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Blog

Welcome to the blog for Stanton D. Levenson, Pittsburgh-based defense attorney. This blog has been designed to help individuals dealing with defense cases gain access to helpful resources, and learn more about the topics affecting their lives. Check us out here, too, for reactions to important defense cases and examination of other legal issues.

What Should You Look for in a Defense Lawyer?

June 24th, 2010

When you’re facing criminal charges, choosing the right defense lawyer becomes one of your most powerful, life-changing decisions. Whether you’re charged with white collar crime, drug crime, federal crime, or a sex crime, a quality defense attorney can mean the difference between rebuilding your life, or facing consequences that span a lifetime.

So how do you choose the right defense lawyer to help you through this difficult time?

Credentials That Count
Experience counts when it comes to choosing a good defense lawyer. But how do you know what sort of experience to look for? There are a number of associations and other professional groups to which a truly serious criminal defense attorney will belong. These include:

  • Membership in the statewide criminal bar. For instance, here in Pennsylvania, it’s the Pennsylvania Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. From our practice, Stanton D. Levenson was actually a founding member and past president of this organization.
  • Membership in the national criminal bar: the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
  • Membership in the American Board of Criminal Lawyers. This is by invitation-only, selecting from a small group of criminal defense attorneys nationwide.
  • Inclusion in the Super Lawyers directory for your state. For our practice area, it’s the Pennsylvania Super Lawyers directory.
  • Inclusion in the Best Lawyers in America directory.

Strong Reputation Among Clients and Fellow Attorneys
The best way to find a talented criminal defense attorney is a lot like the way you might find a good doctor— ask people you know and trust to give you a referral. Talk to lawyers you know, and find out who they would recommend. A criminal lawyer with a positive reputation in the legal field says a lot about how he or she will work with you and handle your case.

Good Communication
Being charged with a crime can be a lot like waking up in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language. Your defense lawyer has a responsibility to demystify this process for you, in terms you can understand. This means not only explaining the issues that concern you, but also taking the time and having the patience to answer all your questions. Just think: if your defense lawyer is unable to explain important information clearly to you, how will that lawyer present critical information to a judge and jury?

Ability to Work Together
The results of your criminal defense affect your life. With so much at stake, it’s vital to choose a defense attorney you feel comfortable with. Remember, during this time you and your criminal defense lawyer must be a team. You want a lawyer who will treat you as an equal, and not be dictatorial with you and your case. Remember, you are the client.

A Caseload That Gives Your Case the Time it Deserves
Find out how many cases your potential criminal defense lawyer takes on at a time. If he or she is juggling many cases at once, you may find that attorney has little time to devote to your case. That’s why in our practice, we intentionally keep the practice small, working diligently with a limited number of cases at a time. This assures Stanton D. Levenson will have the time needed to dedicate to each individual case– and that makes a huge difference to our clients. Make sure your case isn’t just another number for your lawyer.

When Looking for a Defense Lawyer, Ask Yourself:

  • Are all my questions being answered in ways I understand?
  • Do I have confidence in my defense lawyer?
  • Is my criminal defense attorney giving me the time my case requires?
  • Does he or she belong to the important criminal defense associations in the field?
  • Is my attorney experienced, with a positive reputation among clients and peers?

If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” your criminal defense lawyer might not be the right fit for you. So contact us. We’re here to make a difference.

Drug Crimes Defense Case Recap: Tommy Chong, Bong Manufacturers and “Operation Sweet Dreams”

May 26th, 2010

Sometimes the feds take on prosecutions which, but for their seriousness, make you scratch your head in wonder. One such prosecution was in 2003– the infamous “Operation Sweet Dreams,” which targeted bong makers and sellers.

Among those charged was counter-culture icon Tommy Chong. I represented Tommy, the only first-time offender of the group to receive jail time: nine months.

Attorney General at the time, John Ashcroft, and former Pittsburgh U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan took the ludicrous position that closing down bong makers and sellers would somehow reduce drug usage.  Approximately 50 individuals from all over the country were prosecuted here in Pittsburgh. This is not a distinction we should be proud of.

Tommy’s son Paris, a glass blower, was creating and selling bongs over the internet, and Tommy and his wife had financed their son’s venture. The only way to assure that Tommy’s wife and son would not be prosecuted was for Tommy and Paris’ corporation to agree to plead guilty.

The feds received much well-deserved criticism for spending in excess of $12 million of our money to make the world safe from these 50 bongsters. However, the feds felt that by bagging America’s poster boy for marijuana, the public would somehow see what a significant prosecution this was.

Independent film maker Josh Gilbert made a wonderful, hilarious, and highly-acclaimed documentary of this wasteful and meaningless federal exercise. It is titled A.K.A. Tommy Chong and plays occasionally on Showtime.

I had the pleasure of making my film debut in this movie. Unfortunately, additional offers have not rolled in.

As an interesting sidenote, when the feds raided Tommy’s home in Los Angeles, they seized five pounds of marijuana which was Tommy’s personal stash.  No law enforcement agency in L.A. was interested in prosecuting Tommy for possession of the five pounds, because the quantity was considered too insignificant!

Is there a lesson to be learned here?

–Stanton D. Levenson

Current Sex Offense Case and the Registration Requirements of Megan’s Law

May 18th, 2010

Sex offense cases pose a particularly difficult challenge when they implicate the onerous, unfair, ineffective, and totally counter-productive Megan’s law registration requirements.

In Pennsylvania, certain sex offenses carry a ten year registration requirement, while other sex offenses mandate a lifetime registration. Failure to register is a separate crime punishable by a separate term of imprisonment.

Yesterday I represented a young man at his Preliminary Hearing for four sex abuse related offenses. Two of the offenses carried a ten year registration requirement.

Prior to the hearing, the Assistant District Attorney offered the following plea bargain: in exchange for waiving the hearing, the D.A. would withdraw two of the charges and recommend a sentence of probation.

One of the two charges that the Defendant would have been required to plead guilty to carried a ten year registration requirement. The Defendant rejected the offer.

We then had the hearing. Based upon my cross-examination of the alleged victim, I was able to persuade the District Magistrate to dismiss the two counts carrying the registration requirements.

We will have a trial in criminal court on the remaining two counts. The Magistrate’s decision deprives the D.A. of a valuable and unfair negotiating tool– the ten year registration requirement. In addition, by having the invaluable opportunity of cross-examining the alleged victim at this early stage of the proceedings, I was able to develop information which should pave the way to a successful result at trial.

–Stanton D. Levenson