PA Superior Court: Non-Verbal Gestures May Be a Terroristic Threat

Criminal Defense Lawyer Zak Goldstein

Criminal Defense Lawyer Zak Goldstein

The Pennsylvania Superior Court has decided the case of Commonwealth v. Kline, holding that a person can commit the crime of terroristic threats by using a hand gesture. This decision is significant because it makes it easier for the Commonwealth to prove that a defendant committed the crime of terroristic threats even where the defendant has not said anything explicitly threatening.    

Commonwealth v. Kline

In Kline, the complainant and the defendant lived relatively close to one another in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania. According to the complainant, the defendant never left his property. Prior to the day in question, the defendant would follow the complainant up and down her long driveway before and after work while staring at her. According to the complainant, the defendant would routinely stare at her with a flat affect and watch her and her family as they entered and exited their home. It is unclear whether the defendant ever spoke to the complainant or her family while they were neighbors. 

Per the complainant, the defendant’s actions were very unsettling. His actions caused her to be on “heightened alert [and] concerned as to what he might do next.” On February 25, 2017, the day in question, the complainant arrived at her home with her six-year-old daughter. The defendant then proceeded to walk up to her car, put his hands up, and imitate firing a gun at the complainant. The complainant stated that the defendant’s actions “scared [them] to death.” Immediately after this occurred, the complainant went to the Pennsylvania State Police to report the incident. She also stated that her daughter begged her not to take her home. The defendant was arrested and charged with terroristic threats. 

In addition to the complainant, the state trooper also testified at the defendant’s trial. He testified that the complainant looked “terrorized” and “distraught” after her interaction with the defendant. The defendant also testified at trial. He stated that he gestured with his thumb and pointer finger as a way to say “hello, hey how are you doing?” to the person in a car. He also stated that he did not recall ever staring at the victim on prior occasions when she would walk to and from her home. At the conclusion of the trial, the jury found the defendant guilty. At sentencing, he was sentenced to 3-23 months’ imprisonment, fined $500 and immediately paroled. The defendant then filed a timely appeal arguing that because his non-verbal gesture was not accompanied by any type of verbal communication, the evidence was not sufficient to convict him.

What is the Crime of Terroristic Threats?

18 Pa C.S.A. § 2706 is the statute that governs the crime of terroristic threats. A person is guilty of terroristic threats if the person communicates, either directly or indirectly, a threat to: 1) commit any crime of violence with the intent to terrorize another; 2) cause evacuation of a building, place of assembly or facility of public transportation; or 3) otherwise cause serious public inconvenience, or cause terror or serious public inconvenience with reckless disregard of the risk of causing such terror or inconvenience. Direct communication is not required for the Commonwealth to convict a defendant of this crime.

The purpose of this statute is to prevent the psychological distress that follows from an invasion of another’s sense of personal security. The crime of terroristic threats is not meant to criminalize threats that arise out of anger during a dispute. As such, courts are supposed to look at the totality of the circumstances in determining whether a defendant has uttered a terroristic threat. It is important to note that just because a defendant is angry does not mean they will be acquitted of the charge of terroristic threats. Additionally, one’s ability to carry out said threat is not relevant to whether the person committed the crime of terroristic threats nor is the victim’s subjective belief about the ability of the threat to be carried out.

In practice, the Commonwealth will routinely charge someone with terroristic threats if a defendant utters something that could be reasonably construed as a threat. The Commonwealth has significant incentive to do so. For one, terroristic threats is a misdemeanor of the first degree. If a defendant is found guilty of that charge, a judge has five years to work with when fashioning a sentence for him or her. Additionally, it is a relatively easy crime to prove. Unlike other crimes that have a specific intent mens rea, terroristic threats only require that the Commonwealth prove that the defendant acted recklessly when making these assertions. Further, as a result of the decision in Kline, the Commonwealth will have an easier time of proving this charge in future prosecutions where the defendant makes a non-verbal gesture.

Conviction Affirmed

The Superior Court affirmed the defendant’s conviction for the charge of terroristic threats. In upholding his conviction, the Superior Court noted that a communication does not have to be direct to uphold a conviction for terroristic threats. The Superior Court went on to say that while some non-verbal gestures will not be sufficient to sustain a conviction, in this case, when combined with the defendant’s past behavior towards the complainant, the evidence was sufficient to satisfy the communication prong of the charge. Further, the record supported that the complainant experienced psychological distress because of the defendant’s actions. The complainant testified that she was under duress because of the defendant’s actions and the state trooper corroborated this by testifying that she looked terrorized. The Superior Court concluded that the evidence was sufficient to convict the defendant of terroristic threats, and his conviction will remain in effect.

