Montgomery County Shutting Down DUI Court

As reported by Dan Clark of the Times Herald, the DUI pilot pDUI2rogram in Montgomery County is coming to an end. The program, which lasted two years under the sole supervision of the Honorable Judge Cheryl Lynn Austin, was designed to segregate DUI cases away from general criminal hearings so that these proceedings could be handled in one court. Simply stated, the goal of the program was to promptly and efficiently handle all DUI cases in one courtroom

According to court administrator Michael Kehs, the reversion back to the previous system is attributable to the heavy case load resulting from the frequency of DUI offenses in Montgomery County. Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Ferman reported that DUI dispositions made up approximately one-third of all criminal dispositions in the county. Clearly, this is a lot for one judge to handle.

dentonDwiTimPowersCourtAppearanceThe result of this change? Moving forward, DUI cases will be handled like all other criminal proceedings and be split up between the eight judges overseeing criminal matters in the Montgomery County Court House. In fact, beginning this week, all new DUI cases will be distributed among the other criminal-division judges.

While the law governing DUI offenses remains the same, this administrative change is sure to impact the manner in which DUI cases in Montgomery County are handled moving forward. If you’ve recently been charged with driving under the influence, it is important to learn how this procedural change can affect you.

The attorneys at Howland, Hess, Guinan, Torpey, Cassidy and O’Connell LLP are available to explain how these changes impact you. If you’ve been charged with driving under the influence or driving while intoxicated, contact Michael Cassidy today for a free initial consultation to learn your rights.

Legal Disclaimer: The contents of this website are intended solely for informational purposes. They neither constitute nor imply an official legal opinion on behalf of Howland, Hess, Guinan, Torpey, Cassidy and O’Connell nor do they establish an attorney-client relationship of any kind. Howland Hess O’Connell encourage all readers to seek and consult professional counsel before acting upon the information contained on this site.

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What to do When Stopped by the Police

Let’s address an all too familiar scenario for citizens around the county: what do when stopped (either in your car, home, or walking the street) by an officer of the law.

Stay Calm: Overreacting to an officer stopping you can turn an otherwise innocuous interaction into a much more severe situation. Police have the right to briefly interact with you on the street for any reason or no reason at all, so long as this interaction does not turn into a situation in which you are not free to leave. Similarly, police have the right to pull you over for a multitude of reasons. The best policy is to simply comply with their instructions, remain courteous and professional, but as will be addressed later, you are under no obligation to consent to a search!

Police Stop Pic

Keep Hands Where Police Can See Them: Whether stopped on the street or in your vehicle or home, keeping your hands in an area where the police can see them will go a long way towards comforting the officer that you are not a threat. If stopped on the street or on your door step, resist the urge to put your hands in your pocket. If stopped in your vehicle, keep your hands on the steering wheel.

ASK: “Am I Free to Leave?”: Ask this question in a respectful manner after the officer has concluded his initial interaction. If the officer says yes, you may leave in calm manner. DO NOT initiate in conversation or argument with the officer for why he stopped you. If the officer says you are not free to leave, ask for the reason for the detention. You have a right to know why you are not free to leave. Additionally, if informed by the officer that you do not have the right to leave, you may and should invoke your right to remain silent in response to questions by the officer. And, as addressed next, ask for your lawyer.

Ask for an Attorney: If in doubt regarding whether or not you are under arrest, request an attorney. If you can establish you were under arrest and made a request for an attorney which was refused or ignored, this could be a key element in your defense.

Do Not Consent to a Search: You are under no legal obligation to consent to a search of yourself or your belongings, but you should not use physical force to resist arrest. Police do not need to inform you of your right to refuse to consent to a search, so you must state that you do not consent. Should you decide to consent to a search, evidence seized as a result of this search can be used against. Note, however, that police do have the right to pat you down without your consent if they suspect you’re concealing a weapon. Additionally, if you are in your car when stopped and police have reason to believe your car contains evidence of a crime, they can also search the vehicle without your consent.

Ask to See a Warrant Before Opening Your Door: A police officer may someday come knocking on your door. In most scenarios, unless they have a signed warrant in hand, you are under no obligation to allow them into your home.

Invoke Your Rights: Our Constitution provides that upon arrest, you have the right to remain silent in response to questions. You also have the right to talk to a lawyer before you talk to the police. IMPORTANTLY, you must affirmatively invoke both these rights. To protect your right to remain silent, state clearly “I am invoking my right to remain silent.” Regarding your right to an attorney, state emphatically “I want to speak to my lawyer, I am invoking my right to an attorney.” Say nothing else to the officers, except your name and address. This is no time for you to offer excuses or explanations. This can all be used against you later in court.

If you’ve been stopped by the police and are or may be facing criminal charges stemming from this interaction, the attorneys at Howland, Hess, Guinan, Torpey, Cassidy and O’Connell are here to help you navigate these complicated waters. Notably, both Michael Cassidy and Dennis Meakim are recognized in Pennsylvania and New Jersey for their skill in handling criminal law matters.

Legal Disclaimer: The contents of this website are intended solely for informational purposes. They neither constitute nor imply an official legal opinion on behalf of Howland, Hess, Guinan, Torpey, Cassidy and O’Connell nor do they establish an attorney-client relationship of any kind. Howland, Hess and O’Connell encourage all readers to seek and consult professional counsel before acting upon the information contained on this site.

