Our criminal defense law firm based in Philadelphia represents individuals charged with a variety of offenses. While the initial goal in all of our cases in to obtain our clients release prior to trial, either on unsecured or reasonable monetary bail, this doesn’t always happen. It is important to understand that bail isn’t meant to punish a person but to ensure that he or she appears for all court dates and a potential trial. With that said your criminal defense lawyer should fight aggressively if the prosecutor or assistant district attorney attempts to argue the facts of the case during a bail motion. Bail arguments should focus on factors which include prior failures to appear (FTA), prior criminal history (propensity toward violence), contacts within the community, and out of state contacts.
In situations where your loved one isn’t free on bail prior to trial, you will more than likely want to visit him or her in a state or county facility in Pennsylvania. Prisons and jails are highly policed environments. A person who enters these environments waives their constitutional rights against illegal search and seizure and so, security within the facility does not need either reasonable suspicion or probable cause to search bags, containers, or a person.
If you plan on visiting a loved one at a jail or prison, I advise you to carry only your identification along with either your car keys or public transit passes. If you’re driving, you should leave all other items in the car; if you are taking public transportation the jail or prison will more than likely have lockers. Keep in mind that these lockers are subject to random searches and you maintain no expectation of privacy within them. This means that the facility can search the items within the container at any time during your visit.
Mandatory Minimum Sentences – Contraband Brought to Jails & Prisons (Controlled Substances)
Obviously you should not attempt to pass or give anything to an inmate, especially any type of contraband which would include illegal drugs, alcohol, smartphone, or any other communication device. While Pennsylvania does not have many mandatory minimum sentencing laws, unlike New Jersey, under 18 § 51123(a) any individual who gives or brings into any prison, mental hospital, or jail, any controlled substance for the use and benefit of a prison or inmate or puts it in a place where it may be secured by an inmate commits a felony of the 2nd degree. This section of the Pennsylvania crimes code is especially harsh and a person convicted under this section faces a mandatory minimum 2 years of state incarceration in addition to any other possible offenses committed.
If a family member needs medication, it is very important to understand that you enter the facility with the necessary documentation and immediately disclose that the inmate is in need of these medications. Without the proper documentation could face the mandatory minimum sentence unless the district attorney’s office agrees to de-mandatorize the charge or you are found not guilty following a trial. Remember a controlled substance can include any Scheduled drug. This would include substances such as heroin, crack cocaine, methamphetamines, marijuana, even medical marijuana.
Possession of a controlled substance within a state or county facility is extremely serious for the use . Normally a simple possession or even a possession with intent to deliver a substantial amount of narcotics or controlled substances would not carry a mandatory minimum sentence. The Commonwealth is extremely concerned with the infiltration of drugs within the prison community as it represents a possible safety issue within the facility for the guards and other inmates.
Other Contraband Brought into Jails—Phones, Money, alcohol
While contraband carries with it a mandatory minimum sentence, there are also statutes that which cover other materials brought into a facility. Under 5123(b) a person commits a misdemeanor of the 3rd degree if he attempts to give any inmate money outside of the standard operating procedures. A person commits a misdemeanor of the 1st degree under 5123(c) if he or she attempts to give an inmate any type of liquor or other alcoholic substance.
Finally, under 5123(d) a person commits a misdemeanor of the 1st degree if he gives or attempts to furnish any inmate with any type of telecommunication device which would include a cell phone or smart phone. Again, these other materials do not carry mandatory minimum sentences but they are misdemeanor crimes which cannot be expunged and will more than likely suspend or permanently terminate your visiting privileges.
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