Need a Criminal Defense Attorney? We Can Help.

Goldstein Mehta LLC Criminal Lawyers

Goldstein Mehta LLC Criminal Lawyers

If you are facing criminal charges or under investigation by the police, we can help. We have successfully defended thousands of clients against criminal charges in courts throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. We have successfully obtained full acquittals in cases involving charges such as Conspiracy, Aggravated Assault, Rape, and Attempted Murder. Our award-winning Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers offer a free criminal defense strategy session to any potential client. Call 267-225-2545 to speak with an experienced and understanding defense attorney today.

PA Superior Court: Reaching for a Gun While Fleeing from a Theft Is Probably a First-Degree Felony Robbery

Philadelphia Robbery Defense Lawyer Zak Goldstein

Philadelphia Robbery Defense Lawyer Zak Goldstein

The Pennsylvania Superior Court has decided the case of Commonwealth v. Ouch, holding that the Commonwealth produced sufficient evidence of first-degree felony Robbery at the preliminary hearing where the Commonwealth showed that the defendant committed a retail theft and then reached for a gun after being stopped by the store’s loss prevention officer. The court found that although there was some evidence that the loss prevention officer may not have actually seen the gun, the trial court improperly dismissed the first-degree felony charge after erroneously weighing the evidence and resolving conflicts in the testimony. Instead, because the Commonwealth receives the benefit of any reasonable inferences at a preliminary hearing, the court should have accepted the security guard’s testimony that the defendant tried to pull a gun on him despite video evidence which was arguably to the contrary. Further, the focus of the inquiry at the preliminary hearing is on the likely intent of the defendant, not the subjective belief of the complainant.

The Facts of Commonwealth v. Ouch

A Philadelphia police officer responded to a radio call for a robbery in progress at a local market. Upon arrival, the complainant and a uniformed security officer both stated that an Asian male described as 5’6 and 150 pounds in his 20’s or 30’s wearing a gray Phillies hat, gray hooded sweatshirt with white design on the front was attempting to shoplift seafood. Witnesses testified that when store security attempted to stop the male in the doorway, the male attempted to pull a firearm from his waistband. The security guard smacked the man’s hand away, and the man fled the parking lot in a white Toyota Corolla. This incident was caught on camera. A detective then viewed the video of the incident and immediately recognized the defendant. The defendant was subsequently arrested on an arrest warrant by Philadelphia Police.

The defendant later appeared in court for his preliminary hearing. The Commonwealth called the security guard to testify as a witness at the preliminary hearing. He testified that at the direction of his manager, he stopped “an Asian guy” whom he described as 5’5 and wearing a gray shirt, hat, sneakers, and blue jeans on suspicion of shoplifting. The Commonwealth then played a video of the incident. The security officer identified on the video the point at which the defendant reached for his waistband. When asked what he did in response to this, the security officer replied “[p]ushed back off…because he reached for a gun so I said, I told the manager, ‘we ain’t dying for this.’”

On cross-examination, the security guard acknowledged that although he saw the defendant reach for something, he did not know what it was. He further conceded that when he saw the defendant reach for his waist, he did not know what he was reaching for because he had taken his eyes off of him. Additionally, the defendant never brandished a weapon nor pointed a gun in front of him. Based on the Superior Court’s opinion, the only time that the security guard saw the gun was when the defendant had his back to him as he was fleeing the market.  

At the conclusion of the hearing, the judge held the defendant for all charges except for robbery in the first degree. The court instead downgraded the robbery charge to robbery as a felony of the third degree. The Commonwealth filed a motion to re-file the charge of robbery graded as a first-degree felony. The defendant’s defense attorney filed a motion to quash seeking the dismissal of all charges based on a lack of evidence.

At a hearing on the two motions, a Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas judge denied the Commonwealth’s request to re-file the charge of first-degree Robbery, but the judge permitted the Commonwealth to charge the defendant with Robbery as a second-degree felony. The motions judge opined that the Commonwealth did not produce any evidence that the defendant brandished or pointed the gun at either of the witnesses. The Commonwealth then filed a timely appeal to the Pennsylvania Superior Court, arguing that the motions court erred in concluding that it did not present sufficient evidence to show that the defendant placed the security guard in fear of immediate serious bodily injury.

