Reading Real Estate Lawyer

When you need a lawyer in the Reading area who handles real estate there are a few things that you should consider. Berks County offers investors diverse real estate options that range from large farms to townhomes in downtown Reading. Here are a few real estate problems that may require the assistance of one of our real estate lawyers.

Easement Disputes

A common property problem in Berks County, Pennsylvania are disputes over easements. This can happen in a number of situations, including where a farm or other lot of real estate has been subdivided and no one has clearly marked where the lanes of travel over one of the subdivided pieces of land will go. Sometimes owners who buy a lot of land or a house are surprised to find out that someone else has a right to use their land to travel on or for other reasons. Still others take unlawful actions to try to disrupt the right of use of an easement. Even when an easement is not written into a deed, it may still be legally enforceable. At Cornerstone Law Firm, our Real Estate Attorneys can help you to figure out your rights in regards to an easement.

Partition and Sale In Lieu of Partition

If you own a home or other property with someone else and you no longer wish to own it with them, you may need to partition the property or sell it rather than partition it. This can happen after a break-up, in the case of an unmarried couple, or even after a divorce, if the divorce was not fully and properly documented. Partitions also happen when investments go south or when a business no longer wishes to operate a property for profit. Your rights in a partition can include an equitable distribution of profits, an assessment of costs against someone’s share of a sale, and more. You’ll definitely want an experienced real estate attorney to help you through the process.

Fraud In Real Estate Deals

Unfortunately, fraud in real estate deals in Reading is not unusual. Both by virtue of malicious intent and because of misunderstandings, sellers and buyers sometimes try to take advantage of each other in ways that are unlawful. If you’ve entered into a purchase agreement, and you believe they’re no longer acting in good faith, your options may include a fraud claim, a partition action, or a constructive trust.

Although Pennsylvania’s statute of frauds generally invalidates contracts that are not in writing if they involve land, there are exceptions to this rule. These exceptions include when someone has invested money into the improvement of a property that confirms a possessory interest or where equitable doctrines bar the application the statute of frauds.

Conclusion

In all of these situations, speaking with an experienced Real Estate Attorney can be incredibly beneficial in settling the matter in a way that’s best for you. Give us a call at Cornerstone Law Firm to discuss with us how we can help.

Can I legally fly a drone in Pennsylvania?

With the rise of inexpensive drones (or Unmanned Aircraft Systems, known as UAS), the number of remote pilots is growing by the day. If you live in Pennsylvania, can you operate a drone legally? What drone regulations in Pennsylvania should you be aware of?

The short answer is yes: the Federal Aviation Administration retains exclusive jurisdiction to regulate the National Air Space (NAS), and their regulations allow operation of a drone for recreational purposes as long as the drone is between .55 and 55 pounds, including anything attached to the drone.

If you are flying a drone for commercial purposes, including for video, photography, construction inspections and more, then you must obtain a “Part 107 Certificate” through the FAA to fly your drone.

However, many states and localities are trying to jump in and regulate drones also. These regulations are, in most cases, legally unenforceable because Federal Law preempts state law whenever Federal Law is intended to “occupy the field.” Because the FAA’s regulations are meant to be exclusive, state laws are almost certainly pre-empted in most cases.

In Pennsylvania, the legislature has made it easy on remote pilots by explicitly preempting any regulations at the county or local level. Harrisburg retains the power to make any state regulations. And the Commonwealth has passed only one statute so far dealing with drones: 18 Pa.C.S. Section 3505, which makes it a crime to do things with a drone that would be criminal if done otherwise, such as harassing someone or invading their privacy.

Pennsylvania’s law also provides certain common law rights to individuals, and invading privacy or standing on their land while operating a drone may come with legal consequences, even if it is not technically “illegal.”

At Cornerstone Law Firm, our attorneys are experienced in regulatory and criminal law, and can help you navigate your drone legal issues. One of our attorneys is even registered as a Part 107 Certificate holder, so you can be confident you’re getting advice from attorneys who understand your industry. Call us today.

