As 2023 comes to an end, it is important to close the year on a high point and obviously avoid any issues which could affect you and your family in 2024 and for years to come.
As I’ve written in many of my previous articles and books, a criminal problem can happen at any time but there is a greater chance that this could happen whenever there is a large gathering of people and alcohol such as New Year.
New Year’s Eve is celebrated everywhere and in some major cities like Philadelphia it continues into New Year’s Day. Philadelphia has its annual Mummers’ parade, but local restaurants, clubs, and neighborhoods have planned events. While these events start with good intentions, historically they are also a source of criminal problems throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey due to excessive alcohol consumption along with drug use. While drugs like Marijuana are decriminalized, their use can still cause criminal issues for many people. There will be an increased police presence on all major highways and cities.
The most common crimes and offenses our law firm encounters following New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are the following:
- Disorderly conduct
- Underage drinking
- Criminal mischief
- Drunk driving
While the majority of offenses are misdemeanors and, in some cases, summary offenses as opposed to felony crimes, each could substantially hinder or derail a professional or academic career.
Our law firm has represented individuals who maintain different professional positions in health care, law enforcement, and business. Even a minor charge could cause an organization to terminate a person to avoid embarrassment or negative publicity. This is why it is so important to hire a qualified criminal defense lawyer if you are charged with a criminal offense.
A person commit disorderly conduct in Pennsylvania if he or she, (1) with the intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm, engages in fighting or threatening or some other violent behavior; (2) makes unreasonable noise; (3) uses obscene language or an obscene gesture; (4) creates a hazardous or physically offensive condition by an act which serves no legitimate purpose (See Title 18, Section 5503 of the Pennsylvania Crimes Code). Disorderly conduct is graded as a misdemeanor of the 3rd degree if the actor causes substantial harm or serious inconvenience; otherwise it is a summary offense.
Keep in mind that the maximum punishment for a misdemeanor of the 3rd degree is 1 year of state prison while the maximum punishment for a summary offense in the Commonwealth is 90 days in the county jail. A disorderly conduct charge is very common in large groups of intoxicated or drunk persons. Our criminal defense law firm has represented individuals charged with this offense following music concerts, sporting events, or public celebrations.
Underage Drinking (See Title 18, Section 6308)
In Pennsylvania, underage drinking is a summary offense and a person commits it if he or she, being less than 21 years of age, attempts to purchase, purchases, consumes, or knowingly and intentionally transports any liquor, malt, or brewed beverage. It is very important to understand that if a person is charged or convicted of this offense there is a maximum fine of $500.00 (first offense) but more importantly a 90 day, driver’s license suspension. Please keep in mind that some people incorrectly believe transporting of alcohol, in and of itself, is not a criminal offense in Pennsylvania, but this is simply wrong!
Criminal Mischief; Title 18, Section 3304
Similar to disorderly conduct, criminal mischief is another crime that our firm encounters during public events and celebrations in Philadelphia or its surrounding counties of Bucks, Montgomery, Delaware and Chester. A person commits criminal mischief in Pennsylvania if he or she damages property of another intentionally or recklessly.
Damaging includes defacing the property. Unlike disorderly conduct, criminal mischief can be graded as a felony of the 3rd degree if the person causes a loss in excess of $5,000.00 or substantially interrupts public communication, transportation, or some other public service like such as the operation of Septa bus, trolley, regional rail or subway.
This crime is a misdemeanor of the 2nd degree if the loss or damage is over $1,000.00 but less than $5,000.00, and a misdemeanor of the 3rd degree if the damage is less than $1000.00 but over $500.00. Criminal mischief is a summary offense if the damage is less than $500.00 but more than $150.00.
Drunk Driving (DUI/DWI; Title 75, Section 3802)
I’ve written a number of articles and done videos on drunk driving in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. I encourage you to read more about this practice area. Drunk driving is an offense that not only carries with it mandatory minimum county jail time in some cases, but also a drivers license suspension. It’s important to remember that if you’re stopped for drunk driving you should never refuse a chemical test (blood or breathalyzer).
Remember that police must have probable cause to stop and arrest you for DUI and motions to suppress evidence based on a lack of probable cause or reasonable suspicion is a very strong defense tool for your criminal lawyer in these cases. I have also written articles on field sobriety testing which is an important aspect of these cases.
Our law firm wishes you and your family a great New Year and 2024! Hopefully, you will never need our service but please know we are ready to stand with you during life’s most difficult moments.