On June 13, 2016, Attorney Jenna Fliszar was honored at the Lehigh Valley Business Forty Under 40 Award ceremony. More than 200 people attended the event which recognizes rising young business leaders in the Lehigh Valley. The honorees were selected for their commitment to business growth, professional excellence and the community. More information from the event can be seen here and profiles of the recipients can be found here.
North Catasauqua, PA – December 21, 2015 – The owners of a cat shot and killed by North Catasauqua Police Officer Leighton Pursell are demanding that the officer be fired and that criminal charges of Cruelty to Animals be filed.
Tom Newhart’s attorney, Jenna M. Fliszar of Bethlehem, PA, sent a letter to the North Catasauqua Borough, Mayor William Molchany, Chief of Police Kim Moyer and Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli outlining the case. “The only reasonable and acceptable outcome here is to charge Officer Pursell with Cruelty to Animals and terminate his employment,” said Fliszar. “It is the only option that adheres to the law and protects the public.”
Newhart and Fliszar summarize the case as follows: On December 6, 2015, Sugar the cat got out of Newhart’s home and wandered several houses away to the home of Mike Lienert. After he was unable to catch Sugar and fearing she may be injured, Lienert called the police for help.
When Officer Pursell arrived, he immediately said to Lienert, “it may not be politically correct, but if it’s injured, I’m going to put it down.” Aside from poking and prodding Sugar as she hid under a grill, Pursell made no efforts to capture or wrangle Sugar. Sugar showed no signs of aggression, other than hissing at the officer. When she finally came out, Pursell informed Lienert that he was going to shoot the cat.
As she walked away, it was clear to Lienert that Sugar was not injured. Even though Sugar was not injured, aggressive, or creating a danger to Pursell or the community, Pursell shot Sugar in the neck, killing her. He then told Lienert that he would need to “clean up the mess.” Pursell made no attempt to find Sugar’s owners and instead threw her body in a dumpster. Another officer later helped retrieve the body and return it to Newhart so he could have Sugar cremated. A post-mortem exam was performed and showed no signs of injury, except for the gunshot inflicted by Pursell.
The PA Crimes Code states that a person commits the crime of Cruelty to Animals when he “willfully and maliciously kills…any dog or cat belonging to himself or otherwise.” Fliszar argues that is exactly what happened in this case.
“She was not sick, aggressive, or dangerous. He never made any attempt to catch her. She was shot in the neck within hours of getting out of her home. He then disposed of her body in a dumpster without making any attempt to locate her owners,” said Fliszar. “It is hard to imagine a more willful or malicious act than this.”
Fliszar goes on to argue that Pursell’s decision to discharge his firearm shows a serious lack of judgment. Pursell fired the shot in a residential neighborhood where houses are close together and at a time when families were home. “Given his inability to exercise good judgment and act appropriately in the course of his employment, Officer Pursell’s employment must be terminated,” said Fliszar.
Fliszar has set up a Justice for Sugar Facebook page (www.facebook.com/justiceforsugar) where the public can receive updates on the Borough’s reaction to the shooting. The page also offers ways the public can help.
“Sugar was more than just a cat,” says Newhart. “My pets are like my kids. I just want this officer disciplined for what he did to Sugar.”
On September 13, 2015, Attorney Jenna Fliszar, along with a team of other Lehigh Valley attorneys, ran in the VIA Marathon Relay. Members of the team also included Attorneys Christine Lombardo-Zaun, Gavin Holihan, Mark Merdinger, and Kevin Conrad. Each member of the team ran one leg of the marathon, ranging in length from 3.6 miles to just over 6 miles. They placed 6th out of 34 teams in their division, and 30th out of 177 teams overall.
The VIA Marathon is a 26.2 mile race through the Lehigh Valley and is used as a qualifying race for the Boston Marathon. It raises funds for VIA of the Lehigh Valley, a nonprofit organization that provides services to children and adults with disabilities such as autism, cerebral palsy and Down syndrome.
