A Unique Approach to Criminal Defense in Lebanon County

From humble origins in 1902, our firm has a storied history of providing quality legal services in Central Pennsylvania. Our current team is one of the premier groups of trial attorneys in the area. Consisting of three former prosecutors from Lebanon County, we hold over 24 years of collective experience trying criminal cases – from the most serious Felony cases, to all forms of Misdemeanor and Summary Offenses.

We’ve recognized the need for quality defense representation in our area, and we are thrilled to have the ability to meet the need. Our approach at criminal defense is unique in Lebanon County. Most firms have only a limited number of attorneys who are actively engaged in the practice of criminal law, or who are able to offer competent guidance on criminal matters. Our entire make-up, on the other hand, includes attorneys who’ve dedicated a large portion of their legal careers to practicing criminal law.

OUR TEAM:

Thomas S. Long (Managing Partner) – District Attorney of Lebanon County (1986-1990); Assistant District Attorney (1976-1986).

Donna Long Brightbill (Partner) – Senior Deputy District Attorney (1993-2000).

Frederick S. Long (Partner) – Assistant District Attorney (2012-2013); Certified Legal Intern/Extern, Lebanon County District Attorney’s Office (2010-2012).

All three attorneys on our criminal defense team have handled Felony jury trials.  Frederick Long manages each criminal case and makes all court appearances on behalf of our clients for criminal matters.  The Senior members of the firm – Thomas Long and Donna Brightbill – provide strategic defense consulting to our trial attorneys. With our teamwork approach, all three attorneys are given an opportunity to participate in your defense. All of our attorneys have received extensive training in trial work, and – as a team – we are sufficiently prepared to represent you at all phases of your criminal case.

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(4) Reasons to Choose Long Brightbill when Accussed of Committing a Crime

(1)    Experience – We have three attorneys in our firm that have dedicated a significant portion of their career to practicing criminal law. They have tried over 200 criminal jury trials combined. Our attorneys have served in the District Attorney’s Office for over 24 years combined. Our firm is now using that experience to help clients in need.

(2)    Protection – We will work to protect your rights. We examine each and every case with a fine tooth comb and a microscope – reviewing every available angle of your case. We are the shield that will guide you through the fight. We will protect your rights.

(3)    Knowledge – After 30 years of combined criminal law experience, our attorneys have developed extensive knowledge of the criminal justice system. We know how to handle your case from before a charge is even filed, until you are free from supervision.

(4)    Professionalism – We are professionals. We are not afraid to approach anyone involved in your case to discuss important issues, and to resolve them with your best interest in mind. We handle your case diligently and efficiently, but we maintain a professional persona throughout the process. With our firm, you will have a professional working for you.

If you’ve been accused of a crime, you should deeply consider the value of obtaining experienced, knowledgeable, and professional counsel that will always protect your rights. Don’t leave your future blowing in the wind.

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Sixteen (16) Factors for Custody Decisions

Sixteen (16) Factors for Custody Decisions

Determining what is in the Best Interest of the Child

BY: Frederick S. Long, Esq.

3/27/14

Child custody issues cause significant stress on parents and children alike. Too often, that stress gets the better of us. Parents often behave or act in a manner that may seriously impact their rights moving forward. The purpose of this article is to inform individuals, who may be going through a custody dispute, of the way the Courts evaluate child custody issues. This will help you adapt your behavior to place yourself in the most positive light, in the eyes of the Court.

Courts always have an underlying goal of fashioning a custody arrangement that is “in the best interest of the child.” To help guide them, Pennsylvania Courts evaluate sixteen (16) factors. Some of these factors will focus on your past; some, however, may help guide your behavior going forward. The goal is to increase your chances of success, so that you may have the rights to your children that you deserve.

Even if you do not go before the Court, these factors are important in EVERY case. Although Parties may reach a custody arrangement on their own, that arrangement is often related to each parent’s ability to comply with the custody factors. We recommend keeping these factors in mind, and trying to adapt your behavior accordingly, always with the underlying focus of what is in the best interest of your child.

23 Pa.C.S.A. § 5328:

Factors to consider when awarding custody:

(a) Factors.– In ordering any form of custody, the court shall determine the best interest of the child by considering all relevant factors, giving weighted consideration to those factors which affect the safety of the child, including the following:

(1) Which party is more likely to encourage and permit frequent and continuing contact between the child and another party.

