being diverted onto your property at a greater flow or intensity, then you may have a claim if you have resulting damages.

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In the second instance, if you believe your property is being damaged, or there is a resulting injury to a person, then you should investigate the source of the problem. If there is recent construction of culverts or some drainage system, you should check with both your local government and PA Department of Environmental Protection.
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Find out what the project was and whether there needed to be a permit and/or erosion and soil control plan. Even if a permit or plan was not required, it still may be a violation of the Storm Water Management Act or Pennsylvania case law if the diversion of the surface water was negligently constructed or otherwise artificially channels water at an increased flow or velocity onto your property.

In such legal claims, there may be legal causes of action for: negligence, trespass, nuisance, or violations of the PA Storm Water Management Act or the PA Clean Streams Law. The Clean Streams Law (35 PS Section 691.1).
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The Clean Streams Law does allow for private citizen legal claims for pollution runoff into a waterway. It more often applies to PA Department of Environmental Protection or other governmental actions against polluters.

Usually, a legal claim involving an argument that there was a negligently constructed storm water drain or system or artificially channeled water runoff, requires use of an engineer. That engineer would need to inspect and possibly do a study to compile engineering findings to support the claims.

Pennsylvania Custody Explained

Legal Custody

When a parent has legal custody of their children, it means they are responsible for making decisions about the important things in their lives, such as what educational instruction they receive, their religious preferences, any important medical decisions, and where they go to school. When a couple is together, they usually jointly make these decisions, but upon separation either one or both parents can continue making these decisions.

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The couples can jointly share legal custody or a parent can request sole legal custody, which would mean that parent would make all of these decisions and keep the other parent informed. The default option is usually shared legal custody.
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If parents frequently fight over decision making, one parent lives far away, or if one parent is abusive and neglectful, a court may find that is in the best interest for one parent to have sole legal custody.

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Physical Custody

When you have physical custody of their children, it refers to which parent the children are residing with on a day to day basis.
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If parents choose to share physical time of their children, they can request “joint physical custody,” which means that each parent will have equal time with the children. Joint physical custody works in situations where parents live close to one another, so the children can move back and forth between their parents house and maintain their school and recreational activities.

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If you have more than fifty percent of the physical custody time with their children, then this parent would receive primary physical custody and the other parent would receive partial physical custody. Situations where parents would choose this arrangement are where one parents lives further away. The partial custodial parent could request alternating weekend visits and a few weekday evening visit with their children.

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If one parent has the children the majority of the time and would like to maintain this type of custody, this parent may be granted sole custody of the children. This is usually granted in situations where one parent is deemed unfit due to abuse or neglect.

Child Support

When parents separate they have an obligation to provide support on behalf of their children until the children are emancipated, which is until the children graduate from high school or reach the age of 18 years old, whichever occurs at a later date.
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Pennsylvania’s support guidelines are based upon the concept that the children of separated, divorced or never-married parents should receive the same proportion of parental income that she or he would have received if the parents lived together.
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A custody lawyer will help parents file for child support on behalf of their children.

The court will determine the amount of support to be paid based upon the custody schedule. Parents must additionally continue to pay any un-reimbursed expenses in proportion to their respective salaries. An experienced custody lawyer in child support can assist you in the process.

William Penn Colonizer Influences Pennsylvania and Delaware

It took all kinds of people to make up America. Most of them were humble folk led by such sturdy members of the middle class as Captain John Smith and John Rolfe of Virginia, Miles Standish and William Bradford of Plymouth.

No individual founder of a colony contributed more fruitfully towards assisting English men and women in the attainment of their goal of a better life in America than William Penn

William Penn Quaker

William Penn was a well-educated aristocrat, schooled at Oxford, the son of a British Admiral, Sir William Penn. He read won friendships and lasting influence in high places. William Penn was born into the Church of England, but was converted to the Quakers by Thomas Loe, a Quaker preacher.

As a Quaker, Penn quickly became a powerful advocate of freedom of conscience, preaching and writing to advance the teachings of the Quakers, and promoting acceptance of the doctrines of political liberty, being an opponent of economic oppression of the many by the few.

By virtue of his legal training at Lincoln's Inn, he was a successful defender of the security and property of Englishmen. William Penn was a man of no compromise. While in prison for his religious convictions, he wrote, No Cross, No Crown, setting forth many of the principles that Americans call, the American way of life.

Penn's Interest In America

At the age of thirty-three, Penn first became interested in America, having his great convictions formed and developed. He was given the opportunity to put them to practice when he was made one of the trustees to manage the property of West New Jersey, which the Society of Friends had acquired as a refugee for its members.

In 1677 Burlington was founded under a charter of "Laws, Concessions, and Agreements" large drawn up by William Penn, guaranteeing religious freedom with the statement that 'no Men, or number of Men upon Earth, hath Power or Authority to rule over Men's Consciences in religious Matters. "At first opportunity Penn had written his liberalism into fundamental law and put it into practice in a new society.

William Penn Influences Pennsylvania and Delaware

In 1681 Charles II, King of England, paid a long-standing debt to Admiral Pen by granting the son, William, a huge tract of land north of Maryland. Penn named it Pennsylvania in honor of his father. The following year, Duke of York, transferred the territory known as Delaware to him.