Congratulations to Attorneys Fliszar, Lombardo-Zaun, Holihan, Merdinger, and Conrad, and to all who participated in the weekend’s festivities!
“Do you really think an expert is worth it? Isn’t a DUI an open and shut case?”
This is a question I hear fairly regularly from my clients. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, it is a popular misconception that if you’ve been charged with a DUI, there are very few ways to successfully fight the case. I know from experience that it is possible to fight a DUI case and win; I’ve done it more than once. And in more than half of those cases, the opinion of an expert was an essential piece of my defense. So, how can you successfully use an expert’s opinion to help defend your DUI? Here are just a few examples.
We know the law in Pennsylvania allows for a charge of DUI if you are found to have lawfully prescribed medications in your bloodstream, and it is believed that those drugs impair your ability to drive. This is true even if they are taken as prescribed and the levels are within therapeutic range. In these cases, I have used an expert in Pharmacology who reviewed the medical records of the client and the evidence. From this information, he was able to provide an opinion on whether or not the medications taken by the client would cause impairment. I’ve been lucky enough to have a dash cam video in each of these cases, and I was able to provide this video to the expert. He was then able to opine that the driving behaviors and inability to complete field sobriety tests would not be the result of the prescription medication.
In cases where there is bloodwork, a scientific expert, usually in forensic chromatography, can be invaluable. The scientific expert can review all the records for the machine, ensure that it was checked for accuracy and calibrated properly, then determine if there were any issues such as cross-contamination or other malfunctions. The expert can then testify as to the reliability of the BAC. If the number is unreliable, this could lead to a not guilty verdict.
In cases where there is no bloodwork or in cases challenging the probable cause to arrest, an expert in standardized field sobriety testing can be very helpful. The expert can review any video and/or reports to find mistakes made by the police that can help invalidate the results of the SFSTs. The expert can also provide more information about the reliability of the tests, including the fact that those tests are only accurate about two-thirds of the time. Essentially, the expert challenges the observations of the officer, creating reasonable doubt and assisting in obtaining a not guilty verdict.
William Reynolds, a consultant with Brighton Lewis in St. Louis, often serves as an expert witness in DUI cases. For him, there are two phases when he is retained – case analysis and trial. “During case analysis, I sit down and meticulously go through all the evidence. I’m then able to say, ‘here’s what you have, and here’s what it should be.’ 99% of my cases using this analysis never make it to trial.”
If the case does make it to trial, according to Reynolds, simply having an expert is beneficial to a defendant. “Experts have specialized experience and training necessary to give a different perspective on a case,” says Reynolds. “Few things are what they seem on the surface, and my testimony provides an alternative opinion that otherwise wouldn’t make it on the record.”
These are just a few examples of when I have successfully used an expert to challenge a DUI charge. An expert opinion can be invaluable in many different situations. A good DUI attorney will know if it is worth the time and expense to employ the services of an expert. If you’ve been charged with a DUI, contact The Fliszar Firm today for a free consultation, and let an experienced DUI attorney decide if you may benefit from expert testimony.
A video which was posted several years ago is again making its rounds on Facebook. With over 15,000,000 views on YouTube and close to a quarter million shares and thousands of comments on Facebook, the video has some people hailing it as something everybody must watch so they understand their Constitutional rights. I watched the video, and honestly, I laughed. If you are using this person’s incoherent and misinformed rant as your Constitutional Law lesson, you are not going to learn anything. Here are some of my favorite gems from the 6-minute video.
“Ignorance of the law is no excuse.” This is true, but it means that ignorance is not a defense if you are charged with a crime. I may have missed it, but I don’t think the officers had arrested themselves.
“Where’s your delegation of authority from Congress?” “Where’s your Affidavit of Fact?” I’m not sure why he thinks the police need to show him a certification of delegation of authority from Congress. Police departments were created to enforce the laws of the government; in general, Congress stays out of the enforcement of most laws. This is because of a little thing in the Constitution called separation of powers. All delegation of authority means is that someone (or something) has given responsibility for something to another person. Obviously, the police have been given authority to enforce laws. They are not required to have a certificate reflecting this on file. Also, unless someone is charged with a crime, there is no requirement for an Affidavit from the police.
