According to a report from the United State Department of Justice, crime is more common in the summer than the winter. This doesn’t apply to all crimes, but there are a few that spike every summer in the Pennsylvania and New Jersey where our criminal defense law represents individuals charged with felony and misdemeanor offenses. If you are the victim of any crime means you should call the police immediately! If. however, you’re on the other end of the crime, and you’re facing charges, it is imperative that you contact an experienced criminal defense attorney right away. As a criminal defense attorney, I encourage you to contact me immediately. My law firm provides free consultations to those facing criminal, DUI and DWI charges in Eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
What Crimes Spike During The Summer?
In Pennsylvania and New Jersey there is always a surge in DUI and DWI (Title 75, Chapter 38, PA; 39:4-50, NJ) cases. In the summer people have time off from school, many people take vacations or enjoy their weekends at the Poconos, the beach or the New Jersey shore. While enjoying some down time people may drink alcohol more than usual and this leads to impaired judgement. With impaired judgement one may choose to get behind the wheel of an automobile. If police or law enforcement see you, and you’re driving erratically they may have probable cause to stop your vehicle. This can ultimately lead to an arrest for Drunk Driving (DUI) in Pennsylvania or DWI in New Jersey.
If you are stopped for suspicion of drunk driving in Pennsylvania or New Jersey, follow these steps
STEP 1 – Pull over in a calm, normal manner.
When pulling over remember to use your turn signal, pull over immediately, and come to a complete stop. Please bear in mind that when you’re pulled over for DUI or DWI everything about the stop is being recorded. This includes any erratic driving behaviors once the cop is behind you.
STEP 2 – Be polite, courteous and respectful at all times.
The dialogue between you and the officer is most likely being recorded.This includes audio as well as video recordings. You don’t give anyone that watches the video down the road any reason to believe you were being rude, unreasonable, or drunk. Always address the officer as “sir or ma’am” and do not, at any point, become combative with the officer.
STEP 3 – Do not admit to drinking.
After pulling over, you must provide the police officer with your name, driver’s license, registration, and car insurance details, however, you do not have to answer any incriminating questions they ask you. For example, “how much have you had to drink tonight?” You do NOT have to answer this question. In fact, it is in your best interest to remain silent and avoid saying anything. Again, the conversation is being recorded, so any admission that you were drinking can and will be used against you in court.
NOTE: the biggest problem with admitting to drinking is how non-specific it is. The officer will ask you to admit to how much you’ve had to drink, but will not ask follow-up questions like: “what kind of alcohol, what size drinks, when did you consume alcohol, did you eat anything?” It is legal to drink and then drive in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. What is illegal is drinking and then driving impaired. So, if you do admit to drinking, make sure to explain what kind of alcohol, when you drank it, over what course of time you drank it, and whether you had anything to eat with it.
STEP 4 – Do not submit to any field sobriety tests.
Police can ask you to step out of your vehicle, however, they cannot force you to perform field sobriety tests. These tests are completely voluntary. When an officer asks you to step out of your vehicle you need to comply (but do not use your door or vehicle for balance when exiting). Once out of your vehicle, respectfully refuse to perform all field sobriety tests. Simply explain: “my lawyer told me to NEVER submit to these tests.”
NOTE: never perform field sobriety tests, because they are very difficult and very specific balancing tests. If you have poor balance, you will definitely fail these tests. This is regardless of how much alcohol consumed. Even if you have great balance, you will still fail these tests, because of how difficult and specific they are. Medical conditions such as diabetes, low blood sugar and neurological disorders can make it almost impossible to pass these tests even if completely sober.
STEP 5 – Do not submit to taking a chemical test (breath, blood, or urine).
When pulled over for DUI or DWI, politely decline when the officer asks you to take a breath, blood, or urine test, if you have been drinking. Why? For many reasons: 1. Breath tests produce unreliable results all the time for many different reasons. 2. The officer is going to arrest you for DUI/DWI regardless of if you take a chemical test. This is true if even if you blow under the legal BAC limit of .08%.
After you refuse to take the chemical test, you will be subjected to a mandatory minimum drivers license suspension for refusing to take the test, BUT, you will have to serve minimum court-ordered suspension, anyways, if you are ultimately convicted of DUI or DWI. So there is little to no incentive to take a chemical test.
Please note that, if you do take a breath, blood, or urine test and the results come back above the legal limit, it does not mean you are guilty of DUI or DWI. There are still many defenses that can be raised.
STEP 6 – Do not make any statement after being arrested, especially when placed in the police cruiser.
Many police patrol cars have microphones and or cameras in the front and back seat of the vehicle. Again, everything you say in the cruiser is being recorded via audio and video.
