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Archive for November, 2010

Criminal Defense Cases in Pittsburgh: Drug Crimes, Sex Crimes and Federal Court- Part Three

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

In last week’s post, we talked about the case of a well-respected dentist who charged with federal drug distribution offenses. Today, in the third and final part of our series on recent criminal defense cases in Pittsburgh, I’ll share with you a case currently in progress, where a Pittsburgh-area father faces charges of a sex crime, and why a preliminary hearing can be so important to a strong criminal defense.

Preliminary Hearings and Pittsburgh Family Man Facing Sexual Assault Charges

About three years ago, my client and his wife had employed a babysitter. She was approximately 15-years-old at the time, and after her job was done for the evening, my client drove her home. It was on this drive, the babysitter alleges, my client sexually-assaulted her.  She waited two years to report this to anyone.

My client, of course, denies these charges, and the case will be on trial sometime in 2011.

The reason I bring this case up is because we recently had the preliminary hearing, and I want to emphasize why it is so important that individuals facing criminal charges do not waive this critical opportunity.

The preliminary hearing determines whether there’s sufficient evidence to hold a case for further court action. And while it’s very difficult to get a case dismissed at this proceeding, it does provide an excellent opportunity to learn about the case.

In this instance, the alleged victim was required to testify, and I had the chance to cross-examine her. Based upon that, I now know the entire case, and I can begin to map our strategy.

So I tell my clients just as I’m telling you now: never waive the preliminary hearing. Attend the preliminary hearing. Confront the witnesses. Learn about the evidence. And most importantly, have your own court reporter there to create a transcript of the testimony for later use at trial. The preliminary hearing can make an enormous difference to your case and is the difference between winning and losing.

–Stanton D. Levenson

Criminal Defense Cases in Pittsburgh: Drug Crimes, Sex Crimes and Federal Court- Part Two

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

In our last post, I told you about a case where a Pittsburgh traffic citation turned into a drug bust and a violation of my client’s constitutional rights.

Now, in Part Two of our three part series, we’ll talk about the case of a dentist who faced five years in federal prison on drug trafficking charges.

Dentist Arrested on Mail Order Drug Distribution Charges

It was a dark time in an otherwise flawless career… My client, a respected dentist, was charged with distributing drugs by mail across state lines. For these serious charges, and because of a mandatory minimum sentence, my client was facing a minimum of five years in federal prison.

My client pleaded guilty, but the client’s otherwise impeccable character became vital in his mitigating his sentence. We amassed 52 character letters from people who knew the defendant—family, friends, all of the people who knew all of the good he had done for his community, and how hard he had worked in his profession.

It was through this, I was able to convince the judge that while the charges against him were serious, his conduct had been aberrational. Based upon the aberrational nature of the conduct, and the defendant’s prior good works and professional reputation, I was able to eliminate the mandatory minimum sentence. Instead the judge imposed a sentence of incarceration of three years.

–Stanton D. Levenson

Recent Criminal Defense Cases in Pittsburgh: Drug Crimes, Sex Crimes and Federal Court- Part One

Monday, November 1st, 2010

I’ve been involved in a few recent criminal defense cases here in the Pittsburgh area that focused on interesting angles of our criminal justice system. I’d like to share them with you today.

Pittsburgh Traffic Citation Turns Into Drug Bust and Constitutional Rights Violation

It happens all too often; an individual is pulled over for a traffic infraction, which leads to additional charges. In the case of a recent client, the charges became driving under the influence and possession of drugs.

First, the police officer issued a citation for the traffic offense. And you may be familiar with this kind of situation…

You get pulled over, the police officer speaks with you, and then you sit in the car and wait, while the officer returns to his vehicle to write up the citation. He brings it back to you, and explains your next steps.

All of that happened in this case. Once the citation was issued to my client, the encounter appeared to be over, and the police officer turned and started to walk back to his car. But instead of leaving, the police officer returned and said to my client, “Would you mind stepping out of the car and having a discussion with me?”

Now, when talking to a police officer, most people don’t interpret the “would you mind?” as an option. They interpret it as, “Get out of the car and come back and speak with me.”

So, the client stepped from the vehicle and at that point, the officer made DUI-consistent observations. Based on that, he then asked the client, “If I call for a drug sniffing dog will we find drugs in your car?” At which point my client said, “Yes, I’ve got marijuana in the car.”

Now, I felt the traffic stop itself was appropriate. The client was speeding, and the police officer had a properly calibrated radar gun.

But I challenged what happened afterward. By asking the client to leave his car, knowing most people don’t realize they have a right to refuse the request, the state trooper violated the defendant’s constitutional rights.

The judge ruled that, indeed, it was unconstitutional, because the client didn’t believe that he was free to terminate the encounter and leave the scene. The judge suppressed all of the observations consistent with driving under the influence, as well as the drugs found in the car.

The district attorney’s office dismissed the case.

This sort of traffic encounter happens all too often. It’s a perfect example of why it’s so important that individuals know their rights– or make sure to select an attorney who does.

—Stanton D. Levenson