Now Penn could work out all of his social and political ideas, people of any faith could dwell and worship there in peace, a place where large land owners, as himself, and small farms could lie with the same rights, under the same frame of government, which he issued in 1682, "that any government is free to the People under it where the laws rule and the People are a Party to those Laws". History tells us that it worked. Pennsylvania and Delaware are the results.

William Penn did not spend much time America, less than four years in the colonies, but great things he accomplished for them. In 1682 he crossed over to the colonies and began to construct a great estate on the Delaware above Bristol, which he named Pennbury. Although He remained in the colonies for only twenty-two months, he saw to the laying out of Philadelphia, the sound and permanent establishment of the government, the attracting, by skillful advertising, of thousands of colonists from Holland, Ireland and England, and the concluding the last peace with the Indians.

Penn returned again to the colonies in 1699 to 1701 and keep them a more liberal charter. This act completed his career as a constructive colonizer.

William Penn's influence on America was paramount. He shared prominently in establishing Pennsylvania and Delaware. He saw that humble folks got a chance to start their lives anew under favorable conditions; he preached and practiced religious freedom; he was a great humanitarian in an inhumane age and his ideals helped form the democracy we have today in America.

DUI Law in Pennsylvania – An Overview

Driving Under the Influence ("DUI") is a unique crime in American society because, quite literally, it is the one crime that almost any adult citizen can find himself or herself charged with. Alcohol is served at virtually every restaurant or evening social event. Every day thousands of otherwise-law-abiding citizens leave such events and drive away even though they are technically "under the influence" of alcohol.

The fact is that most adult Americans drink alcohol on at least occasional situations. And, most adult Americans live in non-urban areas where taxicabs and public transportation are not easy options, particularly in the evening hours. Everyone knows that it is better to have a "designated driver" who is not drinking and can drive you home. Everyone also knows that driving under the influence is illegal and can have severe ramifications. The reality, however, is that every day good and honest people find themselves charged with DUI.

It is important for all drivers to have a basic understanding of DUI law, how police officers conduct DUI investigations and the rights and options available to DUI defenders.

I. DUI Law – The Basics

For many people charged with DUI, the arrest process is really terrifying and dehumanizing. Many (or most) DUI defenders pride themselves on being productive and positive citizens, so being handcuffed and treated like a criminal can be a life-altering experience. A DUI arrest is less overwhelming and intimidating, however, when people have a basic understanding of DUI law.

A person may be charged with DUI if he or she drives a motor vehicle on a roadway under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Police may stop a car for suspicion of DUI only if they have a "probable cause" to believe that the driver has committed a crime or violation. Police may not randomly stop a car for no reason (although in the case of properly established "sobriety checkpoints, the police are allowed to stop every car that passes the checkpoint).

The type of "crime" which can justify a police vehicle stop includes potential violations of the vehicle code (traffic violations) such as speeding, straddling a lane, turning with a wide radius, following another car too closely, braking erratically or driving at night with the headlights off. The police may also stop a vehicle if the registration or inspection is out-of-date (based on dated stickers on the car) or if they input the license plate into their computer system (and they are allowed to do) and there is some problem with the vehicle registration.

Pennsylvania DUI law has a three-tiered punishment system hanging on a person's blood-alcohol level. Penalties for DUI convictions increase with each tier. The least severe penalty applications for those who drive with a blood alcohol content of.08 to.099 percent. More severe penalies apply for those who drive with a blood alcohol content from.10 to.159 percent, and the harshest punishment applies to those with a alcohol alcohol content of.16 percent or greater. A person's blood alcohol level must be determined from blood drawn within two hours after the individual was in actual control of the vehicle (although exceptions exist for this two-hour "requirement").

People who "refuse" or decline to take a blood-alcohol test upon request of the police are deemed to be in the highest blood-alcohol content tier.

Pennsylvania is one of the few states that has a "per se" law with respect to driving under the influence of various drugs. This means that if a person charged with DUI has any measurable amount of drugs in their system (even if the drug was ingested days or weeks prior to the arrest), they are punished as if they were in the highest alcohol level. After this "per se" law, some District Attorneys offices do have minimum levels for certain controlled substances and will not prosecute someone who drives with an amount in their system below these levels.

II. DUI Investigations After Police Are On The Scene

Police officers are taught that once they encounter a person who they suspect has been driving under the influence (which is typically after a traffic stop or arriving at the scene of an accident), they should conduct an appropriate investigation to confirm whether the person was driving under the influence. District Attorney's offices would like such investigations to be thorough and legally appropriate so that they can prove the case if it proceeds to trial.

The first stop in conducting such an investigation is typically to engage the driver in Standardized Field Sobriety Tests. Standardized Field Sobriety Tests were developed as the result of research conducted in the mid 1970s for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ("NHTSA"). The purpose of this research was to develop standardized tests which would provide a reliable method of determining whether a person is intoxicated based on field sobriety tests.

The NHTSA has concluded that three tests, if systematically conducted according to strict guidelines, can predict whether a person may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The only three field sobriety tests approved by the NHTSA are the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus ("HGN") test, the Walk-and-Turn test the One-Leg Stand test.

Police officers should be trained to look for established "scoring factors" or "clues" which must be evaluated in determining whether or not toxication exists. A finding of toxication should only arise once a certain number of clues are identified. If less then the certain level of clues are identified, the officer should conclude that there is a high degree of probability of non-intoxication.

