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Greensburg Pennsylvania Legal Blog

A DUI may harm your child custody case

Nowadays, virtually everyone understands it is a bad idea to drink and drive. If you get behind the wheel after having a few drinks, you may put your life and the lives of others in jeopardy. You may also face a lifetime of employment and other consequences. You may not realize, though, that a DUI in Pennsylvania may wreak havoc on your child custody case. 

In 2017, there were more than 10,000 alcohol-related accidents on Pennsylvania roadways. To bring that number down significantly, state and local law enforcement have stepped up to catch intoxicated drivers. At a minimum, receiving a DUI conviction is an annoyance. If you are trying to obtain custody of your children, though, a DUI may derail your plans. 

Opioid epidemic compels grandparents to care for kids

The opioid epidemic has been as bad in Pennsylvania as anywhere else in the United States. According to NBC News, one of the problems not discussed often enough is the fate of the children addicts leave behind. Due largely in part to the growing opioid crisis, 30,000 more children entered foster care in 2015 compared to 2012. Grandparents have also risen to the challenge of raising children when they should be preparing for or enjoying retirement.

Grandparents are struggling to cover the cost of raising children on their own. Many do not qualify for support at work regarding legal and adoption fees because they are related to the child. Others may fail to qualify for social security benefits because they are not the legal guardians or because of the value of their retirement nest egg. This has compelled many grandparents to put off retirement. Some are not sure if they will ever have the means to recover financially so late in life.

Senate passes bill to give radar guns to local police officers

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported in the summer of last year that local police officers in Pennsylvania may soon begin to use radar guns to catch speeders. At the time the article was written, it was illegal for municipal police officers to use this device. Instead, it was reserved for state troopers. Pennsylvania is the only state in America that had this ban in place. Police chiefs have spent the past 50 years trying to change this. The bill to bring this into effect has been moving further and further up the line.

Troopers in Pennsylvania wrote more than 650,000 speeding tickets in 2014. In 93% of these cases, the radar gun was what the officers used to detect speeding. It is no wonder then that municipal officers want the right to use radar guns on local roads, where 30% of fatal speed-related crashes occur. In fact, speeding accounted for 27% of road fatalities in 2016.

Does BAC level affect DUI penalties?

If you get a DUI conviction in Pennsylvania, you may face significant fines and license suspensions. You may incur certain consequences for a first offense and more severe penalties for subsequent violations. However, your punishment may also depend on the level of your blood alcohol content at the time of your arrest.

You may get detailed information on the Pennsylvania DUI law from the state's Department of Transportation. According to PennDOT, the DUI law separates violations into three categories of BAC: General Impairment, High BAC and Highest BAC. If you have a BAC of 0.08% to 0.099%, you may fall into the General Impairment category. In this case, a first offense may incur up to six months of probation and a $300 fine. However, if you get your first DUI conviction for a BAC of 0.10% to 0.159% (High BAC), you may lose your license for a year, get fined up to $5,000 and spend some time in jail. A conviction in the Highest BAC category (0.16% or more) may lead to more jail time and higher fines.

A few tips for anyone thinking about writing a will

Pennsylvanians often wonder whether or not writing a will is worth it. Why not just save the legal fees and leave it up to the state to decide who gets what? The easy answer is that how the state divides up assets and what the original owner wanted or intended may not coincide.

Forbes notes that without a will, people may be able to choose beneficiaries for some assets. These include bank accounts, life insurance policies, retirement accounts and property deeds. However, there are other considerations that need addressing. For example, who gets the car grandpa spent the past ten years restoring to its former glory? Who takes care of the minors or other dependents left behind? How will they be cared for? These are the issues a will may tackle.

Equitable distribution versus community property states

When getting a divorce in Pennsylvania, one of the biggest problems couples grapple with is deciding who gets what. Things become even more complicated based on whether or not couples live in an equitable distribution or common law state versus a community property state.

According to FindLaw, most states use common law when deciding what belongs to whom at the end of a marriage. Common law principle dictates that property acquired in a relationship belongs to the person(s) who acquired it, not the joint married couple. Shared property confers half ownership to both parties. Note that Pennsylvania is a community property state.

More states relying on ignition interlock to save lives

CNN notes that since 1993, Pennsylvania and all other states in America put laws in place to install ignition interlock systems in the cars of some drivers who had been caught driving drunk. Before starting the car, drivers were forced to test their blood alcohol content. If the device detected alcohol, then they would not be able to start the car.

Some states have mandatory laws, while others have partial laws. States that have mandatory laws require all persons convicted of a DUI to install a breathalyzer in the car. States that use partial laws, may require only a subset of convicted drunk drivers to use breathalyzers. Mandatory laws have led to a 7% reduction in fatal crashes involving drunk drivers.

Tips for divorce mediation

Couples who are splitting up in Pennsylvania have a couple of options for going through the divorce process. They can go through the court with lengthy and costly litigation, or they can choose mediation. Divorce mediation can be a good choice for certain couples because it is typically less expensive and less stressful than court proceedings. The following outlines some tips for those who are considering the mediation process.

According to Money Crashers, the purpose of mediation is for divorcing couples to come to an agreement by using a neutral third party known as a mediator. Because not all mediators have the same qualifications or training, couples should do some research before they choose one. Couples should ask mediators about their:

  • Educational background in law or mental health
  • Number of training hours
  • Experience with divorce mediation
  • Familiarity with American Bar Association standards

How to beat a speeding ticket

According to Business Insider, when it comes to the worst places in America to get a speeding ticket, Pennsylvania comes in at 29. It ties for this position with Missouri, Utah and South Dakota. Considering the strict speeding laws in other states, such as jailtime for first conviction and mandatory license suspension after the first conviction, Pennsylvania is relatively lenient.

Even so, no one wants to get a speeding ticket anywhere. So, what are a person’s options if they get pulled over? Here are some tips from Forbes on how to avoid getting the speeding ticket, and if that fails, how to get it thrown out.

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