The Deadly Weapon Used Enhancement does not apply unless the defendant used the deadly weapon while entering the building during a Burglary.
Award-Winning Philadelphia Criminal Defense Lawyers
The Philadelphia criminal defense attorneys of Goldstein Mehta LLC continue to obtain outstanding results both in and out of the court room. Our defense lawyers have fought for successful outcomes in cases involving a wide variety of charges including robbery, burglary, assault, probation violations and probation detainers, and gun charges. Some of our recent success stories include:
Commonwealth v. G. – Motion to Suppress Confession for Lack of Miranda Warnings Granted in Shooting Case
In Commonwealth v. G., Attorney Goldstein successfully moved for the suppression of an incriminating statement in a case in which the defendant was charged with gun charges including Violations of the Uniform Firearms Act (“VUFA”) Sections 6108, 6106, and 6105 as well as conspiracy, tampering with evidence, and recklessly endangering another person. The Commonwealth alleged that G. accompanied his co-defendants to a location where a shooting broke out. After the complainants returned fire and shot one of the co-defendants, G. allegedly took the gun and hid it. When G. went to visit his friend at the hospital, police arrested him and began interrogating him, resulting in a confession which implicated G. in hiding the gun.
Attorney Goldstein moved to suppress the statement and the firearm due to violations of the Miranda rule. Pennsylvania and federal law both require the police to read suspects their Miranda warnings prior to interrogating them. Prior to asking any questions which could lead to incriminating answers, police must advise a suspect who has been arrested and taken into custody that the suspect has:
- The right to remain silent,
- The right to an attorney and that the attorney will be paid for by the government if the suspect cannot afford an attorney, and
- That anything the suspect says can be used against them in court.
Shortly before trial, prosecutors admitted that detectives had actually interrogated G. twice. First, they interrogated him immediately upon his arrival at the police station when they had not yet provided him with Miranda warnings at that time. After obtaining a confession, police quickly provided G. with Miranda warnings, questioned him again, and obtained a signed statement.
Attorney Goldstein successfully moved to have both statements suppressed due to detective’s failure to provide Miranda warnings prior to the first interrogation. Under federal law, police may not intentionally fail to provide Miranda warnings in order to obtain a confession, then provide warnings, and quickly re-interrogate the defendant after providing the warnings. Instead, federal courts have applied a sort of “good faith exception” when evaluating whether prosecutors may use a second, Mirandized statement which is substantially similar to a prior un-Mirandized statement. Where police make a mistake in failing to provide Miranda warnings or where the circumstances change enough so that the second statement is not directly related to the first, the statement may become admissible. The Commonwealth attempted to justify the failure to warn by arguing that it had been inadvertent and that there was a break in the chain between the first and second interrogations due to the passage of time.
Here, Attorney Goldstein successfully argued that the police intentionally failed to provide Miranda warnings during the first statement. Additionally, there was no break in the chain between the two interrogations. The second interrogation happened almost immediately, took place in the same location, and involved the same police detective. The trial court agreed and granted the Motion to Suppress, ruling that both statements could not be used at trial. Once the statements were excluded, the Commonwealth agreed that it would not appeal the court’s ruling if G. accepted a plea deal for a misdemeanor charge and probation. The successful Motion to Suppress helped G. avoid a felony gun conviction and years in state prison.
Commonwealth v. A. – Robbery, Burglary, and Assault Charges Dismissed for Speedy Trial Violation.
In Commonwealth v. A., Attorney Goldstein successfully moved to have all charges against the client dismissed due to the prosecution’s violation of Pennsylvania Speedy Trial Rules, specifiically Pennsylvania Rule of Criminal Procedure 600(A). A. and a co-defendant were charged with dressing up as police officers and forcing their way into a massage parlor. Once inside, the defendants allegedly demanded money from the employees. The employees called the police, and the defendants were arrested inside the massage parlor. The Commonwealth immediately brought charges for robbery, burglary, assault, and other related charges.
