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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.

March 2018 Update

The month of March has been a busy one at the Cornerstone Law Firm! This month, Attorneys David Crossett and Joel Ready have been advocates for a variety of clients, dealing with a broad range of cases and scenarios.

After one client experienced physically painful repercussions from a car accident, Attorney Crossett settled the case with a six-figure settlement. This financial relief will help compensate for personal difficulties the client has dealt with as a result of the accident.

In another case, Attorney Ready acted on behalf of a client who was charged for remaining silent when interrogated by the police (which is your right, according to the 5th Amendment of the Constitution). The charges were dismissed after Attorney Ready filed an “omnibus pretrial motion” and negotiated with the district attorneys’ office. Ultimately, the case was dismissed completely, and the client was cleared of wrongdoing. When a different client was charged with a DUI, Attorney Ready negotiated a favorable plea argument on behalf of the individual, helping the defendant avoid jail time.

Of course, not everyone deals with traumatic experiences or gets charged for a crime, but when life surprises you with difficulties, the Cornerstone Law Firm is here to help. Contact us today to let us know how we can serve you.

What To Do If Insurance Denies Your Claim

When an insurance company denies your claim, what should you do? Should you just accept the insurance claim denial, or should you fight it? Often times, when dealing with an insurance company to whom you have paid premiums for years, it can feel very frustrating when their denial leaves you feeling like you have few options. At the Cornerstone Law Firm, we help clients every single day who have had an insurance claim denied to determine whether they should challenge the claim in court or otherwise.

There are two major things you should consider if your insurance claim has been denied:

  1. What does your policy actually say?

When you signed up for an insurance policy, you received the full written policy (sometimes several days later in the mail). This policy can be thirty, forty, or even a hundred pages long, and will explain what the insurance company will do in a variety of circumstances and how the claim is to be administered. Does the policy cover what happened in your situation? Is there a provision that they referenced in their denial letter that governs your claim? If so, that provision is the starting point of your inquiry—but it is not the ending point.

  1. What does the law of your State say?

What does the law of your state say about insurance contracts? States have laws and regulations governing insurance contracts. Here in Pennsylvania, the rules include a provision that says that insurance contracts should be construed against the insurance company if there is any question in how the contract should be properly interpreted. The law also says that if a contract for insurance violates the insured’s reasonable understanding of what they were purchasing insurance for, that provision is unenforceable. Thus, even if your insurance policy says that the denial of coverage is proper, that might not be the case.

  1. Speak to an experienced insurance attorney.

If you have received a denial of an insurance claim, you should speak to an experienced attorney to ask them what to do in your situation. The attorneys at the Cornerstone Law Firm have substantial experience dealing with insurance company denials. We help clients to look through their policy to find the provisions at issue, look at the correspondence from the insurance company, and we can help you understand the law governing insurance contracts.

If you have been denied on an insurance claim for your car, house, or anything you may have insured, please call us at 610-926-7875 so that we can help you figure out your next steps.

What do I do if I’m an Executor? An overview of Estate Administration

When a loved one passes away what are the responsibilities that you have as the next of kin in regards to estate administration? In this post, I want to take the opportunity to give you an overview of the process, and to help you prepare for what you’ll expect in meeting with an Estate Administration attorney.

  1. Marshalling the Assets

The first step in Estate Administration is marshalling the assets of the Deceased. They may have investments, stocks, bonds, IRAs, life insurance policies, 401ks and other retirement accounts, as well as bank accounts, trust funds, real property, personal property and other items of value. The Executor—that is, the individual charged with administrating the estate—will have to pull together information about each of these assets in order to assist the attorneys to make intelligent decisions about how to handle these matters. As part of marshalling the assets, there need to be appraisals done on certain items. Particularly where a business fixture or piece of equipment is difficult to value, appraisers will need to be brought in to give an opinion of the fair market value of such an item. This is true even of items that will be claimed by members of the family. Perhaps a ring or other family heirloom will be passed down to a daughter as part of her share the estate. Nonetheless, there will usually need to be an appraisal done to determine what portion of her share of the estate will be diminished by her taking that item of value instead of money.

  1. Filing Tax Returns

They say there are two things you cannot avoid in life: death and taxes and this is particularly true at death when you have to pay more taxes. Despite the fact that an individual has had to pay income tax their whole life, they will usually have to pay an estate tax when they pass away. Even when the estate itself is not taxed, frequently the amount that is passed to the non-spouse will have to be taxed. This includes those items of value discussed earlier. Inheritance tax must be assessed, and an Inheritance Tax Return (REV-1500) must be filed within a tight time period with the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue. It is important to be diligent about preparing to file the tax return. Filing a tax return within three months brings a discount on the overall tax that has to be paid. In large estates, this discount can be a substantial amount of money. Accordingly, it is important to move quickly to prepare and file this tax return.

  1. Distribution of Assets

After all the assets have been marshalled, valued and the taxes have been paid, it is time to distribute the assets from the estate. Distribution of the assets happens according to the Decedent’s Last Will and Testament, or, if there is no Will, according to laws governing intestate succession. This is the part you’re probably most familiar with, and of course, it’s the part where the Executor is rewarded for his hard work in administering the estate.

Conclusion: What to Do if You’ve been Named an Executor

When a loved one passes away, it is best not to delay decisions about the estate. Probating the Will, if necessary, and marshaling and distributing the assets must occur, and the sooner it occurs the more money that will be able to be passed to the heirs. If you have questions in regards to Estate Administration or if a loved one has recently passed away and you need help administrating their estate, call Cornerstone Law Firm and let us know how we can help you.