What is the difference between Robbery as a first-degree felony and second-degree felony?

In general, Robbery as a first-degree felony is much more serious than Robbery as a felony of the second or third degrees. When Robbery is a first-degree felony, it becomes a crime of violence under Pennsylvania law and therefore a “strike” offense which could trigger a significant mandatory minimum of a decade or more for a defendant who has been convicted of other strike offenses in the past. A conviction for robbery as a second or third degree felony, however, does not trigger a mandatory minimum and calls for a much lesser sentence under the Pennsylvania Sentencing Guidelines. The main difference between Robbery as a felony of the first degree and Robbery as a felony of the second degree is that first-degree felony Robbery requires evidence that the defendant caused, attempted to cause, or put the victim in fear of serious bodily injury during the commission of a theft. This typically involves the use of a weapon such as a gun or knife. Robbery as a second degree, however, only requires evidence that the defendant caused, attempted to cause, or put the victim in fear of bodily injury, which is less than serious bodily injury. The fear of bodily injury could come from a verbal threat, shove, or punch. Thus, Robbery as a felony of the second degree is easier for the Commonwealth to prove, and less serious, than Robbery as a felony of the first degree.

What Happens at a Preliminary Hearing?

Preliminary hearings are frequently misunderstood by defendants with no prior contacts with the criminal justice system. In Philadelphia, a defendant will only have a preliminary hearing if they are charged with a felony. Further, the preliminary hearing is not a trial. This means that the purpose is not to determine whether a defendant is guilty or not guilty. Instead, the purpose of the preliminary hearing is to determine whether there is sufficient evidence for a case to go to trial. Specifically, in order for a case to proceed beyond the preliminary hearing, the judge must make a determination that a crime occurred and that the accused is probably the perpetrator of that crime. Consequently, the burden of proof is much lower for the Commonwealth at a preliminary hearing than it is at trial. At a preliminary hearing, the Commonwealth must only establish a prima facie case that the defendant was the one who committed said crime. At a trial, however, the Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime. Additionally, all reasonable inferences are given to the Commonwealth, and the evidence must be read in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth’s case.

Preliminary hearings can be very frustrating because credibility is also not an issue. In other words, a judge is not supposed to take into consideration how believable the witness is. Rather, the judge is supposed to make a determination based on the record to see if the Commonwealth has put forth enough evidence to go forward with its case. Consequently, when in court, when attorneys argue about the charges following the preliminary hearing, they are usually fighting about whether or not the Commonwealth has established all of the elements of the particular crimes charged. If the court finds that the Commonwealth has met its burden, then a defendant will be “held for court,” which means that he or she will have to face trial or litigate motions. It is important to remember that just because a defendant has been held for court does not mean the defendant has been found guilty. Although preliminary hearings do not allow the defense to challenge the credibility of witnesses, they are still extremely important hearings because they allow for the potential of having charges dismissed or downgraded when the Commonwealth does not have sufficient evidence and for cross-examining witnesses under oath. The record from the preliminary hearing will often turn out to be very valuable later either at trial or at a motion to suppress hearing. For a much more detailed analysis of what happens at a preliminary hearing, please see our blog “What is a Preliminary Hearing? What Happens After a Preliminary Hearing?” https://goldsteinmehta.com/blog/what-happens-at-the-preliminary-hearing.

Superior Court Holds Defendant for Court on First-Degree Felony Robbery

 The Superior Court found that the lower courts erred when they discharged the first-degree robbery charge. The Superior Court held that its review of the evidence, when viewing it in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth and accepted as true, found that there was sufficient evidence to hold the defendant for trial on the first-degree robbery charge. According to the Superior Court, the security guard’s testimony that the defendant “reached for a gun” and his utterance of “we ain’t dying for this” was sufficient to establish the requisite elements of first-degree robbery. As stated above, according to the Commonwealth’s witness, the defendant did not brandish a gun at him and he did not see what the defendant reached for during their interaction. Further, the security guard did not even see a gun until after the defendant had turned his back to him as he was fleeing the market. Nonetheless, despite all of these deficiencies, the Superior Court found that there was sufficient evidence to establish a prima facie case for first-degree robbery and the defendant will now have to go to trial on that charge, as well.

Facing Criminal Charges? We Can Help.

