Category Archives: Criminal Law

What legally could happen to my daughter?

Q: My daughter 19 was in a relationship on and off with a 17-year old male. Both sets of parents knew about relationship. In April, my daughter found out she was pregnant and now the mother of the boy wants to press charges for corruption of minor.

A: Legally, it could happen as he is a minor and she is an adult, even though barely. People on the lower IQ spectrum feed off television and want to put everyone else in jail. Will it happen? I would hope the police will not pursue this and would think cooler heads will prevail. To start young parents off with criminal charges will not serve any purpose other than aggravating the situation. Plus, the defendant may have a judge find her not guilty given the circumstances.

How do I go about representing myself in a criminal trial?

Q: While I was incarcerated I had a Public Defender representing me. After I was released from serving my Parole Violation I reapplied for the PD but was told my wife makes too much. Unfortunately, even at a discount, I cannot afford an attorney. I am already at the trial stage. I have two separate cases being tried and I refuse to take a plea since I am innocent on both cases and I will not let them bully me into a longer record and more time on probation or parole! If I must represent myself then I shall, I am not afraid to put in work on my cases! I only need to know what procedure or motion or petition I need to follow or submit in order to represent myself! I know each county in Pennsylvania can be slightly different and my county (Fayette) seems to follow their own rules, but I know I am afforded the right to represent myself by the US Constitution and they can’t deny that. (Uniontown, PA)

A: No one can advise you what to do without knowing all the facts and all the applicable law. You can probably find a lawyer to work with you. When I was a young lawyer, one of my first jury trial was done at a drastically reduced rate for a career criminal who had learned the law on the job, so to speak, while spending time in state correctional facilities. We ended up with a hung jury the first time, and an acquittal on the retrial. If you want to do this yourself, pro se, all I can say is read, read, read and reread the law. Go get em!

The Commonwealth filed a notice of crimen falsi convictions. What does this mean?

Q: I filed a motion to substitute counsel and the following day the Commonwealth filed a notice of defendant’s crimen falsi convictions. I don’t know what that means and I just put a motion in to get a new attorney because my attorney misled and lied to me the whole time and I put all that in my motion. I’m confused too what this means. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: Crimen Falsi is a Latin word for crimes of falsity, or crimes indicating dishonesty. Apparently, the Commonwealth is positioning itself for a trial with you. They are giving you advanced notice that they will introduce portions of your criminal history which constitute “crimen falsi”, if you choose to testify. These types of crimes are theft, burglary, fraud, receiving stolen property, bad checks, etc. By taking the stand you are putting your credibility at issue. Under the rules of evidence, the Commonwealth has the right to impeach your credibility with past convictions of crimes which demonstrate your past dishonesty, and therefore lack of credibility. When you receive the Notice of Crimen Falsi, you will have the right under the rules to file an objection to it in its entirety or any portion of it. For example, if one of the crimes is a retail theft for a pack of gum 20 years ago when you were 18 years old, you can object to that particular past conviction being stale. You need to research the rules of evidence on this. You should have a lawyer and not try to litigate this yourself because you may end up in jail. Would you perform minor surgery on yourself?

What can I do about this charge? What are my options?

Q: This is my first time being charged with a crime. I was in my car with my friend at a park. There was less than a gram of marijuana in the car and a roach (end of blunt smoked containing some marijuana). A cop car quickly pulled up behind us and a cop got out fast and knocked on my window. My friend had put the small bag of marijuana in his sock and the blunt was left in the center console. We both said the marijuana and blunt was ours to the officer. We were both charged with “Possession of Marijuana” and “Use/Possession of Drug Paraph” labeled as “Misdemeanor”. Please help me with this charge. (Mars, PA)

A: An attorney may be able to get you out of this with no criminal record, especially if you have none. If you try it on your own, and represent yourself, A) the DA and police may persuade you to waive your case to court and hope the District Attorney at the trial level offers you Probation Without Verdict, or, B) they may force you into pleading guilty to a summary Disorderly Conduct at the preliminary hearing. The summary will stay on your record for five years before you can pay to expunge it. Call an attorney.

What are the consequences for Retail Theft?