May 2021 Update

May 2021 has been filled with trials and advanced litigation for the attorneys of Cornerstone Law Firm. On the civil side, attorney Joel Ready spent time litigating a partnership dispute in Lehigh County court, giving advice to several businesses to avoid personnel and human resources litigation, promulgating discovery in personal injury cases based in Berks County and preparing for a summer of trials. A number of Cornerstone Law’s criminal clients were able to obtain trial dates this month, allowing them to finally pursue their innocence in a proceeding before a jury.

On the transactional side, several businesses hired Cornerstone Law Firm to draft contracts and to create new bylaws and other operating agreements for their businesses and nonprofits. These ranged from employment agreements to more complex inter-business cooperation agreements, and also agreements to resolve potential areas of dispute between rival businesses.

Attorney Crossett has been involved in several mediation for personal injury clients, obtaining settlement for car accident victims and those injured in other accidents. Furthermore, Attorney Crossett has finalized complex land deals this month for clients with conflicting real estate claims.

At Cornerstone Law Firm we are happy that the world is slowly getting back to normal, and we are looking forward to the nice weather in the summer months!

Injured in a car accident in Berks County, Pennsylvania? Here’s what to do

Injured in a car accident in Berks County, Pennsylvania? Here’s what to do

When you have been injured in a car accident in Berks County, what steps should you take to protect yourself? Dealing with an insurance company can be very difficult and having your case prepared properly is very important. Here are three steps you should take if you have been injured so that you can set up a proper claim with your insurance company.

  1. Get all medical treatment your doctor suggests

The first and most important suggestion that anyone should consider when they are injured in a car accident is to get the medical treatment that their primary care physician tells them to get. This may mean an initial ride to the hospital and treatment in an emergency room, but also can include follow up rehabilitation visits and meetings with the orthopedic surgeons or other doctors and specialists. It’s tempting to try to be tough in situations like this, and it’s also natural to be concerned about the medical bills that might result. If you’ve been injured in a car crash, you should know that your car insurance includes personal injury protection (PIP) coverage.

Pennsylvania state law requires your insurance to cover at least $5,000.00 of medical bills. Depending on your particular policy, you may have even more coverage than that. And because this PIP coverage is given greater buying power under state law, this represents a lot of medical treatment. So, if your doctor tells you to get counseling, see a rehabilitation specialist, or suggests any other course of treatment, do it and make sure to submit the bills to your car insurance company. This is one of the only times in life where your medical treatment will be paid entirely by someone else without a copay or any other cost to you, so there is no reason not to pursue it. In addition, pursuing this treatment will build your claim regarding your car accident.

  1. Don’t speak to an insurance adjuster without legal advice

The requirements of politeness often make people think that they have to speak to an insurance adjuster who calls them shortly after an accident. This is not the case. An insurance adjuster, even for your insurance company, may not have your best interest at heart. They may call you and ask you how you are feeling, all as part of trying to get a statement out of you that can be used against you later. There is really no need to correspond with your insurance company until your treatment is complete or until the statute of limitations on your case is about to run out. For this reason, it’s important that you speak with a lawyer before you take the call from an insurance adjuster. A personal injury attorney in Berks County can help you to determine whether speaking to an adjuster is in your best interests or not.

  1. Know your rights

The most important thing you should remember after a car accident is to know your rights. You have a right to be compensated for the injuries that you suffer. This compensation can include pain and suffering that you have experienced as a result of the accident, lost wages, and of course, any medical bills your PIP coverage did not take care of. In other words, it’s not just about getting your medical bills paid. It can also include your lost wages and the trouble you’ve had getting back to work. All of these should be factored into an appropriate settlement.

  1. Conclusion – Call a Reading, PA Personal Injury Lawyer Today

At Cornerstone Law Firm, we help people who have been injured here in the Berks County area with their injury claims, ranging from car accidents to wrongful death. Our office is in Blandon, just outside of Reading and we help people throughout the county to gather what is necessary to present their claim and to make sure they’re getting the best settlement possible. If you have a question, call us at 610-926-7875 for a free consultation about your injury case.