Philadelphia Criminal Lawyers

Philadelphia Criminal Lawyers

If you are facing criminal charges or under investigation by the police, we can help. We have successfully defended thousands of clients against criminal charges in courts throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. We have successfully obtained full acquittals in cases involving charges such as Conspiracy, Rape, Robbery, Aggravated Assault, and Attempted Murder. Our award-winning Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers offer a free criminal defense strategy session to any potential client. Call 267-225-2545 to speak with an experienced and understanding defense attorney today.

PA Superior Court: Sentencing Guidelines Are Not Binding

The Pennsylvania Superior Court has decided the case of Commonwealth v. Conte, re-affirming that a trial court retains significant discretion in fashioning a sentence for a defendant following a trial. The court’s opinion illustrates the fact that the trial court is not bound by the Pennsylvania Sentencing Guidelines when deciding on a sentence. Further, the trial court may consider all of the allegations at issue even if the defendant has been acquitted by the jury of some of the more serious charges.

Philadelphia Criminal Defense Lawyer Zak Goldstein

Philadelphia Criminal Defense Lawyer Zak Goldstein

The Facts of Commonwealth v. Conte

The Pocono Mountain Police interviewed the complainant, the defendant’s daughter, in January 2016 about alleged sexual assaults. The complainant told the police that the defendant sexually assaulted her on numerous occasions when she was between the ages of four and eight years old. On January 29, 2016, a criminal complaint was filed that charged him with rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, aggravated indecent assault, and endangering the welfare of children (“EWOC”).

Prior to trial, both parties litigated a number of pre-trial motions. The Commonwealth filed a 404(B) motion, which is commonly referred to as a Prior Bad Acts Motion, to introduce the testimony of T.F., who was an acquaintance of the defendant’s children. T.F. alleged that the defendant had asked her to join him in his car and had placed T.F.’s hand over his pants and on his penis. The trial court expressed hesitancy in allowing the Commonwealth to use the testimony of T.F. in its case-in-chief. As such, the Commonwealth stated that it would only use T.F. as a rebuttal witness if the defense were to present any evidence.

At trial, the Commonwealth called the complainant as well as her mother and her brothers as witnesses against the defendant. The defendant, as well as his current wife, testified at trial. According to the Superior Court, the trial testimony painted a very different picture of what occurred during these years than what the complainant originally stated to the police. In fact, according to the prosecution’s witnesses, the defendant treated the complainant like “a princess.” However, to the other children, the defendant was a “cruel, vindictive and violent man who harbored no dispute in the house and regularly meted out physical punishment.” The defense’s witnesses sought to counter this narrative by suggesting that although the defendant was a disciplinarian, the household itself was warm and a welcoming place for family and friends. The Commonwealth then called T.F. as a rebuttal witness.  

At the conclusion of the trial, the defendant was convicted of a single count of EWOC. He was acquitted of all other charges. The pre-sentence investigation report was prepared and the defendant was sentenced on June 20, 2017. At his sentencing hearing, the defendant called multiple witnesses to testify on his behalf. The defendant also spoke at his sentencing and stated: “I really don’t know why I’m here today.” The defendant’s guidelines were Restorative Sanctions to 6 months’ incarceration, with an upward enhancement of three months for the aggravated range. The judge proceeded to sentence the defendant to the statutory maximum of two and a half to five years’ incarceration.

In justifying this maximum possible sentence, the judge stated that the defendant was responsible for “the disharmony of the family.” Further, the sentencing court gave great weight to the testimony of the complainant. The complainant testified at the sentencing about the harm that she endured because of the defendant’s actions. Specifically, that she had attempted to commit suicide twice and has had difficult with normal healthy sexual relationships. As required in order to challenge a sentence on appeal, the defendant filed post-sentence motions. Those were denied. He then filed a timely appeal. Specifically, the defendant appealed the length of his sentence, arguing that the trial court abused its discretion when it imposed the statutory maximum, especially considering that he was found guilty of only one charge and that the trial court allowed T.F. to testify as a rebuttal witness. For purposes of this blog, only the appeal of his sentence will be addressed. 

Can I Appeal My Sentence?

Yes, but your rights are limited. Judges are given a significant amount of discretion in creating a sentence for a defendant. Further, a defendant’s sentence will not be overturned on appeal unless the sentencing court abused its discretion. This is a very high standard to meet, and thus a defendant’s sentence will remain undisturbed unless the trial court was excessively cruel. For an example of this, please see our blog post for Commonwealth v. Sarvey (https://goldsteinmehta.com/blog/unreasonable-sentence-for-pill-sale).