Unfortunately for the prosecution, the Commonwealth brought the charges without completing its investigation. At the first trial listing, the Commonwealth was not prepared to proceed because it had improperly failed to turn over critical witness statements and evidence in advance of trial. The trial court marked the continuance as a Commonwealth continuance request, and by the time the second jury trial listing arrived, the defendant had been awaiting trial for two years.
Pennsylvania Rule of Criminal Procedure 600(A) requires that all criminal defendants be brought to trial within 365 days of the filing of the criminal Complaint. There are exceptions for things like court continuances and circumstances outside of the prosecution’s control, but in order to qualify for an exception, the Commonwealth must show that its prosecutors acted with due diligence in prosecuting the case. In this case, Attorney Goldstein successfully argued that the judge at the first trial listing had already found that the prosecution acted without due diligence in failing to provide witness statements and other discovery materials in advance of the first trial date. Because the Commonwealth never asked the first judge to reconsider the ruling in writing, Rule 600 barred the Commonwealth from asking the new trial judge to reconsider the first judge’s ruling without some showing of obvious error on the part of the first judge. The court agreed and dismissed all of the charges in this extremely serious case.
Commonwealth v. M. – Car Theft Charges Dismissed at Preliminary Hearing
In Commonwealth v. M., the client was charged with multiple counts of Receiving Stolen Property, Theft by Unlawful Taking, Unauthorized Use of an Automobile, and Theft from a Motor Vehicle. Prosecutors alleged that in one case, M. stole the complainant’s car and drove it around for a night before leaving it abandoned on a nearby street. Further, numerous valuable items were missing from the car, leading to additional allegations that M. had stolen the items.
In a second case which had been joined for the preliminary hearing, prosecutors alleged that M. broke into a parked car, stole valuable items, and transported those items to his house. When prosecutors executed a search warrant on M.'s house, they found M. and another gentleman in the living room along with the stolen items. Neither man was closer to the items, said anything incriminating, or attempted to flee, and the other man's hospital ID had actually been found by police in the stolen car in the first case.
In both cases, the prosecution attempted to rely entirely on hearsay at the preliminary hearing under the Superior Court's opinion in Commonwealth v. Ricker. The prosecution sought to have a police detective, who had no personal knowledge of who took the car or took items from the other car, testify that a witness who failed to appear for court saw M. driving the car on the night in question.
Attorney Goldstein’s repeated objections to this hearsay testimony led to it being excluded from evidence at the preliminary hearing, and without the hearsay, the evidence was completely insufficient for the preliminary hearing judge to hold M. for court. This was particularly true in light of the fact that the other gentleman's hospital wristband was found by police in the stolen car. Accordingly, the court dismissed all charges against M. This case shows that even with the trend of judges permitting more and more hearsay at preliminary hearings, there are still limits. This is especially true in Philadelphia where judges tend to require that witnesses have some level of personal knowledge before they will hold a case for court.
Probation Detainers Lifted – In the last six weeks, our Philadelphia criminal defense attorneys have successfully moved to have probation detainers lifted for three separate clients who were on probation and subsequently arrested on new charges. This includes the lifting of a probation detainer for a client who was on probation for a gun charge and who was arrested on a new case of Possession with the Intent to Deliver.
State v. D. – Prosecution Agrees to Dismiss All Charges in New Jersey Prison Contraband Case
In State v. D., the client was charged with third degree indictable offenses in New Jersey for allegedly smuggling drugs into the prison during a visit with a friend. The prosecution obtained both video of the incident and phone calls which it claimed implicated D. in the offense. After convincing the Assistant Prosecutor that even if real, the phone calls would not be admissible against D. due to violations of New Jersey wiretap and recording laws, the prosecution agreed to dismiss all charges. D. will avoid a felony conviction and jail time.
Commonwealth v. K. – All Charges Dismissed in Third Strike Carjacking (Robbery of a Motor Vehicle) Case.
