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State College Criminal Law Blog

What is "nolo contendere" in Pennsylvania?

In Pennsylvania, a criminal defendant may enter a plea of guilty, not guilty or, at the discretion of the court, "nolo contendere". The latter is a Latin phrase that translates to "it is not contested." Although these types of pleas are used infrequently, they can be useful in situations in which a criminal defendant may face civil or administrative claims due to the same actions that gave rise to the criminal charges. While they will not be appropriate - or allowed - in most cases, an experienced criminal defense lawyer can help a defendant understand how to request such a plea and what the consequences may be.

Nolo contendere pleas in Pennsylvania are governed by Pennsylvania Code Rule 590. If a judge consents to a nolo contendere plea, the defendant is not contesting any of the charges that have been leveled. In so doing, the defendant is not admitting guilt. However, a nolo plea will result in the defendant's waiver of a trial and of the right to mount a defense to the charges. The judge will sentence the defendant based on charges presented.

Are traffic tickets that big of a deal?

Everyone gets traffic tickets, so there is no need to worry about them, right? Wrong. This optimistic thinking can get you into trouble. Traffic tickets may seem small, but they can easily become major problems if you do not take care of them right away.

Traffic tickets have more impact than you may think. When you brush them off, you set yourself up for larger penalties later on.

Penn State student allegedly sold cocaine out of frat house

A college campus is like a microcosm of society. Just about anything that goes on off campus also happens on campus. And Penn State is no exception. For better or worse, this observation also applies to the kinds of crime one will find on campus. Allegations of some types of criminal activities, like those related to drugs, underage drinking and sexual assault, are even more prevalent on college or university campuses than in the rest of Pennsylvania.

In a recent case, for example, a Penn State student is facing drug charges for allegedly selling cocaine out of his room at the fraternity to which he belongs. State College police used another student to make controlled buys on three different occasions. All of the purchases allegedly involved the same student and took place in the same room at the same fraternity house.

An overdose death could mean 40 years for defendant

Most people in Pennsylvania know that it is illegal to buy or sell narcotics. Either party to such a transaction may end up facing drug charges. If, however, the person who purchased the narcotics ends up dying from their use, the person who sold the narcotics to the deceased could be in considerably more trouble.

Pennsylvania recognizes a crime known as "drug delivery resulting in death." This type of offense is charged as a homicide and, as one might imagine, is a much more serious offense than drug possession or distribution. If someone is convicted of this crime, that person could be sentenced to up to 40 years in state prison. A recent State College case illustrates the seriousness of this offense.

Defining "probable cause" in Pennsylvania criminal cases

The Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, as well as the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution, protect citizens against unlawful searches and seizures, including arrests. When it comes to criminal defense, Fourth Amendment protections are foundational. In order to overcome these protections, a law enforcement officer, according to the language of the Amendment itself, must have "probable cause" before searching or seizing a person, their home or their property.

Even a search or an arrest warrant is not immune from the probable cause requirement. On the contrary, in order to obtain a warrant to search a person or premises, or to arrest someone, a law enforcement officer must submit a sworn affidavit that enough probable cause exists to overcome a person's Fourth Amendment rights. A judge will examine the affidavit and weigh the evidence, and if sufficient probable cause exists, sign the warrant.

What is the "plain-view doctrine" in Pennsylvania?

The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects citizens of Pennsylvania from unlawful searches and seizures. Fourth Amendment protections are a foundation of criminal defense in the Keystone State and across the country. Understanding exactly what the Fourth Amendment protects, and what it does not protect, is something that all citizens should make a point of learning. For example, if a search warrant or an arrest warrant is issued, the search or seizure that the warrant authorizes is presumed legal under the Fourth Amendment.

On the other hand, for a law enforcement officer to perform a search or arrest someone without a warrant, a legally-recognized exception to the Fourth Amendment's protection must exist. One such exception - a particularly important one with which to be acquainted - is the "plain-view doctrine." Under the plain-view doctrine, law enforcement officers can seize or search contraband that is in "plain view," if several criteria are met.

In Pennsylvania, separation can be grounds for no-fault divorce

Sometimes a marriage just stops working for one reason or another, and whether consciously or not, spouses start living their own lives without regard for the other spouse. Under Pennsylvania family law, this is known as living "separate and apart." And living separate and apart can ultimately be grounds for a divorce in the Keystone State.

Given the statutory definition of the phrase, "separate and apart" is a bit of misleading. When living separate and apart in a legal sense, spouses don't actually have to be separate from one another in the common meaning of the word. Nor do they have to be apart as that word is generally understood. In fact, two spouses can live separate and apart in the same house or apartment.

Can your child lose financial aid because of a drug conviction?

If you are the parent of a college student who is facing charges for a drug-related crime, you may have concerns about the penalties and collateral consequences he or she may face if convicted. In addition to possible jail time, fines and related penalties, your college student may face collateral consequences which do not come directly from the criminal justice system.

What may be of particular concern to you is whether a drug conviction will affect your child’s access to financial aid, and regrettably, it very well might.

Sexual assault must still be proven in a court of law

In this era of women and men coming forward with details of past sexual assaults and harassment, along with the prevalence of the #metoo hashtag in social media, it can be easy to automatically deem the accused guilty. But it is important to remember that, unless the accused has admitted to the conduct, it must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. A mere accusation - as the infamous Duke lacrosse and University of Virginia fraternity rape cases demonstrated - does not make the allegations true.

Those who have been targeted in a sexual assault or criminal sexual harassment investigation should seek the advice of a seasoned criminal defense attorney right away. An experienced lawyer can not only help to defend the legal aspects of the case, he can work to mitigate or deflect the negative media reports that can cause considerable damage to one's reputation even before the case goes to trial. In the long run, this can be as important as a not guilty verdict.

Police crack down on partiers in State College

With State Patty's Day in the bag and St. Patrick's Day on the way in the State College, Pennsylvania area, it's clear that law enforcement is cracking down. Those who are celebrating should plan to do so as safely and responsibly. On the other hand, folks who may have been caught up as part of the crackdown should seek the counsel of seasoned criminal defense attorney right away.

State Patty's Day is a student-created holiday that is centered largely around drinking. Penn State University and local law enforcement have, for years, been attempting to reduce the negative effects of the weekend-long celebration. This year, they chose to step up law enforcement in an effort to reduce crime and prevent the negative, sometimes long-term, consequences that may result from it.

  1. I came to Lance when I was going through a horrible experience. He was patient and kind as he explained the legal process of my situation. There was a deep level of humanity in his approach combined with logic and expertise. I am very grateful for all of his help and would recommend him to anyone.

  2. I came to Lance when I was going through a horrible experience. He was patient and kind as he explained the legal process of my situation. There was a deep level of humanity in his approach combined with logic and expertise. I am very grateful for all of his help and would recommend him to anyone.

  3. I came to Lance when I was going through a horrible experience. He was patient and kind as he explained the legal process of my situation. There was a deep level of humanity in his approach combined with logic and expertise. I am very grateful for all of his help and would recommend him to anyone.

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Law Offices of Lance T. Marshall
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State College, PA 16801

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