(2) The present and past abuse committed by a party or member of the party’s household, whether there is a continued risk of harm to the child or an abused party and which party can better provide adequate physical safeguards and supervision of the child.

(3) The parental duties performed by each party on behalf of the child.

(4) The need for stability and continuity in the child’s education, family life and community life.

(5) The availability of extended family.

(6) The child’s sibling relationships.

(7) The well-reasoned preference of the child, based on the child’s maturity and judgment.

(8) The attempts of a parent to turn the child against the other parent, except in cases of domestic violence where reasonable safety measures are necessary to protect the child from harm.

(9) Which party is more likely to maintain a loving, stable, consistent and nurturing relationship with the child adequate for the child’s emotional needs.

(10) Which party is more likely to attend to the daily physical, emotional, developmental, educational and special needs of the child.

(11) The proximity of the residences of the parties.

(12) Each party’s availability to care for the child or ability to make appropriate child-care arrangements.

(13) The level of conflict between the parties and the willingness and ability of the parties to cooperate with one another. A party’s effort to protect a child from abuse by another party is not evidence of unwillingness or inability to cooperate with that party.

(14) The history of drug or alcohol abuse of a party or member of a party’s household.

(15) The mental and physical condition of a party or member of a party’s household.

(16) Any other relevant factor.

If you, or someone you know, is currently in the middle of a custody dispute, please keep these factors in mind. Focus on being the best parent or guardian that you can be. Also remember that the Courts like to see that you are making efforts to encourage a relationship between your child and others that have previously formed a relationship with them, such as the other parent, grandparents, etc.

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Four Tips for a Police Encounter

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS!

What to Do if You are Stopped by Police

By: R. Scot Feeman, Esquire

March 13, 2014

(1) When you first see the Police cruiser:

If you see a police car is following you with its siren blaring and emergency lights flashing, pull your car over to the right safely and quickly. Use your turn signal to indicate any lane changes from left to right slowing down while making the required turning movement. Pull over as far to the right as possible so that, when the officer comes up to your widow, he or she could not be hit by vehicles approaching you in the right lane during the traffic stop.

By stopping as soon as you can, you’ll have a better chance of understanding exactly where the officer says you committed a violation. I strongly suggest that you return to that area later to confirm what the officer was telling you about how he or she judged your speed, saw your turn, or witnessed any other violation.  Also take pictures of the area in question with your phone or camera as close to the time of day as the incident occurred.

(2) When you stop your vehicle on the side of the roadway:

When you have pulled your vehicle over to a safe spot, you need to be respectful to the officer.  Remember a little bit of kindness can go a long way in helping you manage this interaction.

Put your driver’s side window down all the way. You may also want to turn off the engine, place your hands on the steering wheel, and, if it’s dark, turn on your interior light. This will help to put the officer at rest and make your interaction with him or her as pleasant as possible.  Do not start looking for you license and registration.  Wait until the officer asks you for them.  For all the officer knows, if you start moving around the cabin of your vehicle before he or she has reached your car, you could be reaching for a gun.

(3) Avoid giving the Officer an excuse to search:

Generally speaking in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, a police officer is normally not allowed to search your vehicle.  However, there are several exceptions to this.

If the officer has a reasonable suspicion you are armed, he or she can ask you to step out of the vehicle and frisk you (pat you down). Similarly, if the officer reasonably suspects that you are involved in criminal activity he or she can also perform a pat down, and if police officers have probable cause — a reasonable basis or justification to believe that you or your passengers are involved in criminal activity — they can search your car and objects belonging to passengers.

Even if the officer doesn’t have reasonable suspicion or probable cause, once you are stopped, a police officer may seize any illegal objects in your car that are in “plain view.” Once they see the object, such as open beer or wine bottles or drug paraphernalia, they can open the car door to reach in and get it. After that, they may come across other objects that are in plain view and shouldn’t be in your car, and they can seize those items as well.

Lastly, your car may also be searched if you or any occupant is arrested. Also, if you’re arrested and your car is towed, the police may make an “inventory search” afterward, even if they have no reason to suspect there is anything illegal inside.

(4) When you interact with the Officer:

Many people stopped by an officer are naturally nervous and make the mistake of saying the wrong thing to him or her, and a case can be won or lost depending on what you say to the officer.  So relax as much as possible and follow the suggestions below.