“It’s piracy, human trafficking, treason.” Piracy is either the act of hijacking a ship at sea, or the unauthorized reproduction or use of another person’s work. Human trafficking is the illegal movement of people, usually for the purpose of forced labor or sexual exploitation. Treason is the crime of betraying one’s country. Apparently, this man believes that having his son in the back of a police car fits these definitions. I respectfully disagree.
“It’s how you enforce color of law.” This man repeatedly refers to race when ranting about the officers enforcing color of law. Unfortunately for him, color of law has nothing to do with race. Instead, it is simply the legal power to act. For example, the police act with color of law when they lawfully arrest somebody.
“I am not a 14th Amendment corporate person.” He may want to reread the Constitution. The 14th Amendment address equal protection, due process, requirements to be a representative in Congress, and national debt.
These were just some of my favorite lines from this video. The majority of his rant is either incorrect or just plain jibberish. What’s frightening is the number of people who are on his side and have commented that he knows what he’s talking about and we can all learn a lesson from him. Throwing around a bunch of big words does not mean that a person is educated or “knows his rights.”
At the beginning of the video, you hear the man say “it’s a beautiful thing to know the law.” I agree. However, this man simply does not know the law.
If you find yourself with a Criminal, Family, or Animal Law issue, do not trust the advice of a random Facebook video. Contact The Fliszar Firm for a free consultation.
Driving Under the Influence: the definition is simple, right? Driving under the influence of alcohol with a BAC of .08% or higher. That’s what you always hear about on the news, that’s what all the commercials and PSAs talk about. But now you’ve been charged with DUI, and there’s a second charge – General Impairment. What is this extra charge?
In Pennsylvania, we have more than one definition of DUI. There is more than one subsection under the DUI statute, and you can be charged with both because each subsection has a different definition and different elements that must be proven.
Under 75 Pa.C.S. §3802(a)(1), the “General Impairment” subsection, DUI is defined as driving after imbibing an amount of alcohol which renders you incapable of safely operating a motor vehicle. You can be charged under this subsection even if you are under the legal limit. Additionally, you will almost always be charged with DUI-General Impairment in addition to the subsection related to your BAC. As I said, the elements they have to prove are different. Plus, if the lab makes a mistake on your blood test, General Impairment gives the prosecution a charge to fall back on.
There are three other subsections you can be charged under which relate to the amount of alcohol in your blood. If your BAC is between a .08-.099%, you can be charged under 75 Pa.C.S. §3802(a)(2). If the BAC is .10-.159%, you’ll fall under 75 Pa.C.S. §3802(b). Finally, if your BAC is a .16% or higher, you will be charged under 75 Pa.C.S. §3802(c). If you are charged under one of these subsections, the prosecution only has to show that your BAC fell into one of these ranges. They are NOT required to show that you are impaired as a result; that’s what General Impairment is for.
Many people call me confused, wondering how they can be charged with two counts of DUI for one incident. The answer is simple. As you can see, the different subsections require proof of different elements. This allows for two separate DUI charges.
It is important to understand the difference so that you can properly defend yourself. If you’ve been charged with DUI, call The Fliszar Firm today for a free consultation.
The 4th of July weekend is upon us! This is a holiday where people have picnics, watch fireworks, and yes, drink. Obviously, if you do drink, you should consider having a designated driver to get you home safely. You should also know that area police are stepping up their efforts to locate, stop, and arrest drunk drivers.
Here are some links to stories on police departments in the Lehigh Valley that are doubling down on their DUI efforts this holiday weekend. I’ve also provided a link to a Facebook page which publishes information on DUI checkpoints.
Happy 4th of July! Enjoy the holiday and stay safe! As always, if you find yourself in trouble, contact The Fliszar Firm for a free consultation.
I regularly receive calls from people who are new to the justice system, having never been charged with a crime before. More often than not, people who do not have a criminal record want to know about a program called ARD. They have heard of the program, but are unfamiliar with its requirements and benefits.
The Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program, or ARD, is a program in Pennsylvania for first time offenders. If you’ve previously been convicted of a summary offense, or you were convicted of a crime a very long time ago, you may be eligible for ARD; however, it is intended for people with no record. The program is run slightly differently in each county, but in general the local District Attorney will decide, after reviewing an application, whether or not you are eligible for ARD.
In the counties where I practice most often, Lehigh and Northampton Counties, the first step to gaining admission into ARD is waiving your Preliminary Hearing. In these counties, waiver is required, though that is not necessarily the case in every county. Once you waive your Preliminary Hearing, you will need to complete certain requirements at different times throughout the process of ARD. The requirements and timeline will differ depending on which county you are in.
In general, you must first apply for ARD. If you are charged with DUI, your drivers license will be suspended for up to 60 days (90 days if you’re a minor). The suspension time is based on your Blood Alcohol Content. You will also be required to attend a Court Reporting Network (CRN) evaluation, possibly a Drug and Alcohol Evaluation, and complete a highway traffic safety course. For both DUI and non-DUI ARD, you may be required to perform community service as well. There are no fines, but you will need to pay a fee for the program. This fee usually runs around $1,500.00-$2,000.00.
Depending on the county and the charge, you will usually be on ARD for 6-12 months. During that time, you are under informal supervision of Probation. You must follow the rules of the program, complete all the requirements, and avoid any further arrests. If you successfully do this, then at the conclusion of your time on ARD you will be eligible to have the charges expunged off your criminal record.
While ARD is often a very straightforward process, it is vital that you have an attorney represent. There is certain paperwork that must be submitted and a process that must be followed, and failure to do things correctly could jeopardize your chances at admission. Also, there may be circumstances in your case that could make acceptance into the ARD program much more difficult and an attorney will know how to navigate the system.
If you’ve been charged with a crime, contact The Fliszar Firm today for a free consultation.
For people who have a Commercial Drivers License (CDL), a DUI has the potential to end their career. The consequences for a CDL holder convicted of DUI are often more severe than the consequences for a standard drivers license holder. It is important to understand how a DUI charge will affect this class of licenses differently.
In general, people who are charged with a DUI and have no prior criminal record may be eligible for the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program, or ARD. ARD is attractive to many people because the program reduces the license suspension that comes with a DUI conviction. However, this benefit does not apply to CDL holders. I have had numerous CDL clients come to me after their attorney advised them that ARD was the best option. I can’t stress enough that if you have a CDL, ARD most likely is NOT the best option for you. This is because ARD license suspension reductions only apply to a standard drivers license; the CDL will still be suspended for one year, even if you opt for ARD. Therefore, for many CDL holders, the only way they can keep their job and livelihood is to successfully challenge the DUI.
Speaking of license suspensions, the length of a CDL suspension after a DUI conviction is also different from a standard license. A first-time DUI conviction will result in a suspension of your CDL for one year. A second DUI conviction will result in a lifetime ban of your CDL. This is why it is vitally important to challenge your case or attempt to amend the charges if you have a CDL and have been charged with DUI.
Additionally, if you’re driving a commercial vehicle while under the influence, the threshold for DUI is lower. Usually, the minimum BAC necessary for a DUI is .08%. However, if you are a CDL holder driving a commercial vehicle when you’re stopped, the requirement drops to .04%. You also face more serious penalties, including jail time, at lower BAC levels.
It is important to hire an attorney that understands these differences and the higher stakes involved when a CDL holder is charged with DUI. If you’re looking for a Pennsylvania attorney experienced in handling DUI cases for CDL holders, contact The Fliszar Firm today for a free consultation.
On March 16, 2015, Attorney Jenna Fliszar filed a Complaint in Federal Court against the State of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania State Police, and Troopers Jeremiah Mistik and Shawn Panchik, claiming the shooting and killing of Bryan and Michele Hartman’s dog infringed on their Consitutional rights. The filing was covered by Melissa Nardos of Fox 43 news in York, PA. The news story and accompanying interview can be seen here.