Q: Hi. I am a felon. I’ve grown up hunting and I know I can use a crossbow. I have kids and would love to be able to teach them how I was taught when I was growing up, with a rifle. Now I know with a felony I can’t do that but was told there is ways, so wanted to ask. What do you think? (Lincoln Borough, PA)
A: If you are certain you were actually convicted of a felony, you cannot possess a firearm under PA and Federal law. You cannot expunge the felony. You may be eligible for a pardon, but it is a not an easy task. You should consult with an attorney who handles pardons in PA.
Q: I have three warrants. I want to know how long do I have to wait for them to be drop and cleared off? (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: Warrants for arrest relating to criminal charges, do not just expire or go stale. They can stay in the system for decades. They can lay in wait for you like a hidden shard of glass on a sandy beach. You are unlikely to be hunted down in a warrant sweep for some minor unpaid fines, but if you have a warrant for a misdemeanor or felony, you could be caught in a sweep. You could also be detained if you come in contact with police for something simple, like a traffic ticket or appearing in court. I would deal with it proactively. An attorney can assist you.
Q: My son’s father was on state parole and to follow extremely strict rules. On Monday, his PO called him saying, I need you to meet me at your dad’s house with my supervisor at 930 tomorrow. So, he goes, and is sent back to jail. I tried calling the prison and the PO, nobody will give me any info besides that he violated parole. Won’t say how he violated and there is a detainer. So how do I find out what he did, how long will he be there. He hasn’t even been to that jail for a week, so will it take time to see a judge. (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: Obviously the probation officer feels he has done something to violate his parole. It could be a technical violation such as a hot urine or failure to report to his PO. I could be a new arrest. It is a shame they won’t tell you. Call the probation office tomorrow.
Q: Is there a number you can call to see if you have a warrant for your arrest? I am not trying to go to jail. If there is one, I just need some time to gather some money. (Hazelwood, PA)
A: You can try the UJS website, but there is no guarantee it will state “warrant”. The last time I called the Allegheny County Sheriff, they would not tell me if my client had a warrant and advised him to go to the local police, which my client wasn’t on board with. I found the warrant but had to make a few calls. As advised, you can be arrested on a warrant at the worst times. The best way to deal with it is to hire an attorney to inquire, turn yourself in, get a bond and a new court date.
Q: I have three old cases from 2014. I have never been in trouble since but I have three warrants. One is a drug case and two theft cases. I never went back to court because I was homeless. I met the mother of my kids, started a family. Now she kicked me out and sued me for support. I never thought about my warrants or court again. Should I?
A: It is very likely. In Allegheny County, the Sheriff Deputies run warrant checks on litigants coming to court and can take people into custody. It is best to address this issue ahead of time, preferably with the assistance of a lawyer. A lawyer can look into what is necessary in getting a bond set on your criminal cases. It could be simple, or it could be more complicated.
Q: My lawyer is from another county handling my estate, can he also handle my divorce that was filed in my county? (Plum Borough, PA)
A: I think you mean the lawyer from the other county is handling your estate planning. If he was handling your estate, you would be dead, and should not be on-line asking legal questions. If he is licensed in the state in which the county is located, yes. Whether this estate attorney does divorce work, you will need to ask him.
Q: My husband and I have been separated for more than three years and I sent him the uncontested divorce, how he won’t answer my phone calls. My father recently passed away and he thinks he will get something out of my father’s estate. How should I handle this? (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: When one of the parties in a divorce is not agreeable, it is considered contested. If he will not accept service, hire a constable. If he will not accept other papers or fails to respond, you probably need an attorney. There are a whole set of procedures and deadlines that must be followed to provide notice to him and prove that he has been served with the necessary papers. If he still ignores the paperwork and continues to fail to respond, he will in effect waive his rights, and a divorce will be granted. An attorney will know how to do this. To my knowledge, an inheritance is not subject to a marital claim. Make sure he knows this and maybe he will cooperate.
Q: I live with my daughter and her 3 boys, ages 16, 14, and 11. My 16-year old grandson has severe mental health issues. He was diagnosed with mental health issues 10 years ago. Jump to the present. Early this past spring he tried to kill himself with his psychiatric medications. He hasn’t been the same person since the overdose. Since then he has been verbally abusing everyone in the household. In September, he threatened to kill me and his mom. Two weeks ago, he was verbally abusive and punched his mom, held his 11-year old brother hostage in her bedroom and then proceeded to cause $1,000.00 damage in our living room. Presently he is in a Children’s Hospital. The hospital is recommending a Residential Treatment Facility, but he has declined to go there, because of Act 147. Because of this act, he thinks that he rules his own mental health. He wants to go to a DOS program for 30 days and then come home, so that he may terrorize his family more. We are very scared and do not want him at home for fear what he may do. A week before he was admitted to the psych hospital he threatened to torch his bedroom. We are not safe. Please help me. (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: I am not understanding why he has not been involuntarily committed, either initiated by you, the hospital or police, if police were ever involved. It appears he is a danger to himself and others. Have you tried this? He needs a doctor’s prescription for an involuntary commitment at his age. Yes, you can obtain a Protection from Abuse (PFA) Order. I would call the police to initiate it. I would make sure you have the police aware of his condition and on your side before you obtain the PFA. A PFA order is only a piece of paper. Your real protection depends on how quickly the police arrive if your grandson decides to violate it. The power of the PFA is that once he violates it, when you call the police, they take him straight to jail, as he is in contempt of the order. You could also try to get help through CYF. If you cannot have him live in your home, he is therefore without proper parental control and supervision. CYF can file a Petition for Dependency, and ask the court to find him a dependent child. At that point, the court decides where he will be placed if home is not an option. Prior to filing the Dependency Petition, CYF can file for a Shelter Order and take temporary custody of him. If you do this, you need to understand that CYF has legal and physical custody of him, until such time that he is deemed able to return home or to a less structured environment.
Q: I am filing in Allegheny County, Pa. I must make a request through the Prothonotary. I’m not sure if I am to request a hearing, a judge (none assigned yet) or something else. I’ll be submitting a Praecipe but am unsure exactly what I’m asking the Prothonotary to do. (Glenshaw, PA)
A: My advice is to not handle this on your own. This sounds like a professional malpractice case and many lawyers take those on a contingency basis. The PA Rules of Procedure and the Allegheny County Rules of Court are very specific and must be strictly followed, or you can find yourself bounced out of court.
Q: Seven years-ago I took a plea deal. I was 20 years old and made a horrible mistake. This was the one and only time I ever got in trouble. When I took the deal, no one explained to me I would be in ineligible for expungement. Not my lawyer, not the DA, not the judge. I never would have never taken the deal if I had known this. What are my option? Can I do anything? All advice is greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance. (Carrick, PA)
A: I suggest confirming what crime you pleaded guilty to, so you are certain it is a felony. You can do this by ordering your criminal history from the PA State Police. Under the present state of the law, a felony cannot be expunged. You are well out of your appeal range. You must appeal within thirty days of your sentencing. Or, under the Post-Conviction Relief Act, you have one-year to file. You may want to consult with a criminal appeals attorney, but my thought is that it is too late to challenge the appeal. I know of no law that requires anyone to inform you at the time of your plea that you will be ineligible to expunge. The fact that you are entering a guilty plea to a crime should put you on notice of a conviction, although, I understand what you are saying. I always inform my clients that their conviction will result in a record which they may not be eligible to expunge.