For cases that proceed to trial, it is important for defense counsel to carefully question police officers with respect to their field sobriety test training and adherence to NHTSA protocols. If a police officer is unaware of these protocols and / or the NHTSA-approved indicator system, his or her conclusions can lose credibility with a judge or jury.

These three standardized field sobriety tests are detailed below:

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus ("HGN") Test

Horizontal gaze nystagmus is an involuntary jerking of the eyeball which occurs naturally as the eyes rotate in the socket. In theory, a sober person can visibly follow a moving object smoothly and without nystagmus ("stopping and starting" of the eyeball). Nystagmus is typically exaggerated when a person is under the influence of alcohol, resulting in a jerking motion as the eyes rotate. In the HGN test, the officer slowly moves an object such as a pen or small flashlight back and forth in front of a person's eyes and observes the actual eye movement. The examiner looks for three indicators of impairment with respect to each eye: (1) if the eye can not follow a moving object smoothly, (2) if jerking is distinct when the eye is at maximum deviation, and (3) if the angle of sunset of jerking is within 45 degrees of center. The NHTSA has concluded that if, between the two eyes, four or more indicators are present, the subject likely has a BAC of 0.10 or greater.

It is important to note that even the NHTSA acknowledges that the HGN testing correctly classifies approximately 77 percent of suspicions. Accordingly, the HGN test will result in many false positives and can not be considered a reliable indicator of inoxication. Indeed, the HGN is not admissible in Pennsylvania courts although police are permitted to use the test to establish probable cause to arrest. People taking certain prescribed medication may also "fail" the HGN test even though they are not intoxicated.

Walk-and-Turn Test

In the walk-and-turn test, the subject is directed to take nine steps, heel-to-toe, along a straight line and then turn on one foot before returning in the same manner in the opposite direction. The examiner is taught to look for seven possible indicators, or "clues", of impairment. If two or more clues are identified, a person is considered to be reasonably intoxicated.

Significantly, the NHTSA admits that only 68 percent of individuals who exhibit two or more indicators in the performance of the test will have a BAC of 0.10 or greater. Additionally, a person may have some reason unrelated to inoxication – such as a physical disability, high-heeled shoes, typically poor balance – that makes it more difficult to complete the test. It is very important to point out these issues to a judge or jury when a case goes to trial.

One-Leg Stand Test

In the one-leg stand test, a person is instructed to stand with one foot approximately six inches off the ground and count aloud by thousands (one thousand-one, one thousand-two, etc.) until told to put the foot down. The NHTSA protocols call for the examiner to observe the subject for 30 seconds. The officer looks for indicators of impairment including walking while balancing, using arms to balance, hopping to maintain balance, and putting the foot down.

The NHTSA itself admits that only 65 percent of individuals who exhibit two or more such indicators in the performance of the test will have a BAC of 0.10 of greater. And, like the walk-and-turn test, there are many factors other then introxication that can make it difficult for a person to stand on one foot for 30 seconds. Certainly there are many people who can not stand on one leg for 30 seconds under any circumstances.

In analyzing the strength of a DUI case, it is important to carefully examine field sobriety test evidence. In many cases, police officers do not administer the test in full compliance with NHTSA guidelines. Cross-examining police officers with NHTSA protocols or even the police department's own training manuals may expose a lack of knowledge and understanding in conducting these tests. At trial, all of these factors must be fully explored so that a judge or jury understands the fallibility of field sobriety testing.

III: Blood Alcohol Testing

Pennsylvania state law provides that the police may not perform a chemical test of a driver's blood alcohol content (ie, a breath test or a blood test) unless there are "reasonable grounds" to believe that the driver was operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol. As described above, the police use field sobriety tests to help develop "reasonable grounds" to submit motorists to chemical testing.

By law, people who drive a vehicle in Pennsylvania are deemed to have given their consent (agreed) to provide a breath, blood or urine sample when requested to do so by the police if (and only if) the police have reasonable grounds and have arrested the person for DUI. Motorists who refuse chemical testing (assuming reasonable grounds to arrest exist) will have their license suspended for at least one year by PennDOT, and the fact that they "refused" the test may be used against them at trial.

From a defense standpoint, it is important to carefully examine whether the police appropriately assessed "reasonable grounds" to believe a driver may have committed a DUI. Where "reasonable grounds" are found not to exist, all residual chemical testing may be suppressed.

Alcohol is absorbed into the body through the stomach and small intestine over time. Alcohol has no physiological effect on the body or brain until it is absorbed into the blood stream. The rate at which alcohol is absorbed into the blood stream depends on many factors including the type of alcohol and whether the person has a full or empty stomach. Food in the stomach significantly delays the absorption of alcohol and reduces the peak level of blood-alcohol content. Regarding the type of alcohol, the ingredients in beer act almost like a food and delay the absorption of the alcohol as opposed to liquor or wine. Alcohol is eliminated from the body at approximately 0.015% per hour.

The two most common chemical blood tests are blood testing and breath testing.

Blood Testing

Pennsylvania law requires employees at to withdrawal blood samples on DUI suspects unless there are emergency situations at the time the request is made. Pennsylvania law also requires that blood (and urine) tests be performed at licensed and approved clinical laboratories using approved testing methods and equipment.