Don’t speak first.  Let the officer control the sequence of the interaction.  It goes without question that you should NOT be defensive or hostile (i.e. “What’s the problem?” or “Your kidding me”). Let the officer start talking, and respond ONLY to the question that is asked of you. For the most part the interaction will begin with the officer asking to see your license and vehicle registration.  Do exactly that.  Do not start interrogating the officer as to why you were stopped or the nature of the alleged criminal activity. Simply say “Yes officer” and retrieve the requested documents.

The officer might start by asking you the sort of question whose lack of a definite answer would imply guilt, like, “Do you know why I stopped you?” Or, he or she might ask, “Do you know how fast you were going?” Your answers, if any, should be non-committal and brief, like a simple “No” to the first question or a very confident, “Yes, I do,” to the second. If the officer then tells you how fast he or she thinks you were going or what he or she thinks you did, don’t argue. Give a noncommittal answer, like, “I see,” or no answer at all. Silence is not an admission of guilt and cannot be used against you in court.

Remember to let the officer lead the interaction and only respond to the question that is asked of you by the officer.  It is important to keep in mind that you do not have to provide any information that is not requested of you or does not directly relate to the reason of the traffic stop.  The only question you should ask is at the end of the interaction and that is, “am I free to go”.  When the officer says, “yes” respond with, “thank you” (even if you really don’t want to), and if you still have any question call your attorney as soon as possible.

With all this in mind you should be able to successfully manage your encounter with the police officer, and hopefully just drive away with a warning.

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Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation

Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation

Are You Eligible?

By: Frederick S. Long, Esq.

The purpose of this article is to review some basic information about eligibility for Unemployment Compensation (“UC”) benefits. Specifically, we’ll look at two frequently asked questions concerning eligibility for UC benefits after one’s employment has been terminated. Whether you are an employer or employee, we hope you find this information helpful.

The two areas of Unemployment Compensation (“UC”) law that arise most frequently are (1) whether an individual should be denied benefits after voluntarily quitting employment, and (2) whether an individual should be denied benefits after being terminated for engaging in behavior that may rise to the level of “willful misconduct.”

Voluntary Departure from Employment (i.e. quit)

Generally speaking, a former employee is not entitled to UC benefits if he or she voluntarily terminates employment; i.e. quits. But, there are exceptions.

To receive UC benefits after voluntarily leaving employment, you must establish that your reason for leaving was of a “necessitous and compelling” nature. The Courts have attempted to define the terms necessitous and compelling, as follows:

An employee who claims to have departed for a necessitous and compelling reason must prove the following four (4) elements:

  1. Circumstances existed that created a real and substantial pressure to leave employment,
  2. Such circumstances would force an ordinary person to leave,
  3. The employee acted with reasonable common sense, AND
  4. The employee took reasonable measures to preserve his or her employment.

The former employee has the burden to establish all four of the factors above in order to prevail, and to be eligible for UC benefits after voluntarily leaving employment.

Willful Misconduct

Under Pennsylvania’s UC laws, a former employee is ineligible for benefits if unemployment or temporary suspension from work occurred because the employee committed “willful misconduct.” To deny UC benefits, the employer must demonstrate that the willful misconduct was connected to the employee’s work. But, there is not a strict requirement that the misconduct occurred on the employer’s property or even that the misconduct occurred during working hours.

Willful misconduct” occurs when an employee willfully disregards an employer’s interests, deliberately violates work rules, deliberately disregards the employer’s reasonable standards of performance or behavior, or negligence of a kind that demonstrates evil intent. The employer does not need to demonstrate any harm caused by the behavior.

Behavior that is unacceptable to a particular employer does not necessarily rise to the level of willful misconduct. Even negligence may not be enough for willful misconduct. In other words, the mere fact that an employee failed to comply with policies, or acted negligently, does not always equate to willful misconduct – even if the employee was appropriately terminated. It is not a question of whether the employer had a right to terminate employment, but whether the state may deny benefits to an individual based on their conduct.

If particular behavior is reasonable or justifiable under the circumstances, it cannot be willful misconduct. If good cause is shown for the particular behavior, it is not willful misconduct, and an individual should not be denied benefits. Keep in mind, however, that benefits will be denied if an employee disregards warnings or reprimand for particular types of negligent behavior, i.e., the employee continues to engage in a certain type of negligent behavior after being warned.

Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation law is a niche area of the law. While the advice of an attorney is not required, an attorney is trained to focus on various potential defenses and nuances of the law, which may be unknown to an individual representing him or herself.

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After an Auto Accident, Don’t Cause Yourself More Harm

After an Auto Accident, Don’t Cause Yourself More Harm

8 Simple Rules for Handling a Personal Injury Case

2.21.14

By: Frederick S. Long, Esq.

First and foremost, seek the necessary medical treatment in a timely manner. Your safety comes first. Do not ignore signs and symptoms of an injury. Don’t downplay your pain, or your injuries. You may not need emergency treatment. It is advisable, however, to see your regular treating physician for a check-up following a motor vehicle accident. It is important for an insurance adjuster, or a jury, to see that you took this accident seriously, since you are asking them to do the same.

(1)    Take Photographs. Photograph the scene, the damage caused, and your injuries. A photographic image captures the true nature of a moment, where words may fall short.  The term “a picture is worth a thousand words” is absolutely true. We trust photographs. The more one is called upon to rely on human recollection, the less credence is given.

(2)    Document the Incident. Write down everything that you remember about the incident. Include dates, times, weather conditions, names of witnesses and responding emergency personnel. Did the person at fault make a statement to you? Write it down. Write down all that you remember, even after the fact. Our ability to recall details declines as time passes, so do not delay.

(3)    Contact the Police. Police officers will make an independent record of the accident. This record will often include the responding officer’s opinion concerning who is at fault. The record may also include a diagram of how the incident occurred. These records will make it more difficult to dispute fault and liability.

(4)    Keep Everything. Keep everything you have pertaining to the accident in a safe place. I recommend starting an organized file with all of your information so that you may easily share with your insurer or your attorney. This includes receipts from out of pocket expenses, information from insurance providers, notes, photographs, medical discharge summaries – EVERYTHING.

(5)    Document Treatment. Keep a record of all of your doctor visits. Note the names of attending physicians, and the names of the medical treatment facilities. I recommend keeping a journal of your medical treatment. We often forget our feelings and emotions as time passes, and we forget the severity of our limitations. A well-documented journal will help your case tremendously. It is as simple as this:

2/20/14 Doctor Smith, LCA Medical Providers. Neck pain and stiffness. Difficulty sleeping.

(6)    Be Truthful with Medical Providers. You should not exaggerate your injuries; nor should you withhold medical history. This will detract from you recovery, and it will hurt your case. Insurance adjusters and opposing attorneys will have an opportunity to review your medical records, even from before the accident. If you had a preexisting injury that was aggravated, be sure to explain that to your treating doctor. Imagine the following scenario: The Doctor treating you writes his opinion that your neck injury was caused by the accident. When questioned about this opinion, the opposing attorney asks whether this doctor is aware that you injured your neck two years ago in a bicycle accident. The doctor says “no, the patient never said anything about that.”

(7)    Be Truthful with Medical Providers. This is not a typo. It works the other way, too. Don’t downplay your injuries – particularly emotional injuries. If you are suffering from emotional trauma, i.e. depression, anxiety, PTSD, stress, etc., it is extremely important that you discuss this with your doctor. These serious concerns can be as detrimental to your health as broken bones, or bruises.

(8)    Keep a Record of the Impact on Your Life. Did you back out of the annual summer vacation because of your injury? Do you no longer take your scheduled daily walk around the neighborhood? Is it difficult for you to care for family members? Are you unable to enjoy your favorite hobbies? Did you have to hire a landscaper, where you would have otherwise done the work on your own? These are all extremely important details that must be explained to your attorney.

The tips above are provided with one simple idea in mind; be proactive.

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Why Do I Need Title Insurance?

Why Do I Need Title Insurance?

Feb. 4, 2014

Frederick S. Long, Esq.

Real estate is likely the most expensive purchase you will make in life. Title insurance is a way to protect your financial interests from losses caused by a dispute over the rights to real estate.

A first-time home buyer will likely question the need for title insurance. If you receive a loan to purchase your new property, the simplest answer is that your lender will require title insurance. If you purchase property without a loan – a cash deal – title insurance may not be required, but it is extremely important to understand before moving forward.

