Q: I was cited in Pittsburgh for driving a vehicle with expired registration and for driving a vehicle with expired inspection stickers in a separate citation. Are these non-moving traffic violations considered criminal violations as a misdemeanor or are they like speeding or parking violations as a non-criminal summary offense? As a side note, the traffic dockets were recorded under the magisterial district courts and not in the criminal courts dockets. (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: These particular offenses are motor vehicle summary violations. If your docket number starts with “CR”, the charges are misdemeanors or felonies. If your docket starts with “TR”, the offense are summary motor vehicle offenses. If your docket starts with “NT” they are non-traffic summary offenses and usually criminal (Public Urination, Disorderly Conduct, Harassment, Public Drunkenness, etc.) Your hearing will be held in the Municipal Court Building, 2nd Floor, on 2nd Avenue, not in the Allegheny County Courthouse.
Q: My kids usually go every other weekend to see my ex. It concerns me as he has no running water in his house. I don’t know if I should send them knowing the living conditions of their dad. (West Newton, PA)
A: I am sorry to hear that. You can probably file a motion to modify custody. It is a health and safety concern. First, you may want to investigate any programs that assist those that cannot afford utilities. If you can find a referral and he will not take advantage of it, you may have to go the legal route.
Q: Wife works full-time job making $75,000.00 per year. The husband is on Social Security disability, makes $24,400 per year. Husband has no assets (except his truck). The wife has retirement savings and stock options worth roughly $1.8 million. When divorcing in PA, is husband entitled to 1/2 of the wife’s net worth? What about spousal support if the husband was to get his own place to live (they currently live in the same place, although separated within that home) and move out? (North Strabane Twp., PA)
A: PA is an equitable distribution state when it comes to the division of marital property. This means the court tries to cut the pie in a manner that is fair, given many factors. including education, income, career prospects, other assets, the contribution of the parties, debts, etc. Generally, if you are the lesser of two earners with less income potential, you may get a larger share of the marital estate, but this is not always the case.
Q: My husband’s sister is staying with her father. Who is sick. My husband is the father’s Power of Attorney, but the sister has been signing the father’s checks and giving them to her other sister, who up until this week hasn’t been part of her father’s life for several years. Supposedly they have been taking his mail and banking information out of the house as well. The do not possess power of attorney, and the sister staying with her father is on SSI Disability, and has taken the father’s bank cards and been using them for purchasing many items for herself and her boyfriend without the father’s permission. (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: She has no authorization to sign checks on his behalf. She should not give his money to anyone else unless he is authorizing her to. The way you describe it, it sounds like she is taking advantage of him. As his Agent under a POA it should be in your husband’s authority to safeguard him in a variety of ways, assuming he is not competent and is not opposing your help. If so, you can close his bank accounts, have the bank restrict them, redirect his mail, change his locks and keep them out of his house. These are complicated situations and you may want to consult with a local attorney. If his competency is in question and he refuses your help, your husband may want to consult with an attorney about becoming his Guardian.
Q: By way of my parents will I have 1/4 ownership of this home that I reside in. My mother has passed away and my father is in assisted care because of dementia my siblings are trying to sell this house worried about future Medical need for my dad who is 91 years old. I want to purchase this home but they’re not giving me enough time to get my credit in order. How can I prevent this transaction from happening or what can I do at this point? This has been my family home for 60 years I do not want to sell. I want to keep it and keep it in the family for my child and my grandchildren. (Pleasant Hills, PA)
A: I assume you mean your parent’s will and not their “living will”? Your 1/4 ownership does not kick in until your father dies. I will assume your father took full title when your mother passed. If the siblings are acting under a valid POA, and these medical needs are legitimate, they can sell the house. In that case, you need to get moving on finding a lender. If there is no POA in place and your father is incompetent, they would need to file for one of them to be his guardian in order to have legal authority to sell this home. This would give you more time. In any event, get moving and find a lender.