K. was charged with stealing his ex-girlfriend’s car by snatching the keys out of her hand and driving off in the car. Although this allegation would only have been Robbery as a felony of the second degree, the case became a third strike and a carjacking because of the fact that K. allegedly took a car. Carjacking (Robbery of a Motor Vehicle) is considered a crime of violence under Pennsylvania law for purposes of the three strikes rule. Due to prior convictions, K. would have faced a mandatory 25-50 years in prison if convicted of Robbery of a Motor Vehicle because carjacking is a “strike” case. Fortunately, our criminal defense attorneys were able to have all charges dismissed at the preliminary hearing level.
Commonwealth v. J. – Our criminal defense lawyers were able to successfully negotiate a misdemeanor offer of probation for a client who was initially charged with F1 Strangulation, Robbery, and Aggravated Assault. First, we were able to have the strangulation charge dismissed at the preliminary hearing and the other felonies graded as felonies of the second degree. Once the felonies were no longer F1 strike offenses, the Commonwealth’s offer substantially improved, and we were eventually able to negotiate a misdemeanor probationary offer for the client, thereby avoiding jail time and a felony conviction.
Commonwealth v. A. – All charges against A. were dismissed after our defense lawyers negotiated for A. to participate in the domestic violence diversionary program. After A. completed community service, counseling, and paid a small fine, the Commonwealth withdrew Simple Assault, Terroristic Threats, and Recklessly Endangering Another Person charges against A.
Commonwealth v. R. - The client was arrested and charged with Robbery, Assault, and related charges while on probation for a serious offense. Because there was clear video of the incident occurring, the client was hoping to obtain a plea deal for the shortest possible sentence. The client's previous attorney had been unable to negotiate for anything less than a 1-2 year state prison sentence. After retaining Goldstein Mehta LLC, our defense lawyers were able to negotiate a sentence of 11.5 - 23 months with work release eligibility and no additional jail time on the direct probation violation.
Charged with a crime? Speak with a Philadelphia Criminal Defense Lawyer Today
If you are facing criminal charges or are interested in appealing a conviction, we can help. Our award-winning Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers have successfully resolved countless cases at trial and on appeal. We offer a 15-minute criminal defense strategy session to any potential client. Call 267-225-2545 to discuss your case with an experienced and understanding criminal defense attorney today.
Critical Mandatory Minimum Update
Mandatory minimum sentencing laws in Pennsylvania may be about to change dramatically for the worse. For the past few years, the mandatory minimum sentences required by state law have been the subject of intense litigation, and most of them have been eliminated by opinions of the Pennsylvania Supreme and Superior Courts. Recently, the House passed a bill that would reinstate the previously stricken mandatory minimums by a vote of 146-46. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the Senate may also take up the legislation this week or next, and then the bill would be sent to the Governor for his signature.
Litigation Surrounding Mandatory Minimums
The litigation related to mandatory minimum sentences stems from the United States Supreme Court decision in Alleyne v. United States. In Alleyne, the Supreme Court held that because mandatory minimum sentences increase the penalty for a crime, any fact that increases the mandatory minimum is an “element” of the crime that must be submitted to the jury. For example, if the use of a firearm during the commission of a crime would trigger a mandatory minimum, as it previously did in Pennsylvania, then the fact that a gun was in fact used must be found by the jury at the end of trial instead of by the trial judge at sentencing.
Alleyne’s holding wreaked havoc on Pennsylvania’s mandatory minimum sentencing scheme. Instead of requiring that a jury rule on whether the facts which would trigger a mandatory minimum be submitted to the jury, Pennsylvania law specifically required the trial judge to determine if a mandatory minimum applied during sentencing. Further, the law permitted the sentencing judge to impose the mandatory minimum based on its own fact finding using a preponderance of the evidence standard instead of the much higher beyond a reasonable doubt standard required during a trial. For a defendant charged with selling drugs while in possession of a firearm, which previously triggered a five-year mandatory minimum, the sentencing judge could actually find that the mandatory minimum applied even if a jury had acquitted the defendant of possessing the gun but convicted the defendant of selling drugs.
