Category Archives: Criminal Law

My brother cut his house arrest bracelet off, how much time will he get?

Q: My brother was arrested for attempting to steal a motor vehicle. He got house arrest for 11.5 months. About four months in, he freaked and cut his bracelet off with a hacksaw and went drinking. He turned himself in two days later when his wife wouldn’t let him in the house. (Millvale, PA)

A: There is too little information here to give a thoughtful answer. I don’t know his prior record, whether he was charged for escape for cutting off his collar, whether the trial judge for the auto case revoked his bond, etc. My thought is that the trial judge revoked his bond and is going to let him sit a while and see if he is charged with escape for absconding house arrest. Turning himself in never hurts. If my assumptions are correct, I do not think the trial judge will reward him by granting a motion for him to return to house arrest again or alternative housing for the holidays. It may be Christmas in jail for your brother. He should ask his lawyer.

What is Lewd and Lascivious conduct?

Q: My partner and I were caught by a police officer being intimate inside my partners car at an outdoor park that was closed at night. The officer took my partners name and drivers number, and just my name. We are both 18. I am just wondering what will or could happen. The officer did state that he knows it’s a different day and age and we are being kids. However, it is concerning that he still took down information. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A:  I am not sure exactly what you mean by “intimate”. If your actions involved having sex in a public park, even if closed, you could be cited with Open Lewdness, which reads as follows:
§ 5901. Open lewdness.
“A person commits a misdemeanor of the third degree if he does any lewd act which he knows is likely to be observed by others who would be affronted or alarmed”.
If what you were doing was not that offensive and the officer wants to cut you a break, he may not file charges. He may have taken names and information for a record in the event police locate you there in the future. If the officer will file, you are considered at adult at age 18, and therefore may receive a summons for court. If you do, take it to a lawyer. The lawyer will know what options are available to you.

My first case-retail theft, what could I face?

Q: I worked at Best Buy and stole some goods over the course of 2 months. They found $600 dollars-worth of goods and I told them there was more. They came to a dollar amount of $2500 in restitution that I must pay in installments over a course of one year. I was also charged with retail theft, it is my first offense. The police officer that took me in told me I would qualify for a ARD program. He also told me he put down $600 as the dollar value on the police statement. I guess he forgot about the 2500 in restitution, but Best Buy won’t forget that. I am very afraid, I had only positive intentions when I stole, it was to help pay for bills and mortgage for my mother, my father has been unemployed for years and money is extremely tight. I made a terrible mistake and I’m paying the price for it. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: This happens to me in theft cases all the time. My client tells me it was a lower amount than what the victim is demanding. If the victim and prosecution are offering a way out of this without having a record, like ARD, you have no choice. Unless of course, you have a really good defense. My approach to these cases, is to have the charges dismissed for full restitution at the preliminary hearing. This gives my client the opportunity to use ARD in the future in case they screw up again, as it is offered only once. If the victim and prosecution will not offer dismissal for restitution deal, then you have no choice but to go with ARD. The benefit for you is that you can question the restitution amount once the ARD offer is prepared and offered to you. In Allegheny County, the ARD paralegal, will call the victim and confirm how they arrived at their damages. Maybe the victim will adjust the amount. If not, you will have to eat the $2500 to get the benefit of ARD (no conviction/no record).

What should I do?

Q: I met a girl on a dating service called tagged then one night out of the blue she contacted me so we texted for a few days and then one particular night she started getting all raunchy talking about sex we ended up sexting then I got a call from her suppose it parents saying that she was a minor and they were going to go to the police supposedly she was making a sex video for me on her mother’s laptop now the guy wants me to buy them a new laptop for $1,700 or he will go to the police she was sending me pictures of her privates and I sent her pictures of mine I know it was a bad mistake I’m not trying to have my life ruined over this and Lord knows it will never happen again now I’m worried and don’t know what to do. (Baldwin Borough, PA)

A: Sounds like they are scammers. If they were legitimate, you would be hearing from the police or the Attorney General and the father wouldn’t be implicating himself in bribery to cover up child exploitation.

Can police lie to get you to come into the station?

