Category Archives: Criminal Law

Underage drinking, again. Any advice?

Q:        Can I get a third underage drinking charge changed to disorderly conduct?

A:         With this being your third underage drinking case, you are unlikely to get a break. Generally, with the first violation of 18 Pa. C.S.A. 6308, you can receive a 90 driver’s license suspension, a one-year suspension with the second offense and a two-year suspension with the third. I don’t foresee the police cutting you such a break and I wouldn’t count on it. I would hire an attorney to see if you have a defense which may lead to a dismissal or force the police to offer such a deal you are looking for.

Underage drinking, again. Any advice?

Q:        Can I get a third underage drinking charge changed to disorderly conduct?

A:         With this being your third underage drinking case, you are unlikely to get a break. Generally, with the first violation of 18 Pa. C.S.A. 6308, you can receive a 90 driver’s license suspension, a one-year suspension with the second offense and a two-year suspension with the third. I don’t foresee the police cutting you such a break and I wouldn’t count on it. I would hire an attorney to see if you have a defense which may lead to a dismissal or force the police to offer such a deal you are looking for.

I received a civil claim letter demanding 180 dollars. Do I have to pay it?

Q:I am 16 years old. I was caught shoplifting 30 dollars worth of merchandise. I was detained until someone came to pick me up, though no one came so they released me. No police were involved. I had to sign 2 or 3 papers, I was so nervous I didn’t read what I signed. They took down my info including my social security number. Yesterday, I received a civil claim letter demanding 180 dollars. Do I have to pay it? What happens if I don’t? I don’t have the money too.

A: These civil demands are generally from some out of town law firm who will not sue you in your local court over a $150 or $200 demand. Most attorneys advise to ignore them. However, there have been instances in which I had to be creative in persuading the store employee and DA into dropping the charges. In those situations, I used payment of the civil demand along with other things I had my client do before the hearing, as a justification for a dismissal. Payment of the civil demand, although not necessary, was one more positive factor weighing in favor of my client when I was able to convince the judge to dismiss the charges. I would say, do not rush to pay it and seek the advice of an attorney before doing so. The attorney can also advise you as to whether your case should be in juvenile court or not.

PAROLE VIOLATION-WILL I MAKE BOND?

Q: I violated my parole in PA can I get out on bond?

A: It is hard to tell what you are asking without more information. I will assume you are on parole and not probation, as there is a difference. Normally, you will have a Gagnon I hearing to determine if you should be held in jail pending a final hearing on whether or not you violated your parole, which is called a Gagnon II. If you are under jurisdiction of the PA Board of Probation and Parole, generally, your penalty will be more harsh and predictable. If you are still under jurisdiction of the judge who sentenced you, you may, may, have more flexibility in having an attorney petition the judge for relief such as alternative housing or electronic home monitoring. There is no bond with probation or parole violations. The way to get out of jail is to have either the PA Board of Probation and Parole, or the judge who sentenced you, whichever has jurisdiction, to grant you relief. This is normally done by having an attorney file a petition requesting such relief. Generally, filing such a motion with the PABPP is not worth it.

CAN A MINOR BE IDENTIFIED ON A FACIAL HAIR DESCRIPTION ONLY?

Q: Can a minor get convicted far assault and robbery because someone was robbed and gave police a description of just facial hair and height. And they picked up person fitting that description nothing else and because they had a charge in the pass the same.

A: While it is possible to be arrested on a weak or somewhat ambiguous identification provided to police, it is difficult to convict on a weak or ambiguous identification. If the police were on the fence about arresting him, the fact that he has priors may have give them and added reason to do so. This is not fair but it in reality, it happens. It would be important to have an attorney pin down the identification on the record at the preliminary hearing. It is crucial that he have an attorney represent him at every stage of the prosecution.

WILL .02 BREATHALYZER TEST KEEP ME IN JAIL ON PROBATION VIOLATION?

Q: I violated my parole in Pa with a .02% breathalyzer, can I get out on bond? My original sentence was 6 months house arrest with a home breathalyzer box. I’ve had 2 DUIs in the past both 1st offenses. I have never violated before no new charges. I live in West Virginia my house arrest was sent down here. My parole officer had me sent back to PA, even though PA stated they did not want me and to try and file for a faster hearing to get in and out.