First, let’s explore what it means to own title to real estate. With title, you will receive a “bundle of rights” relating to the property.  That bundle of rights may include the following:

  1. Possession – the right to enter onto and occupy the land, to invite others onto the land, and to exclude individuals from entering and occupying the land.
  2. Use and Control – the right to use the property for any and all lawful purposes. (building, farming, mining, commercial use, etc.)
  3. Quiet Enjoyment – the right to use the property as you wish, without “disturbance” from others. A disturbance may be in the form of another party claiming rights to the same piece of property.

Before purchasing real estate, it is extremely important to understand how the rights above may have been affected by the dealings of previous owners. Some major areas for concern are mortgages, easements, judgements, municipal liens, land use restrictions, and backed taxes, all of which may be tied to the real estate from previous owners.

Let’s use an easement, for example. An easement is a right to use property belonging to another, for a limited purpose. If a previous owner of the property granted an easement to the gas company for the purpose of building a pipeline, the gas company would have legal rights to your property. The company may enter onto the land, and it may use the land as necessary to construct a pipeline, at any time. This may include entering and exiting your property with their equipment, cutting or trimming trees and bushes, removing anything located in the area for construction, digging, etc. You may be unable to exclude the gas company from entering onto the land for these purposes.  So, you may not own title that is “free and clear” of any and all easements or encumbrances.

Using the above example, suppose you intend to construct a pole barn or a swimming pool on your  property. If the gas company has rights to build a pipeline on the land, you may be unable to build your barn, or your pool. The gas company’s easement may, therefore, have significant impact on the intended use of your new property.

The example above is one of many potential causes for concern when purchasing property. You should never make such an important purchase before understanding the rights that you may or may not have, as they relate to the use and enjoyment of your property.

Previous mortgages are another scary example of how your property may have been impacted from previous owners.  A separate lender may have a mortgage pertaining to the property you are considering for purchase. If you were to purchase the property before that previous mortgage is paid off, you would be the unfortunate recipient of that debt obligation. The reason for this is complex under the law, but it is relatively simple to understand. A mortgage is tied to the property, not to the person. If the borrower fails to pay on a loan, the lender will seek payment by foreclosing on the property, and by selling it to satisfy the remaining debt. If you buy a piece of property that is encumbered by a previous mortgage, you must pay the debt obligation, or the lender may legally foreclose on the property.

So, with the above in mind, most lenders absolutely require the new owners to purchase title insurance, to protect their financial interest in the property, and yours, from a ‘defect in title.’ A defect in title occurs where some other party has an interest in the land, as in the example with the gas company above.

Title insurance has become the most common way for real estate purchasers and lenders to protect their financial interests in the real estate from losses due to defects in title. Any legal interest in real estate must be recorded in the county records to become an enforceable legal right. Before title insurance came into existence, real estate buyers would obtain an “abstract of title” from an attorney. The attorney would search through the county records dating back at least 60 years to determine any potential causes for concern. This is called a ‘title search,’ and it is still performed today before an insurance company will agree to insure the property. After a title search is performed, the insurance is issued to the purchaser. In the event of a future disturbance, the title insurance will protect your interest in the property. In other words, the title insurance company will pay for any losses caused by a potential defect in title.

Our attorneys have extensive experience handling real estate transactions. We understand that while Title Insurance may seem like yet another fee you’re required to pay, it really does protect you in the event that an individual or business claims an interest to your land in the future.

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Clean-up Your Criminal Record

Clean-up Your Criminal Record

Expungement of a Criminal Record in Pennsylvania

January 27, 2014

BY: Frederick S. Long, Esq.

Do not let your past mistakes ruin your future. You may be entitled to have your criminal record expunged. Expungement is a way to erase your past criminal offenses from your record.

Once certain criteria are met, several types of offenses may be expunged from your record:

(1)    Juvenile Offenses

(2)    Underage Drinking Violations

(3)    ARD Dismissals

(4)    Summary Convictions

(5)    Charges that have been Withdrawn, Dismissed or Nol Prossed

(6)    Convictions that were Pardoned

(7)    If over 70 Years Old, Your Previous Convictions may be Expunged

(8)    Crimes Committed at age 25 or younger, if record is clean for seven to 10 years

(9)    Certain Misdemeanor Offenses

In determining whether your Petition for Expungement should be granted, the court will consider many factors. These factors include the impact on future earning capacity, damage to reputation, the nature of the offense, prior criminal behavior, and the Commonwealth’s interest is preserving the record for public safety.

A past mistake should not prevent you from getting a job, nor should it linger on public record, for anyone to see. You may be entitled to have your criminal record expunged.

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