It is important to carefully examine blood test results to determine if the variance or margin of error may include the possibility that the true blood-alcohol content was in a lower tier or below 0.08 percent altogether. If a person's blood-alcohol content is tested to be, say, 0.10 percent, no toxicologist (or prosecutor) can say with any certainty that the person's actual blood alcohol concentration was above or below this level. Virtually every toxicologist will concede that there is a variance of 3 to 10 percent within which the actual blood alcohol content would likely fall.

Importantly, the Department of Health requires laboratories conducting blood-alcohol testing to test within 9 percent of a "known sample" in order to maintain their accreditation. Accordingly, many toxicologists contend that the margin of error of blood testing at such accredited labs should be presumed to be no less that 9 percent.

Even if someone elects to seek admission into the Accelerated Rehabilitation Disposition (ARD) program or plead guilty to DUI it is important to evaluate whether the documented blood-alcohol content can be reduced using a margin-of-error analysis. Anyone charged with DUI should carefully review all of these issues with an experienced criminal defense attorney.

Breath Testing

Police frequently test blood-alcohol content by subjecting the motorist to a "breathalyzer" machine. These machines are different from – and much more sophisticated than the "portable breath test" units police use to test blood-alcohol content at the scene of the stop. To be admissible at trial, breath tests must be connected in conformity with regulations set forth by PennDOT. These regulations require the machine to be regularly calibrated and the person operating the test to be appropriately certified. Additionally, the regulations require that two breath test samples be taken which must be within 0.02 percent of each other. A failure of the police to comply with any of these regulations can result in the results being suppressed (rule inadmissible) at trial.

As with blood testing, breath test results have a margin of error that should be considered in determining a person's actual blood-alcohol content.

IV: Accelerated Rehabilitation Disposition Program (ARD)

People charged with a first offense DUI in Pennsylvania may be eligible for the Accelerated Rehabilitation Disposition (ARD) program. ARD is a pre-trial intervention program that is designed to divert first-time, non-violent offenders from the criminal justice system.

Admission into the ARD program results in no jail time and a greatly reduced license suspension. District Attorneys' offices are permitted to have their own unique criteria and conditions for admission into an ARD program. It is important to understand that cases that may qualify for ARD in one county might not for another. It is also important to understand the procedures defenders must follow in each county to be eligible for ARD.

While some ARD terms and conditions are negotiable, there are certain terms and conditions that are imposed by statute and are non-negotiable. A person admitted into ARD must serve six to 24 months of non-reporting probation and will have to attend and successfully complete Alcohol Highway Safety School, under a Court Reporting Network (CRN) drug and alcohol evaluation and pay certain fines and costs.

Once a person has successfully completed the ARD program, the criminal charges are legally dismissed. The person may then file a petition with the court to have all records of the arrest expunged from his or her criminal background history report.

It is important to note that when a person is charged with DUI following an accident with injuries or property damage, or if a person has an extremely high blood alcohol level, he or she may not be entitled to admission into the ARD program.

V: Typical Defenses to DUI Charges

Naturally, it is impossible to list all the potential defenses to a DUI case because every DUI case is different. Many defenses to DUI cases, however, involve one or more of the following theories:

Was the person actually driving? To prove a DUI case, the prosecution must prove that the defender was physically in control of a motor vehicle on a roadway. If the police can not prove the person was actually driving (such as in the case of an accident where no one witnessed who was driving or if someone is sleeping in a parked car) or that the person was driving on a roadway (such as when a person is stopped in certain parking areas or driveways), the person may have a legitimate immunity to the charge of DUI.

Did the police have probable cause to stop the vehicle and question the defender? The police need to have probable cause to stop a person's vehicle, question that person and conduct a consequent investigation without a Constitutional-recognized exception applications. Generally speaking, evidence will be suppressed in a DUI case if the officer did not have probable cause to (a) stop the vehicle, (b) determine the person, and (c) arrest that person. Sobriety roadblocks can present an exception to the "probably cause" standard and present a different set of legal and factual issues.

Was the person read his rights / Miranda warnings? Incriminating statements may be suppressed if the proper Miranda warnings were not given at the appropriate time if a person was subjected to custodial interrogation. Miranda warns are usually not an issue in DUI prosecutions because attorneys rarely seek to use a person's words against them at a DUI trial. However, if the prosecutor does seek to use the person's words at trial, the Miranda warns can become an issue.

Was a person appropriately informed of the Implied Consent warnings? If the officer did not advise a person of the consequences of refusing to take a chemical test as part of a DUI investigation, or provides evidence or incorrect information, then any PennDOT suspension for failing to take such a test can be avoided.

Did the person really appear to be "under the influence"? At a DUI trial, a police officer is generally allowed to offer his or her opinion regarding whether a driver was inxicated. Naturally, an officer's observations and opinions in this regard can be cross-examined. Appropriate question can include (1) the nature and circumstances surrounding any field sobriety tests (was the weather a factor? Did the defensive have any pre-existing medical issues? Was the defensive wearing shoes or clothing that affected field sobriety testing) (2) the subjective (and possibly predisposed) nature of what an officer considers as "failing" a field sobriety test, (3) whether the officer complied with standardized field sobriety guidelines, and (4) whether the field sobriety tests were witnessed by any third party or videotaped by the police.