When fashioning a sentence, a judge is supposed to take into consideration several factors. As a preliminary matter, the sentencing court must consider the sentencing guidelines for a particular defendant. The sentencing guidelines analyze the severity of the offense (also known as the offense gravity score) and the criminal history of the defendant (also known as the prior record score). When a judge does this, they are able to determine the sentencing guidelines for the particular defendant. The purpose of this is to try and create uniformity with sentencings across the Commonwealth (i.e. someone who commits a particular offense with a particular criminal history in Harrisburg should get a similar sentence if that same person were to commit the same offense in Philadelphia).

However, it is important to note that the sentencing guidelines are not mandatory. Further, courts should also consider additional factors when they sentence a defendant. Courts consider things such as the age of the defendant; the facts of the case; whether the crime involved violence; whether the defendant is a threat to the community; the rehabilitative needs of the defendant; the defendant’s stated remorse or lack thereof; etc. In other words, a judge must consider the character of the defendant. Consequently, when one looks at the individual characteristics of a defendant, this can be justification for departing from the guidelines.

The Superior Court Affirms the Sentence 

The Superior Court held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it sentenced him to the statutory maximum. The Court rejected the argument that the sentence was excessive despite the fact that the defendant had been acquitted of the more serious charges at trial and that the guidelines called for a much shorter sentence. The Superior Court highlighted that the trial court had justifiable reasons for giving him the sentence that he received. Specifically, according to the Superior Court, the defendant did not show any remorse for his actions. Further, the Superior Court highlighted the lingering harm suffered by the complainant and her family because of the defendant’s actions. Therefore, the Superior Court held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion. The defendant will not receive a new sentencing hearing.  

Facing Criminal Charges? We Can Help.

If you are facing criminal charges or under investigation by the police, we can help. We have successfully defended thousands of clients against criminal charges in courts throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. We have successfully obtained acquittals and dismissals in cases involving charges such as Conspiracy, Aggravated Assault, Rape, and Attempted Murder. Our award-winning Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers offer a free criminal defense strategy session to any potential client. Call 267-225-2545 to speak with an experienced and understanding defense attorney today.

PA Superior Court: Commonwealth Cannot Automatically Add New Charges Right Before Trial

Philadelphia Criminal Defense Lawyer

Philadelphia Criminal Defense Lawyer

The Superior Court has decided the case of Commonwealth v. Quinones, holding that a trial court cannot permit the amendment of the information (the charging document prosecutors create prior to trial) to add new charges of which the defendant had no prior notice when those new charges would prejudice his or her defense. This is a significant decision because it will limit the ability of a prosecutor to blindside defendants with additional charges on the eve of trial. It will also help prevent prosecutors from retaliating against defendants who reject plea offers and proceed to trial.

Commonwealth v. Quinones

On August 11, 2016, a man with a gun knocked on either the back door or the kitchen window of the apartment where a woman, a man named Mr. Brightful, and their daughter lived. The armed man gestured for the woman to come to the back door. Instead, she ran to the front of the apartment and called Mr. Brightful. He told her to leave. Mr. Brightful’s girlfriend left the apartment and took their child to a nearby hotel.

The next day, Mr. Brightful and the eventual-defendant obtained handguns. That night, someone broke into Mr. Brightful’s home, and Mr. Brightful eventually shot and killed him in the presence of the defendant, Quinones. After Mr. Brightful shot and killed the man, the defendant picked up the decedent’s gun from the couch and told Mr. Brightful that he wanted to keep it. Mr. Brightful took the gun away from him and told him that he could not keep it.

The defendant and Mr. Brightful then moved the victim’s body from Mr. Brightful’s home into a Honda Odyssey van. They drove to a secluded area and disposed of the victim’s body on the side of the road. After disposing of the body, Mr. Brightful drove himself and the defendant back to the house. Five days later, police pulled over Mr. Brightful and the defendant in the van for unknown reasons. Presumably, they were suspects in the homicide. The police obtained a search warrant and searched the van shortly after pulling it over. They did not find any drugs. Inexplicably, the police searched the van again several months later. This time they found heroin and drug paraphernalia in the wheel well of the van. Initially, police had charged the defendant with firearms not to be carried without a license (VUFA 6106), abuse of corpse, conspiracy to commit abuse of corpse, possession of a firearm prohibited persons (VUFA 6105), tampering with or fabricating physical evidence, and possession of instruments of crime. Police did not originally charge him with any drug offenses when they first arrested him because they had not yet found the heroin.

