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The New Pennsylvania Criminal Laws You Need to Know for 2019


It was a productive year in the Pennsylvania legislature, with elected officials producing nearly 250 new laws taking effect this year. Toll fares are increasing 6%, there are more protections for animals left in hot cars, and it may get easier to save for college. However, there were a number of important additions and changes to criminal law as well. Some of these changes could affect your life or potential cases in the new year, so it’s important to know which criminal laws could have the biggest impact.

Fighting Domestic Violence 

Under this new law, people convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence crimes must give up their guns to police, a gun dealer, or a lawyer. Family and friends may not keep the weapon. The law also allowed judges to use risk assessment tools to decide whether the accused abuser is an ongoing threat to a victim, which will help in determining bail amounts. This is the state’s first gun-related, anti-violence legislation in nearly 10 years.

Clean Slate Law  

If you have been convicted of a lower-level, nonviolent crime, that conviction will automatically be sealed from the public after 10 years, hence giving them a clean slate. Individuals can also petition to have certain misdemeanors sealed. Furthermore, the state won’t suspend driver’s licenses for people convicted of drug offenses that don’t have to do with driving. However, the records are not expunged and will still be available to police, courts, and prosecutors. This opens up a lot of doors for people who made mistakes in their youth or are having difficulty finding employment or housing after conviction.

Tougher DUI Penalties 

It is now a felony in Pennsylvania to drive under the influence if you have four prior convictions. You could also be charged with a felony if you are thrice convicted of DUI with a blood alcohol content at least twice the legal limit (.08). There is also longer mandatory jail time for accidentally killing someone as a result of a repeat DUI violation. Read more about what constitutes a DUI, possible punishments, and where to get help, here.

Anti-hazing Laws 

After the high-profile hazing death of Penn State student, Timothy Piazza, Pennsylvania passed one of the most ‘comprehensive’ anti-hazing legislation in the country. The bill created two new felony charges in relation to hazing: hazing resulting in bodily injury, and hazing resulting in serious bodily injury or death. Courts are now able to confiscate fraternity houses that haze its pledges, and schools must maintain anti-hazing policies. There is a “safe harbor” provision, which allows students to avoid being prosecuted if they find help for other students being hazed.

When to Call a Lawyer 

Ernest D. Preate, Jr. Esquire, former Pennsylvania Attorney General and Lackawanna County District Attorney, has the experience to make a difference across dozens of fields, from criminal to DUI, to juvenile law. Our team has a comprehensive knowledge of the Pennsylvania court systems and is consistently prepared with the newest law changes to best tailor your defense. If you have been charged with a crime, it’s best not to wait too long. Call Ernest D. Preate, Jr. Esquire at 570-209-9865 or contact us online to schedule a consultation at the Scranton, Pennsylvania office.


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Ernest D. Preate, Jr. Esquire

204 Wyoming Avenue
2nd Floor, Suite C
Scranton, Pennsylvania 18503
Phone: 570-209-9865
Fax: 570-558-5973

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