Remember, you have the right to call an attorney at any point in the above interaction.
Property crimes also spike during the summer months. In particular burglaries are more than 10% more common, but that isn’t the only type of property crime that increases from June through August. Household property victimization, robberies, shoplifting, theft and breaking and entering also elevate. The reason for this increase is that homes are more tempting to criminals because windows and doors are left open more frequently, and due to weekend getaways and vacations homeowners and residents typically often spend less time at home when the weather is nice. That coupled with the fact that many criminals are opportunistic, and opportunities present themselves more frequently during the summer months.
Robbery and Theft
Robbery (Title 18, Section 3701, PA; 2C:15-1, NJ) is a theft committed by force. The degree of force is irrelevant when it comes to being accused of robbery, but it will determine the severity of the charge. First degree felony robbery is committed if the perpetrator inflicts or intentionally puts the victim in fear of serious bodily injury during the course of an unlawful “taking” (theft).
Second degree felony robbery is similar to first degree, but the “serious” term is removed from the definition. Third degree felony robbery is a theft committed with the slightest amount of force. Unlike a theft charge (taking without force), the value of the item taken is irrelevant. It is the force element that makes a theft a robbery.
Theft and robbery are separate offenses, but they are normally charged together and do merge for the purpose of sentencing following a conviction. Theft, similar to robbery, varies in degrees. A theft of an item or service over $2,000 is a felony of the third degree. All other thefts are misdemeanors (less than $50—misdemeanor of the third degree, $50 to $200—misdemeanor of the second degree, over $200 to $2,000—misdemeanor of the first degree).
A person commits a burglary (Title 18, Section 3502, PA; 2C:18-2, NJ) if he or she unlawfully enters a building or an occupied structure with the intent to commit a crime while inside the structure. If the structure is “adapted for overnight accommodations,” and someone is actually present inside of it, the individual commits a felony of the first degree. In all other cases, burglary is considered a felony of the second degree. The law treats an unlawful entry into structures with a person inside more seriously because the theory is that the perpetrator preyed on a victim in a vulnerable state (i.e., sleeping) and/or entered a space in which a reasonable person should feel safe from harm. These structures are obviously not limited to homes and would also include such places as hotel rooms, campers, and virtually any other place in which a person could spend the night; they would not, however, include places of business (a felony of the second degree)
A typical defense to burglary is that the building or structure was abandoned at the time the individual entered it. In addition, the prosecution must demonstrate that the individual actually intended to commit a crime after entering the premises. Intent to commit a crime is often established through circumstantial evidence when there were no witnesses who observed the person committing the act.
In addition to burglary, the crime of criminal trespass is also a felony of the second or third degree based on the level of force used to enter the premises (break-ins are felonies of the second degree while all other types of entry are felonies of the third degree).
Criminal trespassing can also be a misdemeanor when a court finds that an individual is a “defiant trespasser” and simply entered the premises without permission or that he or she disregarded “no trespassing” or “do not enter” signs.
Violent Crimes–Assault Charges
Violent crimes are also more common during the warmer months. These crimes can be misdemeanor assault charges, domestic violence and more severe crimes including homicide and murder. Studies show that the reason for this is very simple. As temperatures rise, many people can become more uncomfortable physically and emotionally. This discomfort can give rise to aggression which could lead to aggressive criminal activity.
When a person is charged with either Attempted Murder or Aggravated Assault (Title 18, Section 2702, PA; 2C:12-1, NJ), an important consideration for the defense is a self-defense argument. If self-defense is asserted at trial, the prosecution must establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the person was not trying to defend himself against an attack. I’ve written previous articles on self-defense and I encourage you to read them. Check out my article on the Castle Doctrine. Keep in mind that even if a person asserting a self-defense argument acted on a mistaken belief that his life was in danger, the jury is obligated to find the person not guilty if they believe that the person acted reasonably. Self-defense, therefore, is an important and powerful argument at trial and one that your criminal defense lawyer must consider if you are facing either one of these charges.
Remember that there are two types of criminal trials—bench and jury. Never assume that because you are charged with either one of these serious crimes that it is better to proceed with a jury trial. Your criminal defense lawyer must discuss with you the advantages and disadvantages of a jury trial. While in many cases, a jury trial is the preferred method to address these types of criminal charges, it is critical that you question your attorney as to why its the better option.
No matter what type of criminal charges you are facing you need the help of a skilled criminal defense attorney. Please contact my Pennsylvania and New Jersey law offices immediately for a free consultation. I will put my many years of experience handling criminal charges to work for you!
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