A: If you are on probation or parole you can be detained and forced to sit in jail if your probation officer has probable cause to suspect that you violated your probation. Normally, an alleged probation violator is given a Gagnon I hearing to determine if he should be held in jail further. If he or she is held in jail, the next hearing is a Gagnon II to determine if he or she actually violated the probation terms and conditions . There are two ways a person can be released prior to the Gagnon I or Gagnon II hearing.  The first is if the probation officer makes the request to the court, which is often not likely. Secondly, you can hire counsel to petition the judge to lift the detainer and he is successful in convincing the judge you should be released from jail. There is no bond on a probation violation. It is the probation detainer that holds you in jail. If the case is reviewed by an attorney, he or she can determine if it is worth filing a motion.

PUBLIC URINATION-SHOULD I PLEAD GUILTY?

Q: Should I plead guilty or not guilty to public urination? I received a citation for public urination while very intoxicated in Pittsburgh, PA. I refused to sign the citation and would not give them my SSN. I started arguing with the cop but ultimately still got home with only a citation. What should I plea?

A: You should not plead guilty by checking the box on the reverse side of the subpoena and sending your money in. If you don’t have a criminal record, an attorney may help to get you out of this with no record. If not, a summary conviction will result in a criminal record and cannot be expunged until you have completed 5 years of arrest free behavior.

FELONY 3 THEFT-WHAT IS MY SENTENCE?

Q: There is a prial Conference for a Felony Three of Theft of Leased Property. If the defendant pleads guilty to a Felony Three Theft of Leased Property, and the plea is entered at the pre trial conference, what are the chances of the case being settled that day if the judge agrees with the plea. Will the defendant’s sentence be given that day? And what are the chances of probation with time served, which is three months.

A: Very few judges take pleas on pretrial conference days in Allegheny County. However, if your judge does, yes, you can plead and get sentenced that day or the day of trial. As far as the sentence, it depends upon several factors, among which are, the dollar amount of the theft, the facts of the case and the prior criminal record. You would have to ask the lawyer what your potential sentence will be. If this person has no criminal record, he may be eligible for the ARD program. This program for first time offenders offers no criminal record if the person completes the program.

FIRST TIME COLLEGE PUBLIC INTOXICATION CHARGE

Q. I am an education major in PA and I received a citation for drunk in public, should I fight it? Will this show on my record. I was walking down the street at my college campus and an undercover cop pulled up and asked if I was okay then I was given a breathalyzer test and eventually taken me to my dorm where a friend signed a release form. They hand cuffed me but never read me my rights. Next, I have to contact the magisterial district court. I was wondering if I should bring a lawyer to court?

A. You need an attorney to help you avoid a conviction, one way or the other. A conviction of this seemingly harmless summary offense will stay on your record for 5 years. At that point you can pay an attorney to expunge it. In addition, if you are a minor, there will be a driver’s license suspension. There may be first offenders options for students like you and an attorney will know how to access them.

MARIJUANA, XANAX, MDMA IN MY HOUSE-WHAT TO DO?

Q. Can I pursue probation without verdict? The house I was staying at was raided. I am a student who was living in the dorms last semester, had a lease signed for a house beginning June 1st. Between then I was living at my friend’s house, and also my girlfriend’s house. Found in the house that was raided was 7lbs of marijuana, Xanax, and five ounces MDMA. I was charged with everything possession of the three and intent to deliver marijuana and MDMA. The marijuana and Xansa was in a safe and was not mine. I had no contact with it at all. Three ounces of MDMA belonged to me. However, lab tests will confirm that it is not MDMA. I believe it will come up as a synthetic cathinone. A warrant is out for the owner of the marijuana and Xanax. I was told those charges will be dropped from me as soon as he confesses to owning them.

A. You need a lawyer. I would have an attorney evaluate the legality of the search and the law of possession as it applies to these specific facts. You may have viable legal defense issues that even if they may not guarantee a win down the road at trial, may push the DA to offer an acceptable deal. A deal that results in no conviction for you is the goal. As you may know, a drug conviction will stay on your criminal history forever and will result in a driver’s license suspension. It will require good old fashion legal work-fighting the case but simultaneously badgering the DA for a deal for kid with no criminal history. Probation Without Verdict could also be a possibility for you, but it will take a lot of legal work and not merely asking the DA or police for mercy.