On April 24, 2017, the Commonwealth filed a motion to add charges. Following a hearing on June 2, 2017, the court granted the motion for leave to amend the information, which was amended on June 8, 2017. The trial court permitted the Commonwealth to add the charges of possession of a controlled substance with the intent to deliver (“PWID”) and possession of drug paraphernalia.

A jury eventually found the defendant guilty of firearms not to be carried without a license, abuse of corpse, conspiracy to commit abuse of corpse, PWID, and possession of drug paraphernalia. The defendant then filed post-sentence motions which were denied. He then filed a timely appeal. For purposes of this article, only the issue of whether the trial court erred in permitting the Commonwealth to amend the information prior to trial will be discussed.

Can the Commonwealth add charges after the preliminary hearing but prior to trial?

It depends. Rule 564 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure governs this issue. The rule provides that a court may allow the Commonwealth to add charges so long as the amended “does not charge offenses arising from a different set of events and that the amended charges are not so materially different from the original charge that the defendant would be unfairly prejudiced.”

In determining whether the court will permit the Commonwealth to add charges, trial courts are supposed to consider whether the crimes specified in the original indictment or information involve the same basic elements and evolved out of the same factual situation as the crimes specified in the amended indictment or information. In this regard, courts will typically consider whether the defendant was on notice of the charges from the allegations in the pre-trial discovery provided by prosecutors.

Even where the Commonwealth amends the information to add new charges of which the defendant was not on notice, a defendant will not be successful on appeal unless he can show that the amendment resulted in prejudice. In determining whether a defendant was prejudiced, the appellate courts will consider 1) whether the amendment changes the factual scenario supporting the charges; 2) whether the amendment adds new facts previously unknown to the defendant; 3) whether the entire factual scenario was developed during a preliminary hearing; 4) whether the description of the charges changed with the amendment; 5) whether a change in defense strategy was necessitated by the amendment; and 6) whether the timing of the Commonwealth’s request for amendment allowed for ample notice and preparation.

Let’s give an example of when a court would permit an amendment. Let’s assume that a defendant is accused of stabbing someone and this person, does not die, but is seriously hurt. The defendant is then arrested and only charged with aggravated assault. However, on the eve of trial, the Commonwealth files a motion to amend the information to include the charge of simple assault. The trial court would permit the Commonwealth to amend the petition to add this charge because it shares many of the same elements as aggravated assault. Further, it is highly unlikely that this would result in a change in defense strategy, and thus there is no real risk of prejudice to the defendant by amending the information to include the charge of simple assault. The analysis is different, however, when the Commonwealth wants to add totally unrelated charges or charges relating to an entirely different incident.

Quinones was prejudiced by the addition of PWID charges

The Superior Court held that the trial court erred when it permitted the Commonwealth to amend the information to add the drug charges. As a preliminary matter, the Superior Court held that the amended information charged additional and different offenses. Therefore, the amended information violated Rule 564 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure on its face. Therefore, the Superior Court had to determine whether this resulted in prejudice to the defendant.

The Superior Court held that the amendments prejudiced the defendant because before the amendment, there was no mention of narcotics and thus there was no suggestion that the defendant was involved in drug activity. Additionally, the defendant had a preliminary hearing and there was no mention of the drugs during this hearing. However, when the trial court permitted the amendment it allowed the Commonwealth to argue that he was a drug dealer and that this drug activity could provide a motive for the defendant’s involvement in the crimes.

This amendment was very advantageous to the Commonwealth, it was showed during the opening arguments. During the prosecutor’s opening argument, he specifically stated that the defendant disposed of the body because he did not want the authorities to gain knowledge either of the victim’s death or his enterprise. Thus, it was clear that part of the Commonwealth’s theory was that the defendant’s actions that day were drug related. This was clearly prejudicial to the defendant, and consequently, he will receive a new trial.

Facing Criminal Charges? We Can Help.  

Goldstein Mehta LLC Criminal Defense Lawyers

Goldstein Mehta LLC Criminal Defense Lawyers

If you are facing criminal charges or under investigation by the police, we can help. We have successfully defended thousands of clients against criminal charges in courts throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. We have successfully obtained full acquittals and dismissals in cases involving charges such as Conspiracy, Aggravated Assault, Sexual Assault, and Attempted Murder. Our award-winning Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers offer a free 15-minute criminal defense strategy session to any potential client. Call 267-225-2545 to speak with an experienced and understanding defense attorney today.