Use Your Blinkers

Many of us do not always use our turn signals, even though the Vehicle Code requires that we do so.  Often clients will come into the office after being stopped by the police for nothing more than failing to use a turn signal.  Upon being stopped the client is either under the influence or in possession of something illegal.

On the witness stand police officers will frequently admit that they personally often fail to use their turn signals.  Many cops will admit that they do not always pull over every turn signal offender.  However, the Pennsylvania Superior Court has approved of the police pulling drivers over for turn signal violations alone and if the driver is then found to be committing a more serious crime, the charges will not be dismissed even though the initial stop was for a minor infraction that is not always enforced by the police officer or his department.

In the recent case of Commonwealth v. Brown the Superior Court wrote that a police officer has the authority to stop a vehicle when he or she has reasonable suspicion that a violation of the vehicle code has taken place, for the purpose of obtaining necessary information to enforce the provisions of the code. However, if the violation is such that it requires no additional investigation, the officer must have probable cause to initiate the stop.

What does this mean?  In practice out on the streets it means that the police can pull over any driver they see who does not use his turn signal.  Afterwards the police can and will charge the driver for either the vehicle code violation, or for more serious felonies or misdemeanors if other evidence is discovered during the car stop.  When the case gets to court the police officer may tailor his or her testimony to fit the facts of the case so that the likelihood of having the more serious evidence suppressed, or thrown out, is greatly reduced.

We all know that the police do not usually hit their lights and pull someone over at lunchtime for failure to use turn signals.  However, if you are driving at 2:00 a.m. the chance of getting pulled over for this minor infraction increases greatly.  To protect yourself from “hunch” stops by police on a whim, always use your turn signals, without fail.  Doing so will not only protect you and other drivers on the road, it may also prevent you from being the target of a car stop simply because there is little else to do in the middle of the night.

If you are the target of a police stop and you have been charged with a crime, you need a lawyer who can review the case and put together a defense that will protect you and your drivers’ license.  Give us a call at 215-822-1888 to discuss your case.

It Doesn’t Matter Who Earns More Money!

Recently we have had several clients who have been under the belief that because they are the lower wage earning spouse in the marriage that the majority of the marital assets are the possession of the higher wage earning spouse. Frequently these clients have indicated “my spouse earned all the income and so most of our assets belong to him”. This belief is entirely incorrect according to the Divorce Code.

The Divorce Code is “title blind” with respect to who owns marital property. This means that in a divorce situation it does not matter which spouse’s name appears on the title (to titled property) or who purchased the property. Any asset acquired during the marriage is marital property, subject to equitable distribution by the Court. Additionally, regardless of what party was the greater wage earning spouse, earning more money does not bestow upon that spouse property ownership rights greater than that of the lower wage earning spouse.

The fact is that in a divorce situation any asset acquired during the marriage will be divided by the court with each party being awarded his or her fair share of the value of that property. At the time of the division of the assets the Court must consider numerous factors outlined in the Divorce Code. Such factors include which party is the primary custodian of minor children, which party is the lower wage earning spouse, and which party has the greater ability in the future to earn promotions and increases in their income. Typically the party who is the custodian of minor children, or who is the lower wage earning spouse, will be awarded a greater share of the marital assets.

It is not important which party was the breadwinner in the household. In fact, when determining which party in a divorce situation will be awarded a greater share of the marital assets, the Court will typically look to award a greater share to the lower wage earning spouse. Most of the time the higher wage earning spouse will also be the spouse who has the most assets in his or her name. The higher wage earning spouse needs to be aware that the opposing party will probably fare better at the time of equitable distribution. Lower wage earning spouses in divorce situations need to be aware that they should not agree to any division of assets based upon who earns the most income during the marriage.