The Pennsylvania sentencing scheme which gave this authority to the sentencing judge was in direct conflict with the Supreme Court’s holding in Alleyne. Therefore, in Commonwealth v. Hopkins, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that the Pennsylvania scheme was unconstitutional and struck down the vast majority of Pennsylvania mandatory minimum sentences.
Despite the rulings in Hopkins and Alleyne, a handful of significant Pennsylvania mandatory minimum sentences have survived. For example, mandatory minimums which are triggered based on the defendant’s prior record do not suffer from the same fatal flaw as the mandatory minimums surrounding the weight of drugs, the use of firearms, or other issues of that nature. Therefore, Pennsylvania’s three strikes law and DUI mandatory minimums continue to be enforced. In the case of the three strikes law, Pennsylvania imposes a mandatory minimum of 10-20 years of incarceration for certain second strikes and a sentence of 25 – 50 years for a third strike. The offenses which constitute strikes are listed in 42 Pa.C.S. § 9714 and include certain types of homicide, assault, robbery, burglary, and a number of sex offenses. Likewise, even a first offense DUI can trigger a 72-hour incarceration sentence when the defendant is not eligible for ARD. Because the sentencing judge must only be satisfied as to the fact that the defendant has a certain prior conviction, those mandatory minimum sentences have survived.
Although some mandatory minimums remain, most mandatory minimums were eliminated by Alleyne and Hopkins. For example, Pennsylvania previously had dozens of mandatory minimums for violent crimes committed with a firearm, based on the weight of drugs possessed with the intent to distribute, for selling drugs in a school zone, and for many sex offenses. This means that Pennsylvania had mandatory minimums not just for violent crimes, but also non-violent crimes like drug possession.
Problems with Mandatory Minimums
Mandatory minimums raise a number of serious problems. While most Americans probably believe that defendants properly convicted of serious violent felonies and sex crimes should receive prison time, mandatory minimums apply to all sorts of non-violent conduct such as the possession of narcotics. Further, mandatory minimums take a one-size-fits-all approach to sentencing which deprives the judge of the power to determine whether any given defendant is deserving of a break due to something in the defendant’s background. For example, even if the judge learns at sentencing that the defendant in a drug case is dying of cancer, the judge would be unable to impose anything less than the mandatory minimum of incarceration in a state prison.
Finally (and perhaps most importantly), mandatory minimums force innocent people to plead guilty in order to avoid the risk of facing the mandatory minimum. When a defendant is charged with a crime that would trigger 25-50 years in prison should the defendant lose at trial, the defendant is much more likely to take a deal if the prosecutor offers probation. This is true regardless of whether or not the defendant actually committed the crime. Thus, many people who are actually innocent plead guilty in order to avoid the mandatory minimum instead of taking the case to trial. This is a huge contributing factor to the fact that the overwhelming majority of criminal cases end in some form of plea deal. Mandatory minimums have likewise led to a huge increase in the prison population in Pennsylvania and the rest of the country.
What to Do
If you are a Pennsylvania citizen, it is not too late to contact your State Senator and Governor Wolf and ask them to oppose the enactment of mandatory minimum sentences. Defendants should not have to plead guilty to crimes that they did not commit because they cannot risk the imposition of a mandatory minimum sentence. Additionally, each defendant is different, and many defendants charged with mandatory minimum crimes simply are not deserving of incarceration. Mandatory minimums take the authority to figure out who may be rehabilitated with probation or house arrest away from a neutral judge and give that power to the prosecutor who may be more interested in obtaining convictions and lengthy sentences for political reasons.
Contact a Philadelphia Criminal Defense Lawyer Today
If you are currently charged with or could be charged with a crime, then you should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. When you are deciding how to attack the case, one of the first things you need to know is whether a mandatory minimum could apply to some of the charges you are facing. The Philadelphia Criminal Defense Lawyers of Goldstein Mehta LLC have extensive experience fighting all types of state and federal charges in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and we will be able to evaluate your case, determine if a mandatory minimum applies, and provide you with the best options and advice on how to proceed. Call 267-225-2545 now for a free consultation.