Q: My sons father hasn’t paid since July of 2017. He owes over $4,000.00. There was an enforcement hearing on Monday, which I could not attend. Today, I received paper saying on March 21st there is a contempt hearing. So, I was just curious as to what goes on at the enforcement hearing and what goes on at the contempt. (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: When you hear the word, “contempt”, it is generally not good. It means that the defendant has failed to comply with an order of court. In Family Law, if a judge orders a defendant to pay X amount by X date, and the defendant does not, a contempt hearing is held. At the hearing if the judge determines that the defendant is in contempt, the law permits the judge to sentence the defendant to 6 months in jail. The ways around it are to pay the full amount by the time of the hearing or make a substantial payment before the hearing or bring a substantial amount of money to the hearing. It is generally all about money. If no payment is made and the defendant has no valid excuse for not paying, he may be spending spring and summer in the Allegheny Iron Hilton.
Q; Mom in Nursing home with Medicaid for 7 months. Dad paid cash for her. Mom died in May 20l6. Dad died July 20l6 with $70,000 in his bank account and the house. We never received a bill from Medicaid. We are in probate, but no response from Medicaid. The attorney said they lost the bill. We don’t want to be involved in Medicaid Fraud.
A: You need to ask your attorney what the status of the Medicaid claim is. Generally, once an estate is opened, the estate has an obligation to notify the state’s Medicaid program of an estate being opened, in which county it has been opened, the docket number and the contact person for the estate. Once this is done, Medicaid is considered to have been put on notice of the estate and to promptly file their claim. If the estate was legally advertised, in theory, all claimants have on year from the first date of advertising to file a claim. Even so, a Medicaid claim normally must be satisfied.
Q: If a person is arrested and in the county jail, goes to the ER for a car accident injury that happened 5 days prior to arrest, will the person’s insurance pay for the medical expenses? (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: Auto insurance is the primary coverage for medical benefits relating to injuries arising out of motor vehicle accidents. If the person has some credible proof that the injury is related to the car accident, at least evidence of car accident. Was there an accident report filed? Was the insurance company notified? Are there photos? If there is no record of the car accident and the person was taken to ER because of a jail fight, it is not going to happen.
Q: The police searched my house refusing to show me the warrant for over an hour and the arrested me for possession of CP and dissemination (which the Pere to peer did on its own). They also stole my son’s firearms which were in my house (he had nowhere to store them yet). My initial lawyer said I would get the evidence to review but he never showed it to me, even when I demanded it. I then got picked up on a dubious violation and was renditioned in jail. By that I mean that I was not given the hearing in 72 or so hours or they would have to release me. The lawyer did not even make sure the hearing happened. Basically, as soon as he knew I was picked up he dropped his involvement and held on to the retainer I had already paid him for doing nothing. The 2nd lawyer (really my 4th) did basically the same thing. (never saw the evidence) As a matter of fact, I think he never looked at the evidence because he said the first lawyer wasn’t sending it to him. He delayed my trial saying his office flooded but the truth was that he did not have the evidence. I was in jail with no way to assist in a defense that my lawyer never intended to provide. I ended up having to plead guilty to everything. No due process. (Versailles, PA)
A: If you pleaded guilty but were not sentenced, you can file a motion to withdraw your guilty plea. It will likely be granted. You can then seek new counsel. If you have been sentenced, you have 10 days to file post sentencing motions and 30 days to appeal to the Superior Court. I don’t know what happened to you and why, but you should have been able to see discovery (evidence provided by the Commonwealth) and review it with your counsel. That is pretty basic. Although you may be able to withdraw your guilty plea, remember, you answered questions in the affirmative from the judge and in writing when you entered your plea. Among these questions, you answered yes to whether you were satisfied with your counsel, has your counsel gone over all the elements of the crime and the penalties you are facing, are you pleading guilty because you are guilty. Sound familiar?
Q: My son who is 15, has just been arrested for retail theft. This is a first-time offense. Do I need a lawyer for this case? Can he be referred to the ARD program? (South Side, Pittsburgh)
A: ARD is an adult criminal court alternative to prosecution. While there is no alternative disposition called “ARD” in juvenile court, there are similar programs for first time juvenile offenders who qualify. One is where they divert the case to a juvenile probation program, sometimes called an intake disposition. The other is a “consent decree” whereby if the juvenile successfully completes probation with conditions, he or she is not adjudicated delinquent.