Was the person's blood-alcohol concentration tested accurately and appropriately? There are a wide range of potential issues with blood, breath and urine testing for blood-alcohol content. Blood testing involves a recognized margin of error and variance which must be considered in evaluating test results. Many toxicologists contend that the margin of error of blood testing at state-accredited labs should be presumed to be no less than 9 percent. With respect to breath tests, some toxicologists maintain that the margin of errorought to be considered at 10 percent. Most toxicologists agree that it is also important to understand the physiological makeup of the person charged (male or female, height and weight) before offering a final opinion on the appropriate margin of error or variance with respect to blood alcohol testing.

VI: Conclusion

Driving Under the Influence is a charge that can affect almost anyone. Most people drink alcohol at least occasionally and live in areas where taxicabs and public transportation are not always a realistic option. The result is that many people find themselves, at some point in their lives, driving an automobile after consuming alcohol.

A DUI charge is almost always a traumatic and upsetting experience to the person charged. Many DUI defenders are good and law-abiding persons who are not used to being charged with a crime or being required to appear in court.

Fortunately, our law recognizes that people charged with a first-offense DUI frequently deserve a second chance at a clean criminal record. With the availability of first-time offender's programs such as ARD, many people in our society have been charged with DUI, navigated through the system, and emerged from the process to live productive and fulfilling lives.

It is important for anyone charged with a DUI to have a basic understanding of the law and the available rights and options. Armed with this information, and appropriate legal representation, persons charged with DUI can address the charges in a responsible way and quite put the entire experience behind them.

Brookmere Winery – A Pennsylvania Treat – Part I

From the moment we saw the old 1866 barn, Brenda and I knew we were in for a treat at Brookmere Winery in Belleville, PA. Owners Cheryl and Ed Glick were happy to share some of the winery's history and other interesting facts with us. The prior owners, Susan and Donald Chapman planed the first three acres of grape vines on the 138 acre farm in 1981. The winery first opened in 1984 and has been a fixture on route 655 ever since.

In 1995, Cheryl Glick went to work for the Chapmans at the winery. In 1999, Ed joined the winery staff and began learning the wine making process. When the Chapmans decided to sell the winery, the Glicks were there to buy it and continue Brookmere's fine tradition. Today the Glicks grow 10 acres of grapes that include such French hybrid varieties as Chellois, Vidal, Seyval and Chambourcin. These represent between 35% and 40% of the grapes that make up the 13,000 gallons of wine that Brookmere produces each year. The remaining grapes come from other Pennsylvania growers. Most of Brookmere's wine is fermented in steel tanks though some are aged in oak barrels. The bottling line can handle between 150 and 200 bottles per hour and the entire bottling process takes about three months per year.

The Glicks have the capacity and desire to expand the vineyard and winery to 20,000 gallons per year. When I asked them about the impact of the current economic crisis on sales, they replied that there was no impact whatsoever. People consider wine to be a reliably inexpensive luxury and will not give it up. It also makes a great gift that will not break the budget. In fact, the Glicks told me that 2008 holiday sales were actually up over 2007. There are things that Cheryl and Ed would like to see change in the Pennsylvania laws governing wine sales. Under the current law, Brookmere can only sell their wine at five state operated liquor stores within a small radius of the winery. They would like that number and radius to expand. In addition, they wish they could ship their wine to more states. They would have no problem at all is the arrangements were reciprocal and wineries in other states were able to ship into Pennsylvania. According to Ed, "we're not big enough to hurt them and they're not big enough to hurt us."

Ghost Town: The Strange Case Of Centralia, Pennsylvania

In 1981, the town of Centralia in Pennsylvania had a population of over one thousand souls. By 2010, only ten people lived there. It was – and continues to be – essentially a ghost town.

So, where did everyone go?

Well, Centralia sits atop a network of abandoned coal mines. For reasons still not entirely clear, the mines caught fire. While there is no firm proof – and other theories have been put forward – it's believed by most that the fire was caused by local authorities burning a landfill (which was located in an abandoned strip-mine pit), and then failing to extinguish it properly .

Regardless of how the fire got started, once it did, it became impossible to stop. It made its way into the mine pits, and continued to burn underground through the 1960's and 1970's. All attempts to extinguish it failed. Despite this, most people in Centralia continued living their lives as per usual – not being fully aware of the scale of what was happening beneath their feet.

Then, in 1979, that began to change.

The owner of a local gas station, John Coddington (who was also mayor of Centralia at the time) inserted a dip stick into his underground fuel tanks to measure how much gasoline was left. When he took the stick out, he was surprised to find that it was hot to the touch. So he took a thermometer and lowered it into the tank using a piece of string. When he took it out, he was shocked to discover that the fuel in the tank was 172 ° Fahrenheit!

Coddington's hot gasoline led to a huge increase in public awareness of the dangers posed by the fire.

This reached its climax in 1981 when 12-year-old Toddy Domboski fell into a sinkhole that suddenly opened up beneeth his feet while he was playing in the back yard. The sinkhole was four feet wide and 150 feet long – and spewed out plumes of hot steam that contained lethal levels of Carbon Monoxide. Thanks to his cousin, 14-year-old Eric Wolfgang, Toddy was secretly pulled from the sinkhole.

