The Mazza Law Group, P.C.
2790 W. College Ave., Suite 800
State College, PA 16801 March 10, 2016
(814) 237-6255

Is Petit Larceny in NY equal to Retail Theft in PA?

Every retail theft is a petit larceny, but not all petit larcenies are retail thefts…

On March 1, 2017, the Superior Court issued a ruling in a matter of first impression- that being whether an individual’s prior convictions for petit larceny in New York constitute prior offenses for determining the proper grading for the offense of retail theft in Pennsylvania.

In Commonwealth v. Vandyke, the defendant stole $14.50 worth of items from a Dollar General store, was prosecuted for Retail Theft, and pleaded guilty.  She had two prior convictions for the offense of petit larceny in New York- both shoplifting-related incidents- and those offenses were counted by the court as prior retail thefts, making this case a felony and punishable by up to seven years in jail.

Ms. Vandyke appealed the Judge’s ruling, arguing that petit larcenies should not count as prior offenses and the charge should have been therefore treated as a summary offense punishable by no more than 90 days for a first offense.  At issue in the appeal was whether New York’s petit larceny was “similar” to Pennsylvania’s retail theft statute- and also, whether the court could review police reports and look into circumstances of prior, out-of-state convictions to determine whether the facts underlying them were similar to Pennsylvania’s retail theft statute.

As the court stated, “A conviction for petit larceny would apply to the theft of items from a retail establishment, but would also apply to theft of a bike from outside a home, tools from a construction site, or any number of crimes not involving retail thefts.”  In pointing out the differences between these two crimes, the Superior Court decided that it was error for the sentencing court to count them as priors, finding that she was guilty only of a summary offense, not a felony.

If you or a loved one are charged with a crime and have a prior offense, it is important to have an experienced criminal defense attorney review the case and your prior record thoroughly.  Call the criminal defense lawyers at the Mazza Law Group to discuss your case confidentially.

Is it illegal recording a conversation with an Iphone app?

Yes- if the conversation is being taped surreptitiously- that is, secretly.  Illegal recording of a conversation is prohibited under the Pennsylvania Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Law.  A recent Superior Court holding in Commonwealth v. Smith determined that an iPhone is a device which falls under the Pennsylvania’s wiretap act.  The Superior Court ruled that an employee’s act of secretly recording a conversation with his boss can be prosecuted.

Violations of the wiretap statute can result in a felony conviction for an individual who:

(1)  intentionally intercepts, endeavors to intercept, or procures any other person to intercept or endeavor to intercept any wire, electronic or oral communication;

(2)  intentionally discloses or endeavors to disclose to any other person the contents of any wire, electronic or oral communication, or evidence derived therefrom, knowing or having reason to know that the information was obtained through the interception of a wire, electronic or oral communication; or

(3)  intentionally uses or endeavors to use the contents of any wire, electronic or oral communication, or evidence derived therefrom, knowing or having reason to know, that the information was obtained through the interception of a wire, electronic or oral communication.

18 Pa.C.S.A. 5703

Illegal Recording

So, before you press “record” on a smartphone, tablet, or computer, make sure the other party to the conversation is aware of the recording and consents to it.  Without a person’s consent an illegal recording is made and you may be reported to law enforcement. If you have been criminally charged with a wiretap violation for making an illegal recording or any other offense, an experienced criminal defense attorney at The Mazza Law Group, P.C. can help.  Our criminal lawyers will review your case promptly and get your side of the story to determine what relief you have available.  Contact us to schedule a consultation to review your case today.

Pennsylvania School Zone Mandatory Sentence Unconstitutional and Unseverable

Mandatory Minimum Sentence Rejected | Central Pennsylvania criminal defense attorneys | The Mazza Law Group, P.C.The Altoona Mirror reported that Blair County Judges reached a 4-2 vote rejecting the state’s mandatory sentence laws, specifically those imposing minimum sentences.  This decision comes following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Alleyne v. United States, ruling that a jury should decide whether certain factors have been proven to trigger a mandatory sentence.

If this trial decision stands on appeal we can expect legislative action soon.  This decision may have an impact on cases that involve crimes committed within a school zone or crimes committed with a deadly weapon, which can carry mandatory minimum sentences.  When invoked, a mandatory minimum removes the discretionary authority of a judge to impose a sentence that best suits the needs of a particular offender and protection of the public.

If you or someone you know has pending criminal charges that involve the possibility of a mandatory minimum sentence, please contact an attorney at The Mazza Law Group, P.C. to see how this recent decision may apply.
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Chris Brown Probation Violation

Chris Brown Probation Violation - State College Criminal Defense Attorneys - The Mazza Law GroupRapper, sometimes film and television actor, and perpetual news bait Chris Brown has made headlines again after a judge ordered him to remain behind bars for a month pending trial.

The sentencing follows Brown’s most recent probation violation. The terms of his original probation from a highly publicized assault occurring in 2009 of then-girlfriend and fellow entertainer Rihanna stated that he should not break any additional laws during his probation.

But just a few months later, he was again arrested for assaulting someone in Washington, D.C., and was given probation in lieu of prison. The second probation violation stemming from the assault charge in D.C. has landed Brown back in jail until trial in April.Continue Reading