Four steps to take when you’re served with a false Protection from Abuse Order

Four steps to take when you’re served with a false Protection from Abuse Order

Protection from Abuse Orders, or PFAs, are the mechanism that Pennsylvania uses to protect someone claiming to be the victim of domestic violence. Some states refer to this as a “restraining order,” but in Pennsylvania, the concept is strictly limited to former or current sexual partners or members of the same household. Furthermore, to obtain a PFA, someone has to show that they are afraid of imminent harm at the hands of the defendant. If you’ve been served with a PFA Order and told not to contact someone, here are four things you need to consider immediately in preparing to defend yourself.

  1. Do not contact the person who filed the PFA

First, it is important for you to know that a Protection From Abuse Order is first entered against you “ex parte.” This means it is ordered by a judge without you present or knowing about it. Under Pennyslvania law, you will almost always first hear about someone’s allegations that you abused them from a Sheriff serving you with an order. Shockingly to most defendants, this Order is entered by a Court before you ever have a chance to defend yourself. It is vital that you not contact the person alleging abuse, as this is illegal pursuant to the Court Order. Unfortunately, many PFA defendants make that their first course of action. It’s natural to think this is a misunderstanding that can be cleared up, or to confront the person about what’s in the PFA. It’s natural—but it’s also illegal, and will land you in hot water. This is true even if the victim contacts you and says it was a mistake to file against you. Don’t respond to them: call an attorney.

Until your hearing, you are legally prohibited from contacting the person who filed the PFA against you and doing so is a criminal offense. You can be charged with an Indirect Criminal Contempt, which is a misdemeanor, and which can come with jail time. In other words, you can end up in jail for violating a PFA based on false facts. Your violation of the PFA is an independent crime known as Indirect Criminal Contempt in Pennsylvania. Your first call should be to a PFA attorney—not to the alleged victim.

  1. Determine your goals—and the other person’s—in formulating a response.

PFAs are usually not filed in a vacuum. They often precede a divorce or custody action. Is the person filing the PFA against you doing so out of spite or are they hoping to get you out of a house so they can change the locks? Do they really believe you’ve been emotionally abusive, or is this a cynical ploy on their part? Is the goal to make it hard for you to move forward with custody? Understanding what the other side is attempting to do in filing a PFA is vital to determining your next steps.

As discussed below, a PFA can be consented to in some situations, meaning you might wish to agree to the entry of an order prohibiting you from contacting this person. This is especially true if basic agreements in a parallel criminal case or custody action can be resolved as part of such an agreement. In other situations, consenting to a PFA would be disastrous. The goals of the parties are a major piece to determining your next step.

  1. Gather your evidence

A challenge to defending against false PFAs is in the very nature of the charge. It usually comes down to “he said, she said” in court, and it requires showing that the person claiming abuse is lying or grossly exaggerating. What evidence can you produce to show this is false? Was the argument legally caught on video in the house? Sometimes surveillance footage from a doorbell or security system is available. Did the alleged victim text you about the argument later? In some cases, an alleged victim has written a narrative about what happened for a third party, clearly stating there was no physical abuse. This can be important as well.

Of course, sometimes, there is no “hard” evidence about the alleged assault. It really is one person’s story against another. Having an experienced trial attorney on your side becomes even more important in these cases. Poking holes in a story without hard evidence is a challenge, but it can be done.

  1. What do you get if you “win” or “lose?”

Perhaps the most important issue is understanding the legal standard required of someone requesting a PFA and understanding what you get when you “win” or “lose.” If you prevail in defending against a PFA, no one is required to reimburse you for legal costs, and the PFA petition is dismissed. It can be refiled upon a showing of a new instance of abuse—but not for the matters in the original PFA.

“Losing” on a PFA is more serious in that it results in the entry of an order against you to prohibit you from contacting the alleged victim. It can also have a negative impact on your custody case, if one is ongoing, and potentially can be factored into a divorce decree in certain circumstances.

But PFAs can also be entered by agreement, and usually do not carry similar penalties. A PFA can be entered without a judge finding wrongdoing where both parties agree that they don’t object to an order prohibiting one person from contacting the other. In some cases, both parties consent to PFAs between each other. Sometimes PFAs are a mechanism to ensure that both parties feel that they can move on with their lives without constantly fighting over whether their communications cross the line.

But this doesn’t mean that consenting to a PFA is a good idea. Depending on your divorce, custody and financial situations, PFAs can have profoundly negative impacts on your life. A good PFA lawyer can help you decide whether consenting to a PFA with certain agreements can be better than fighting over the PFA, or whether it is a bad idea.