As far as most people were concerned, however, this was the beginning of the end for Centralia.

In 1984, Congress set aside $ 42 million to re-locate the residents of the town. The vast majority accepted the offer to buy out their properties and moved – for the most part – to nearby towns such as Mount Carmel and Ashland. In 1992 the State of Pennsylvania claimed eminent domain on all properties in Centralia, and then condemned all the buildings located there. Ten years later, the US Postal Service officially revoked Centralia's ZIP Code (17927).

Today, very few homes remain intact in Centralia. They've either been destroyed or overwhelmed by nature. Year after year, visible signs of the erstwhile town became increasingly difficult to detect.

Meanwhile, 50 years later, the underground fire rages on – and now covers an area of ​​over half a square mile.

After all this, a few residents still continue to resist efforts to sell their properties or be evicted, although their future in Centralia looks far from assured.

Grandparents' Rights for Custody in Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, Grandparents have the opportunity to seek custody of a Grandchild under limited circumstances. The Pennsylvania Statute enunciated at 23 Pa.CSA § 5313, sets forth the circumstances under which a Grandparent may petition for Custody of a Grandchild.

A Grandparent may petition for Partial Custody and Visitation where an unmarried child has stayed with his grandparents or great-grandparents for a period of 12 months or more and is previously removed from the home by his parents. The court will grant the petition if it finds that visitation rights would be in the "best interests of the child" and would not interfere with the parent-child relationship. The best interests of the child is the standard used in all cases cases in Pennsylvania. In it core form, the best interests of the child means what is best for the child's physical, moral, intellectual and spiritual well being.

A Grandparent may petition for Full Physical and Legal Custody of a grandchild if it is in the best interest of the child to not be in the custody of either parent. In order to qualify for such type of custody, the Grandparent must (1) have genuine care and concern for the child; (2) have a relationship with the child which began with the consent of a parent of the child or prospective to an order of court; and (3) who for 12 months or more has assumed the role and responsibilities of the child's parent, providing for the physical, emotional and social needs of the child, or who asserts the responsibility for a child who has been determined to be a dependent child or who collects or deems it necessary to assume responsibility for a child who is substantively at risk due to parental abuse, neglect, drug or alcohol abuse or mental illness.

In attempting to establish a Grandparent's rights to either Partial or Full Custody, the Pennsylvania Courts will consider the following factors: (1) the amount of disruption intensive visitation would cause in the child's life; (2) the suitability of the grandparents' home (3) the emotional ties between the child and the grandparents; (4) the moral fitness of the grandparents; (5) the distance between the child's home and the grandparents' home; (6) the potential for the grandparents to undersine the parent's general discipline of the child as a result of visitation; (7) whether the grandparents are employed and the responsibilities associated with such employment; (8) the amount of hostility that exists between the parent and the grandparents; and (9) the willingness of the grandparents to accept the fundamental concept that the rearing of the child is the parent's responsibility and is not to be interfereed with by the grandparents.

Pennsylvania Defective Product Lawyer

Need a Pennsylvania Defective product lawyer? Every year, many injuries and fatalities are caused as a result of defective products. From medications and electrical items to cribs and strollers, all manner of products can be defective in terms of design or manufacture, and this can result in serious repercussions for the user. With the help of a defective product lawyer, Pennsylvania residents can ensure that they receive justice and compensation for any injury or damage caused due to a defective product. Likewise, the family of those killed through the use of a defective product can also seek compensation with the assistance of an experienced lawyer.

When looking for a defective product lawyer, Pennsylvania residents should look for a professional with experience and specialist knowledge in this area. By opting for a trained and experienced defective product lawyer, Pennsylvania residents can improve their chances of winning a case against the manufacturers or designers of a defective product that has caused harm or injury to them. Most manufacturers will have the assistance of legal experts on their side in a bid to avoid paying out compensation – this is why you need to have an expert in the field fighting your corner for you.

Every year, many people win such cases with the help of a legal expert. Your lawyer will ascertain all of the facts, and will know exactly what sort of information is required in order to maximize the chances of success when it comes to filing for compensation. It can be costly to get this expert help, however, and in getting the assistance of a specialist defective product lawyer, Pennsylvania residents can expect to pay a small fortune in some cases.

If you want to enjoy peace of mind without having to find a lump sum of cash for legal assistance, a prepaid legal services plan can prove invaluable. For a small monthly premium, you can enjoy the peace of mind that comes with easy access to advice and assistance from an experienced defective product lawyer. Considering the benefits that come with these legal plans the premiums are nominal and the benefits can prove invaluable.

Pennsylvania Environmental and Recycling Update

Pennsylvania is a crossroads state, the northern side of the Mason-Dixon line. Philadelphia, in the east, is part of the sprawling Northeast Atlantic Coast megalopolis which runs from DC to Boston. On the West, Pittsburgh is part of the so-called Rust Belt, the Industrial Midwest. In between is an expansive agricultural zone, home to the Amish as well as much of this country’s agriculture. Environmental concerns have increased in Pennsylvania along with the rest of the United States, and auto recycling and salvage is a significant component of all that. Here’s the latest environmental and recycling news from the Quaker State.

