Wheeling Criminal Law Blog

Reviewing sentencing guidelines

The first question that most of those that come to us here at the Scott C. Brown Law Office after having been charged with a crime in Wheeling have is what sort of sentence they may be facing. If you find yourself in the same situation, then you likely have similar concerns. Typically, the laws detailing criminal offenses will also state what sort of punitive action is associated with them. While that information can serve as a baseline to form an estimation, the actual sentence imposed can be much different. 

The reason for these discrepancies is the differences associated with each case. Federal sentencing guidelines have been created to help establish uniformity in criminal procedures, yet even these allow for deviations. Per Section 3553(a)(4) of the Code of Federal Procedure, sentences should fall within whatever range is established for an applicable category of offense committed by an applicable category of defendant that is in place at the time said offense allegedly occurred. However, the statute also recognizes that there are aggravating or mitigating factors that might be related to a case that should be taken into account during sentencing. 

How are first-time drug offenses handled?

As a resident of West Virginia facing drug-related charges for the first time, you're likely nervous and wondering what to expect. Scott C. Brown Law Office will be here to help you through every single step.

As a first-time offender in a drug-related case, you could still be facing stiff penalties if convicted. Even a first-time offender can end up with fines, fees, and the possibility of license suspension or revocation. It all depends on the severity of what you're being accused of. If your charges are particularly severe, you may even be facing jail time.

What constitutes tax evasion?

As a West Virginia taxpayer, you undoubtedly accord a great deal of respect to the Internal Revenue Service. You undoubtedly also realize that this governmental entity has enormous powers. Consequently, you may occasionally have worries or fears that you somehow failed to correctly calculate your taxes and about what the IRS might do should they discover such an error.

Regardless of whether you prepare your own tax returns or hire someone else to prepare them for you, you and they are only human and human beings make mistakes. Rest assured that the IRS will not prosecute you for tax evasion for a mere calculation error or other inadvertent mistake. The IRS reserves criminal tax evasion charges for those whom it believes have deliberately attempted to understate their income or overstate their deductions.

What are the different murder charges?

You may have heard of court cases where someone is charged with murder in the first degree or where a person is charged with manslaughter. You might wonder how these charges are different. After all, in both cases someone was killed. West Virginia law specifies different types of murder and how those charges are handled.

According to the West Virginia Legislature, there are four possible murder charges. They range from the most heinous to accidental. The worst murder charge that comes with the highest possible penalties is first degree murder. This type of murder is any situation where a person planned to murder someone else or committed the murder while committing another felony crime. It carries a sentence of life in prison.

Defining imitation controlled substances

Of all of the incorrect assumptions that many in Wheeling have in regards to the state's drug laws, one of the most common may be that authorities do not take drug charges as seriously as other criminal offenses. The thought may be that if one is arrested for a drug offense, they are likely to only be charged with a simple misdemeanor and sent on their way. In reality, however, law enforcement can indeed come down hard on those who allegedly commit drug offenses. One need only review the state's imitation controlled substance laws to understand this. 

Section 60A-1-101(g) of the West Virginia Code defines "imitation controlled substances" not only as actual drugs represented to be different controlled substances (or drugs shaped, colored, labeled or packaged in a way as to be represented as different controlled substances), but also things that are not controlled substances but are falsely represented to be. While some may find it odd that authorities would treat one who is not dealing in actual drugs as though they were, police in the state are indeed authorized to treat those doing so in a similar manner as they would in cases involving real controlled substances. 

What is hearsay?

While watching movies or shows depicting courtroom proceedings, you likely hear a lot of jargon that, while sounding technical (and thus legitimate), probably means little to you. Yet now that you are facing your own criminal trial in Wheeling, the meanings of those words and statements should now be of great interest to you. 

One such word is "hearsay," and it is often used in the context of challenging another's testimony. Hearsay is evidence (typically a statement) offered up against you despite the fact that the one who made the statement is unavailable to verify it. In most cases, hearsay evidence is not deemed admissible (and thus cannot be used against you). Per the Federal Rules of Evidence, however, there are exceptions to this rule. 

Expunging felony charges

Were one to ask anyone who has been convicted a felony, the person with said conviction can attest to the fact that the stigma that accompanies it can make life very difficult in Ohio County. For this reason, many who have such felony charges in their pasts often wonder if any records related to them can be expunged. An expungement will typically eliminate any record related to an offense from any official database that might be queried when decisions are being made regarding employment, housing and other matters. However, not every felony charge (or every person convicted) is eligible for expungement. 

Per Section 61-11-25 of the West Virginia code related to Crimes and Their Punishment, one can indeed have any records related to a felony arrest removed if he or she is subsequently found to be not guilty of said charges. The same is true if a felony case against one is dismissed (though not if that dismissal is due to having pled guilty to another defense). One cannot, however, seek to have the record of a felony arrest expunged if he or she has been previously convicted of a felony. 

Understanding prescription drug laws

Although the nation has seen a great deal of change in its drug laws in recent years, the regulations surrounding most substances remain strict. Some changes involve the legalization of marijuana, while others have tightened the grip on laws involving more serious substances. As for prescription drugs in West Virginia, just one offense could result in severe consequences.  

In many ways, West Virginia has yet to see the shifts in drug laws that other states have experienced; however, when it comes to prescription drugs, there are few exceptions. The West Virginia Code outlines state laws regarding prohibited acts on its website, stating that it is illegal for a person to possess, manufacture or deliver a controlled substance. The strict regulations hardly come as a surprise for a state in the grips of the opioid epidemic, but the penalties that come with these offenses can be a burden on their own. The possession of a Schedule II substance specifically results in a felony in West Virginia -- a penalty that could come with imprisonment and steep fines. 

Mountaineer hoopster facing misdemeanor charges

Most in Wheeling may describe themselves as being fully capable of remaining calm and composed, and able to maintain that composure even in stressful situations. Yet many may not understand the limits that a "stressful situation" can push them to. Depending on the circumstances, one could feel as though a scenario forces him or her to react in a way that many would describe as being aggressive and even potentially criminal. Once one's carefully crafted composure abandons him or her (if even for a brief moment), he or she could resort to actions to could net some potentially serious consequences

That could certainly be what awaits a player from West Virginia University's men's basketball team. The young man was recently involved in an altercation that resulted in him being charged with misdemeanor battery and destruction of property. He was identified by a WVU athletic department employee following a fight he entered into with an unidentified man in Morgantown. The two approached an intersection in their vehicles and began arguing. After exiting the cars, the argument escalated into a fight, during which the young man threw his opponent against one of the cars and then punched him repeatedly while on the ground. The end result was damage being done to the vehicle and the opponent sustaining a broken nose. 

White collar crime and its consequences

A particular type of crime known as white-collar crime is more typical than other types of crimes among business executives. In fact, the name "white collar" derives from the image of a business executive, who may often wear a white-collared shirt to work, as opposed to so-called blue-collar workers in manual trades.

In the state of West Virginia, white-collar crime hit the top levels of state business. One example is that of former Massey Energy Company CEO Donald Blankenship. A Federal District Court in West Virginia sentenced Blankenship to a year in prison for conspiring to violate federal mine safety standards. This is a typical case of white-collar crime, which is financially motivated and nonviolent.

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