Q: The police left a number for me to call and said they wanted to congratulate me for something and give me a gift. When I got there, they handcuffed me to a chair, processed me and gave me charges. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: Much to the chagrin of unsuspecting Defendants out there, the police can use a degree of trickery to arrest, as long as that trickery does not violate due process and fairness. For example, they cannot use trickery to the extent that it causes someone who is not predisposed or inclined to commit a crime, to commit one. Your situation, yes, it is legal, unfortunately. Take your papers to an attorney. Perhaps you will have a defense and enjoy the last laugh.

Can Pennsylvania extradite for probation violation on running while in house arrest?

Q: I was on house arrest and cut my monitoring bracelet off and now I’m moving to a different state. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: I hope it was worth it. You will be charged with Escape and a warrant will be issued once you fail to appear at your Preliminary Hearing in Pa. You may also have a probation warrant issued from PA. At some point in the future, if you should encounter law enforcement in the new state, even for something fluky, the PA warrant will show. You will be held for extradition in the local county jail until PA comes for you after being notified by the holding state. Whether PA will or not, is hard to say. However, sitting in the jail waiting to find out will not be a good experience.

Can the police lie to me to make me an informant?

Q: The police came to my house and said I sold drugs to an informant. I did not do this. They want me to go buy from other people threatening me with felony jail time. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: It is possible as police can use a certain amount of trickery or deception in their work. On the other hand, perhaps someone else lied to them about you. In either scenario, do not speak with the police and find yourself a lawyer. Once your lawyer contacts them and informs them that you are represented, they will quite harassing you and go through your attorney. Remember, most convictions are based on statements made by the accused. Don’t give them information they can use to convict you.

CRIMINAL LAW, DRUGS, INFORMANT, CONFIDENTIAL INFORMANT, CONTROLLED BUYS

Will I get a probation violation?

Q: I am on probation in Allegheny County of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania and I caught a new case out in Jefferson County of Pennsylvania. I was driving my buddy’s and I was trying to help a trip of his by finding his way to get some little trick girl apparently out to make some money. I was giving them gas money to get there and then we got pulled over and there were some things found in the trunk. It was like a gram of crack and a little weed pipe and a crack pipe and the needle and stuff like that. They both wrote statements on me and said that everything was mine, but it wasn’t! But they both wrote statements on me and now I am getting charged with a misdemeanor and if I get violated on my probation I could do a couple years in jail! And, I have an eight-year-old son in my life that needs me very much and I really can’t be going to do no jail time! And, I am on a felony probation for aggravated assault on an officer and by rights I am not guilty for that either, but I pled guilty to it! So, I need some advice on how to go about this because they are offering me one-year probation. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: You need a lawyer to fight the case as hard as possible at the Preliminary Hearing or at trial if you are at that stage. It is not a good situation to be in, but perhaps your lawyer can find enough of a Probable Cause issue or constructive possession issue to get this lowered to a summary. It is a long shot, but not that long. If you plead to only a summary, it is still a technical violation and in addition to the facts (hanging out with pimps, prostitutes with drugs while on probation for Aggravated Assault) you may do a little time out. However, not as much time out as if you plead or are convicted of having drugs and paraphernalia on you. Call the lawyer.

Can I be charged with indecent exposure for being nude genitals covered?

Q: I’m a nudist who wants to be as nude as possible as often as possible. The laws for PA I’ve found online don’t seem to stress anything else outside of genitalia interaction, other than offensive sexual gestures. Could I possibly garden or go to a public place (that doesn’t require some specific dress code) while mostly nude except for a covering over just my genitals without being charged for a crime? Or is there a law against baring one’s buttocks in public? If there is, could I walk around in most public places or in public view wearing just a speedo or G-string bikini? Just how nude can an innocent nudist be in most public places and in private but public view, a nudist with no intention to alarm, offend, or sexually arouse people through nudity, while remaining free from a conviction? (Beaver Falls, PA)

A: Pennsylvania defines Indecent Exposure as conduct involving a person who “exposes his or her genitals in any public place or in any place where there are present other persons when he or she knows or should know that this conduct is likely to offend, affront or alarm.” Yes, your genitalia must be covered under a strict interpretation of the statute. However, I think you would be pushing the limits by appearing in public dressed in only a speedo or G-string bikini. I have no doubt that some citizen will have an issue with you and the police will be called. The police are likely not to agree with your interpretation of the statute and you will be cited or arrested. My suggestion would be to do this behind a privacy fence in your own yard or join a nudist colony if you are not already a member.

How long do you have to wait for your warrant to be drop?

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.