Recycling Improves in Pittsburgh

The famous steel city, Pittsburgh has made the jump from heavy industry to high tech-some of the most innovative technology in the world comes from Western PA’s big city and its universities. Still, despite all this invention and creativity, Pittsburgh has been somewhat behind in terms of recycling. The Pennsylvania Resources Council aims to change that.

The PRC is a longstanding environmental organization in Ohio, one of the state’s biggest advocates for recycling and other ecological programs. They have recently deployed a program to simplify and promote recycling in the city called “Zero Waste Pittsburgh.” Among the most innovative features: recycling audits for businesses and homeowners, and recycling for common hazardous materials like Cathode Ray Tube monitors and TVs, other electronics and compact fluorescent light bulbs.

State, Activists Join Forces to Turn Golf Green

Golf courses have been anathema to environmental activists for years. The sprawling links consume inordinate levels of water, an increasingly scarce resource. And the only way to keep the greens green is with kilos of toxic chemicals. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection recently directed one of the state’s most prominent environmental groups-the Pennsylvania Environmental Council-to produce a guide for green golf course development and maintenance, a survey released this month to the public.

With input from an environmental consultant, the guide promises to be of use to local government and green-minded course developers around the country. Among its most valuable ideas is the use of native vegetation to reduce water usage, a strategy used by homeowners everywhere now. They also outline ways to preserving floodplains, streams, creeks and other watershed areas often damaged by courses.

Three Mile Island Nuclear Reactor Passes Environmental Review

Three Mile Island has been synonymous with nuclear disaster ever since a partial meltdown in 1979 created the nation’s closest nuclear power close call. No new nuclear plants have opened since, though several have begun construction in recent years. With new management, the environmental activist bugaboo still operates today.

As part of the renewal process of its 20 year permit, the plant submitted to an environmental review from the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission this year, and was given a clean bill of health this month. The permitting process rolls along, expected to be finished by the time their current permit expires in 2014, but Pennsylvania residents are glad to know things are safer at Three Mile Island.

Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Act: A Money-Maker With Health Benefits

Following the lead of twenty-three other states, Pennsylvania’s Governor Tom Wolfe made history here on April 17 by signing The Medical Marijuana Act (SB3) into law. Two days later, he turned up in King of Prussia to tout the bi-partisan legislation before “jubilant” crowds, saying, “This is about helping peoples’ lives, about helping people that are going to be better, faster. They’re going to feel better and that is just such a rewarding thing.”

And he could just be right, as our law covers such conditions as:

  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Cancer
  • Epilepsy
  • Glaucoma
  • HIV
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder

The law is set to go into effect next month, but it could take 18 to 24 months to establish all the regulations and get retailers up and running to sell us medical marijuana. The standards, though, are already set for tracking the plants, certifying physicians, and licensing growers, dispensaries, and physicians. Also decided: It will only be available in pill, oil, vapor, ointment, or liquid form. No smoking allowed, growing, either.

It’s all been a long time coming…

Our Jamestown settlers actually brought marijuana to our shores way back in 1611 when they established the first permanent English settlement here. By the 1890’s it was turning up in a variety of medications and was freely sold in pharmacies. Then in the 1920’s, Mexican immigrants introduced us to its recreational use, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Fast forward to 2016, and:

  • Medical marijuana is legal in 24 states and D.C., with Pennsylvania the latest to sign on.
  • Legalization of medical marijuana is currently pending in Florida, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, South Carolina, and Tennessee.
  • Marijuana is legal for adult and medical use in 4 states: Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska-and D.C., too, but accompanied there by strict restrictions.

Meanwhile, it’s one helluva money-maker, so no wonder budget-strapped states can’t seem to resist the lure. The numbers speak for themselves. Back in 2014, adult use amounted to $373.8 million; add in the total for medical marijuana sales and the figure comes in at a whopping $4.6 billion!

Plus, by 2020, it’s projected that adult use sales will amount to $12.1 billion, while medical sales will top $10.7 billion, for a total of $22.8 billion. Talk about filling the coffers!

So now it’s Pennsylvania’s turn at the trough. Indeed, although our law is brand new, marijuana entrepreneurs are already lining up. Says Doug Porter of the Cannabis Career Institute, “This is a prime time to start a marijuana business.” Indeed, folks in the know actually expect some 245,000 patients to sign on right away and sales to quickly top $100 million.

Adds Michael Bronstein, co-founder of the American Trade Association for Cannabis and Hemp in Philadelphia: “Pennsylvania could be one of these robust states. There is a serious marketplace here.”

The only bumps in the road noted so far:

  1. Not enough prescribing docs, as they must first take an online certification course and then opt-in to the program.
  2. Along with the ban on smoking and growing, flowers and edibles are not allowed.

In time, restrictions may very well ease, however. After all, just take a look at what’s already happened in places like California. It all started there with legalizing the medicinal use of pot, and now celebrities are making names for themselves in the marijuana marketplace. For instance, while Snoop Dogg hawks his “DANK FROM THE DOGGFATHER HIMSELF,” Melissa Etheridge is offering up marijuana-infused wine-a double whammy if ever there were one.

At the same time, Willie Nelson has partnered with private equity investors to market his “Willie’s Reserve,” and, not to be left out of the boom, either, Whoopi Goldberg and partner Maya Elisabeth now offer women a balm, a tincture, a sipping chocolate, and a bath salt. Really.