Conclusion: Consult with an experienced PFA lawyer

Having a PFA entered against you can be a serious problem, and can create issues for you and your family. Understanding what your options are in defending a PFA can put you and your family in a position to ensure that you aren’t harmed by the entry of a Protection From Abuse Order. If you’re local here in Berks County, call the attorneys at Cornerstone Law Firm to discuss your Protection From Abuse Order and how we can help you.

January 2021 Update

Attorney David Crossett has continued working through personal injury claims for car accident victims in Reading, Pennsylvania this month. Speaking of clients who are concerned about whether their car insurance was sufficient during a car accident, Attorney Crossett explains: “Clients who are ‘limited tort’ should not assume their insurance will not cover their injuries, especially when the injuries are catastrophic. We don’t want to see clients give up their rights in those situations.” Attorney Crossett’s work has also included mediation with judges in attempts to help clients resolve their conflicts outside of court.

Meanwhile, Attorney Joel Ready has been handling a number of civil rights matters, including for violations of the 1st Amendment. “Harassment claims, in particular, bring an important legal issue into the crosshairs,” Attorney Ready explains. As part of his work in this area, Attorney Ready appeared on WFMZ to speak about the First Amendment’s application to private life and employment issues.

Finally, Tim Crossett, Cornerstone’s Firm Administrator, has been working on the launch of the all new web-show, “Business in Berks,” a series of interviews with local business owners about the challenges of 2020 and beyond. The show goes live in February on our youtube channel.

At Cornerstone Law Firm, our attorneys and staff are hoping that 2021 is more pleasant for the world than its predecessor! We look forward to helping you in the coming year.

Civil Forfeiture Can Lead to Injustice

A recent article in WITF, a central Pennsylvania news organization, addressed a growing issue in Pennsylvania – asset forfeiture abuse.

Cornerstone Law Firm Attorney Joel Ready was interviewed in the WITF article:

Berks County defense lawyer Joel Ready, who has represented clients whose belongings have been seized through civil forfeiture, said this thinking turns the U.S. Constitution on its head.

“Anybody who had $500 taken out of their pocket by the government and told, ‘Well, you’re going to have to prove that you didn’t do anything to get this back,’ is going to understand that this is a profound injustice,” Ready said. “Most people can’t afford to hire a lawyer to come in and get that money back.”

Read the full article here.

What do I do if I get a traffic ticket?

If you’ve been pulled over and given a traffic ticket, or if you’ve received a traffic ticket in the mail, you should think carefully about your options before pleading guilty to it. When you plead guilty to a traffic ticket, you will incur all of the fines, penalties, points and license suspensions that go along with it. So, here are a few things to consider when you see those blue lights in the rear-view mirror.

  1. Fines…and other coststraffic ticket

If you get a traffic ticket, you know there’s a fine. That’s really what a traffic ticket is. Traffic tickets in Pennsylvania are almost always “summary offenses,” meaning they can be resolved by simply paying your fine. Indeed, most traffic tickets in Pennsylvania are just fines, without any additional points or other complications (although some come with other penalties as discussed below).

But there can be other costs to a traffic ticket when you plead not guilty, including minor court costs and other fees. Regardless, pleading not guilty is your chance to challenge a ticket, and you should carefully weigh this option before simply paying the ticket. The fines on a traffic ticket are always the smallest cost in the long term, which leads us to number two.

  1. Points on your license

The bigger concern when you have a traffic ticket is how many points it will put on your license. In Pennsylvania, once you’ve reached 11 points, your license is suspended, and once you’ve reached six points, you have to pay fees and take a special exam (which, if it’s half as bad as it sounds, is a fate worse than death).

More relevantly, for most Pennsylvanians higher points means higher insurance premiums. Insurance companies take points into account when deciding how much to charge you for your premiums. So, if your traffic ticket comes with points, you want to carefully consider whether you can afford the long-term insurance costs that the ticket will bring. Sometimes a ticket with lower fines and points will end up costing you far more than a ticket with a higher fine and no points.