Why Have an Estate Plan?

estate_planningThe answer to the question titling this post will be unique for each person and set of circumstances. Still, there are several explanations which apply across-the-board for why having an estate plan is so crucial to protecting your interests and the interests of those closest to you.

Estate planning is not just for people with big houses and fancy cars. A common  misperception is that the term “estate” pertains solely to homes or real estate. Quite the contrary! Many people with detailed estate plans do not own homes at the time of their death, many intentionally so. Your estate is the sum of all your assets: your home, personal property, certain retirement plans, pensions, bank accounts, investments, interest in a business, and even debts owed by others to you are all part of your estate. So, even if you don’t own a 5-bedroom home or 50 acres of land, it is still just as critical to have a plan in place to ensure all your property is distributed in the way you intend.

Against this backdrop, here are five major benefits of creating an estate planning instrument such as a will or trust:

  1. Ensures Your Wishes are Followed: If you die without an estate plan, the state you live in determines how your property is distributed. The state’s distribution may not be consistent with what you would have intended if you distributed it yourself. By having an estate plan, you’re in control of your property even after death and can guide the process of distribution in the way you see fit.
  2. Reduces Taxes on Your Property: After death, both federal and state taxes can potentially cut into the property you’ve accumulated over a lifetime of hard-work and sacrifice. This means less money for those you intend it to go to. Having an updated estate plan drafted by an experienced attorney can shield some of this property from state and federal taxes and allow for your beneficiaries to receive the maximum amount allowed by law.
  3. Protects Your Loved Ones from Unneeded Pain: Following death, many decisions still must be made. Creating an estate plan can reduce some of the emotional suffering by laying out your funeral arrangements and expenses so that your family need not make such decisions during these sad times.
  4. Protects YOU: With a properly executed estate plan, you can make decisions in advance in the event you are later mentally or physically incapacitated. Through instruments like durable power of attorneys and living wills, you can designate what you do and don’t want in the event of incapacitation. You can also designate a person you most trust to make the hard decisions if you are no longer able to make those choices yourself.
  5. Accelerates the Process: Distributing property following one’s death can be a long, drawn-out process. Through alternative instruments at your disposal like living trusts, joint tenancies, life insurance, and pay-on-death contracts, you can speed up the process of getting your property into the hands of your designated recipients.

Howland, Hess, Guinan, Torpey, Cassidy and O’Connell, LLP has several attorneys practicing in the field of Estate Planning, including: Richard Torpey, George O’Connell, Michael Cassidy, Thomas Guinan, Bruce Hess,  John Howland, Karen Angelucci, and Dennis Meakim. For more information on our firm, or to learn about the attorneys and fields of law that will be driving this blog, visit our website to find out more.

Legal Disclaimer: The contents of this website are intended solely for informational purposes. They neither constitute nor imply an official legal opinion on behalf of Howland, Hess, Guinan, Torpey, Cassidy and O’Connell nor do they establish an attorney-client relationship of any kind. Howland, Hess and O’Connell encourage all readers to seek and consult professional counsel before acting upon the information contained on this site.

About Howland, Hess, Guinan, Torpey, Cassidy and O’Connell, LLP.

The proud history of Howland, Hess, LLP dates back over 150 years, beginning in the historic Frankford section of Philadelphia. As a general practice law firm, our attorneys handle matters in the following legal fields: Criminal Defense and D.U.I., License Suspension, Personal Injury, Real Estate Transactions, Commercial Litigation, Business & Corporate Law, Construction Law & Litigation, Wills & Trusts, Estate & Tax Planning, Estate Administration, Litigation and Will Contests, Workers’ Compensation, and Zoning and Land Use.

With the multitude of legal fields covered, Howland, Hess, Guinan, Torpey, Cassidy and O’Connell, LLP is prepared to handle your legal issue today.

Legal Disclaimer: The contents of this website are intended solely for informational purposes. They neither constitute nor imply an official legal opinion on behalf of Howland, Hess, Guinan, Torpey, Cassidy and O’Connell nor do they establish an attorney-client relationship of any kind. Howland, Hess and O’Connell encourage all readers to seek and consult professional counsel before acting upon the information contained on this site.

Welcome to the Law Blog of Howland, Hess, Guinan, Torpey, Cassidy and O’Connell!

Thank you for visiting the law blog of Howland, Hess, Guinan, Torpey, Cassidy & O’Connell. Today we launch the most recent addition to our catalog of services aimed at providing our clients with the most satisfying legal experience.

Our purpose in launching this site is to provide information and insight in a useful and comprehensible manner. The field of law can be, and often is, complex. Our goal is to provide you not with legal jargon, but practical applications of legal knowledge compiled over 150 years of experience in the practice of law. We are excited to begin this journey with you! Stay tuned.

For more information on our firm, or to learn about the attorneys and fields of law that will be driving this blog, visit our website to find out more.

Legal Disclaimer: The contents of this website are intended solely for informational purposes. They neither constitute nor imply an official legal opinion on behalf of Howland, Hess, Guinan, Torpey, Cassidy and O’Connell nor do they establish an attorney-client relationship of any kind. Howland, Hess and O’Connell encourage all readers to seek and consult professional counsel before acting upon the information contained on this site.