All in favor raise your hands and say “Aye.”

One caveat, though: In 2014, the U.S. Addiction Rehab Industry brought in $35 billion a year with more than 14,000 centers nationwide treating some 2.5 million patients and counting…

Achey V Crete Carrier Corporation – Sleep Apnea And Pennsylvania Trucking Litigation

A trucking company cannot be held liable for punitive damages because it knew of a driver’s history of sleep apnea. The Court granted motion for summary judgment in Achey v. Crete Carrier Corporation, No. 07-cv-3592 (E.D.Pa., Decision of March 30, 2009 – Eastern District Court of Pennsylvania). In Achey, Plaintiff sought punitive damages against the carrier based upon alleged negligent/reckless entrustment. Plaintiff based the claim upon the continued employment of a driver who was diagnosed with sleep apnea. The driver testified that he had been diagnosed with sleep apnea in 1992, but denied any noticeable effect on his driving ability. He further testified that he underwent surgery for the condition in 1992, but felt no difference in his level of fatigue.

It was “hotly disputed” whether the driver had sleep apnea as of the time of the accident. The Court held, however, that even if he did and if fatigue and drowsiness was a symptom of sleep apnea (which the Court found it was not according to The Merck Manual), the Court could not find any evidence that the driver ever suffered from the symptoms of fatigue or drowsiness as a result of the alleged sleep apnea condition. The Court stated that merely because the driver suffered some snoring as a result of sleep apnea, and at some point experienced drowsiness does not mean the drowsiness was because of the sleep apnea condition.

The Court noted that Plaintiff had not presented an expert who linked the sleep apnea to the drowsiness. Absent expert testimony, the Court would not make the leap to connect the two. Plaintiff had attempted to use its transportation safety expert to make the connection. That expert opined that cumulative fatigue and sleep apnea of the driver were contributing causes of the accident. A motion in limine was filed challenging the transportation expert’s qualification for such opinions. In response to the motion in limine, Plaintiff agreed to withdraw his opinions on sleep apnea and/or cumulative fatigue and whether either factor contributed to the accident.

Absent any qualified expert opinion on this issue, Plaintiff’s claim failed and summary judgment was granted. Plaintiff further asserted a claim for punitive damages based upon the carrier’s alleged awareness of the driver’s risk for falling asleep at the wheel based upon his record. The Court granted the motion for summary judgment based upon the lack of any evidence that carrier had a conscious appreciation of the risk. The Court noted that the driver had been deemed medically qualified by his successive DOT physicals. While there was a reported of history of sleep apnea that was treated, there was no evidence that the carrier knew or should have known that the driver might fall asleep at the wheel.

Plaintiff next tried to make the nexus by arguing that violations on the drivers operating record should have alerted the carrier. The Court again rejected the violations as evidence of the carrier’s conscious appreciation of the risk of the driver experiencing fatigue behind the wheel. It was argued, and the Court noted, that there was no evidence of any violation of the hours-of service regulations by the driver with regard to this accident. Accordingly the Court granted motion for summary judgment.

New Resident At 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Donald Trump – You May Also Know These 5 Musical Addresses

President Donald Trump is now settling into what will be his home for at least the next four years, having replaced Barack Obama as the chief executive of the United States of America. Trump and his family are now the residents with the most famous address in the country, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Other well-known addresses have come primarily from television shows, starting with the home of Archie Bunker and his clan at 705 Hauser Street in the seventies sitcom All in the Family . The home of the greedy millionaire Montgomery Burns of The Simpsons , 1000 Mammon Lane, is memorable because it describes him so well.

As for the main characters in that show, Homer and Marge live with their three kids (Bart, Lisa, and Maggie) at 740 Evergreen Terrace. Their next door neighbors, Ned and Maude Flanders with their sons Rod and Todd, stay at 742 Evergreen Terrace.

Another animated show, SpongeBob Square Pants , has a fitting address. The title character, whose home is a pineapple under the sea, lives on 124 Conch Street in Bikini Bottom.

Occidentally an address gains notoriety not from television, but from music. The residence of 461 Ocean Boulevard has become famous as the title of an Eric Clapton album, a record that made into a huge hit his cover of Bob Marley's "I Shot the Sheriff".

Here are five other addresses that have become memorable through songs.

16 Parkside Lane

Sue, the last fare for the night, specified this residence to the cab driver in Harry Chapin's hit "Taxi."

6802 Bayfield Avenue, Arverne, New York

Indie rock artist Mac Demarco makes an invitation, "Stop on by, I'll make you a cup of coffee," the only lyric in the last song of his Another One album from 2015.

125 Parkway, London, NW1

Veteran folk singer songwriter Loudon Wainwright cites this address in "Harry's Wall" from the 1989 Therapy album, where you can order an eight by ten of the "Dead Skunk" singer's alias What's-His-Name.

157 Riverside Avenue

Pre Kevin Cronin REO Speedwagon used this residence as the title for a song on its own-titled debut album, and the tune remains a concert favorite over forty five years later.

1320 North Columbus

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Eagles mentioned this address in "Train Leaves Here This Morning", a Bernie Leadon tune on the self-named first album that also included enduring hits such as "Witchy Woman", "Take It Easy" and " Peaceful Easy Feeling. "