  1. Your license may be suspended

In some cases, tickets can bring about an automatic license suspension. Worst of all, they may not tell you that until after you’ve plead guilty and it’s too late to do anything about it. PennDOT assesses the suspensions automatically and does so after the fact. So, you won’t know about a suspension in some cases until after it’s too late. Your license can be suspended for relatively small matters such as speeding in a work zone, or allowing someone else to use your car without a license.

Call for a free consultation with a traffic lawyer today

Whenever you’ve received a traffic ticket, it’s important to discuss your matter with a traffic ticket lawyer. Attorneys at the Cornerstone Law Firm can help you determine whether there’s a way to fight your traffic ticket at the Magisterial District Court or a higher court, or whether it can be negotiated to something that doesn’t carry points or a license suspension.

We’ve helped many clients to avoid the serious ramifications of a traffic ticket and we can help you, too.
Call for a free consultation today.

Three Things to do after a Berks County Car Accident

If you’ve been in a car accident in Berks County, Pennsylvania, there are three things you should consider doing right away. In this video, Attorney David Crossett breaks down immediate steps you should take.

If you’ve been injured in Berks County or elsewhere in Pennsylvania, give us a call. We’d be happy to talk with you about your case.

Public Drunkenness and Kutztown University Students

At Cornerstone Law Firm, we’ve helped many Kutztown University students who are accused of crimes. When a college student is charged with public drunkenness or another crime involving alcohol or drugs, the impact on the student’s academic and professional future can be profound. Here are several things that a student at Kutztown University or any other college should consider when deciding what to do about criminal charges.

  1. Your charges can impact professional licensure

Sometimes, college students are quick to plead guilty or accept the initial charges filed without thinking about how such a charge will impact their professional future. If a student wants to be a teacher, a counselor, a police officer or even go into the military, a conviction can end up derailing the student’s plans. An expensive education can be wasted by accepting a plea agreement without considering these aspects.

The reality is, a college student who is 18 or older is an adult, and your charges will remain on your record for the rest of your life if they are not properly disposed of. Contrary to popular belief, expungement is not easy to obtain, and in many situations, it will not be available at all unless it is part of the plea agreement or diversionary program accepted. Don’t just plead guilty! You need to discuss the potential consequences of your plea with an experienced attorney.

  1. You are innocent until proven guilty

In the midst of all of this discussion of plea agreements and reduced charges, let’s not forget the most important fact: you are innocent until proven guilty. Just because a police officer has charged you with a crime doesn’t mean you have to plead guilty to it. Indeed, proving that someone has committed a crime in a court of law is the highest bar in the law. It requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury of your peers in an environment where the state cannot require you to testify against yourself. This is not an easy task. Not infrequently, police officers and investigators make mistakes in the course of their investigation, misunderstand the significance of evidence, or rely on false characterizations in their charges. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you to spot these mistakes and challenge them. Sometimes this reduces criminal charges, and sometimes it eliminates them altogether.

  1. Kutztown University might implement their own academic discipline.

College students are often surprised when they find out that their legal problems create academic problems, as well. Charges filed against an individual will trigger an academic investigation by the university, and a dean of student conduct or other campus official might demand an explanation, even before the charges have been resolved.

However, Kutztown University, like any public university in Pennsylvania, is subject to the constitution and its provisions about due process, the right to an attorney, and the right to notice and a hearing. Occasionally, students are told that they do not have a right to be represented by an attorney in a disciplinary hearing. This is not true. As a student a public university, you have your full constitutional rights in disciplinary hearings, including the right to remain silent without adverse action being taken against you. You should not attempt to handle these hearings alone. In most cases, you can insist that the hearings not go forward until the charges are resolved.

  1. Having an experienced criminal defense attorney to help you is a must.

There are plenty of things in life that you can save money on by doing it yourself. Dealing with your potentially life-altering criminal charges is not one of them. An experienced attorney who understands the potential impact of a conviction on your professional future is vital. An experienced attorney can help you to decide whether to fight charges or to seek a favorable plea, and how to eliminate or minimize potential negative consequences for your future.

At Cornerstone Law Firm, we have helped many Kutztown University students to deal with charges ranging from disorderly conduct to drug possession and more. Call us today for a free consultation to discuss your rights.