Q: I am being accused of retail theft second offense, misdemeanor 2. How do I get a copy of video surveillance and what is punishment? (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: To be charged with a Retail Theft Misdemeanor 2, this would need to be your second offense and the merchandise valued under $150.00. You will have better options if represented by an attorney. To obtain the video prior to your preliminary hearing, will require an attorney as the police nor victim have any duty to let you view it at this stage. The attorney can ask to view it informally, and if necessary, request a subpoena duces tecum be issued by the Magisterial District Justice Office having jurisdiction over the matter. If your case is held for court, you can obtain it through the discovery process after the Formal Arraignment. An attorney can better guide you through this maze.

Is it legal for person to distribute an expunged criminal record to third parties?

Q: I’ve been raising my eight-year-old old niece since she was three. On April 15, 2015, I was charged with retail theft and had the record expunged in November of 2016. My niece’s paternal grandmonster was granted visitation rights in June of 2016. Prior to filing the grandmother posted on FB that “I’m a malicious little b**ch” for having FB remove pictures. In a comment to the post she states, “better than going to jail for hitting the b**ch over the head with a bat.” At the first custody hearing she was told to remove all pics by hearing officer, but the day prior to the March 16th hearing she made another profile picture and we showed the master. When leaving the hearing she called me a “f’ n “C” and to watch my back.” Also in March 16th, she called the soccer organization I coach for and told them of my charges. On June 16th, she made a fake FB profile of me. On September 16th, she told me she was going to beat my ass at a child’s birthday party. On December 16th, she called my salon and spoke bad of me and messaged the soccer coach under a fake name. On Jan 17th, she messaged the soccer organization of a copy of my charges she had from June 16th. They were expunged and told my niece she is going to live with them and not see me again. On February 17th, she messaged the soccer organization again. On Mar 16th, I was told about messages from the child. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: This is an unfortunate situation and this behavior is why I significantly reduced my family law practice. As far as someone distributing an expunged record, I do not know how someone can distribute an expunged record if the record has been expunged. If the record is expunged the state police criminal history should show nothing. If what you are saying is that she forwarded copies of your charges to another person, I do not believe you have a lawsuit as normally arrest records are court documents and therefore public information, for all to see. If what you mean is that somehow the expungement petition and related paperwork from the lawyer handling it, were sent to a third party, this is probably not a good law suit either. This happened to one of my clients who stupidly kept his sexual assault expungement papers he received from me in the visor of his truck and his new girlfriend found them. By the way, there are a lot of number 15, 16 and 17’s in your question.

Can child-on-child sexual experiment be charged 7 years later?

Q: I have a 15 year-old and a 10 year-old, age difference is 5 years and 1 day. They apparently experimented with oral copulation, no ejaculation nor sexual attraction. There was no violence was used, however there was a minor threat. Could the 15 year-old be charged 7 plus years after the incident?

A: I am sorry to say that the 15 year-old who is now an adult can be charged as an adult in the adult criminal justice system with felony charges and face incarceration, in addition to Megan’s Law registration. If he or she would have been charged at the time of the alleged offense, the prosecution would have been in juvenile court. As a minor, treatment and therapy would have been ordered with the potential of having the charges withdrawn or expunged. These sex crimes statutes are very powerful. The best you can do is hire a lawyer and defend this. There will be defenses available such as delay in filing (prompt complaint) and lack of physical evidence. In addition, the victim may be appointed a guardian ad-litem and/or assigned victim’s advocate which may make matters worse or better for you as a parent.

Must the Assistant DA need approval from the victims for plea bargain?

Q: I have a case involving multiple counts of different misdemeanors where I am the victim. I live in Pittsburgh, but this incident is pending in Armstrong County. We are up to the Pre-trial Conference stage. I read that this is where the lawyers start to consult and exchange evidence to determine the merit of the case? My question is does the ADA who is representing us have the ability to plea bargain the case without getting our approval to the settlement? Or should we be asked or give our approval to the whether it can be settled or moved to trial? (Monroeville, PA)

A: I can only speak to the practice of the DA in Allegheny County which is to always seek the input of the victim and the police as to any plea agreement. The DA will override any opposition from the police or victim if he or she thinks the position of the police or victim is unreasonable.

Is it against the law to get the same DA you had in a prior case that you were found not guilty?

Q: My husband had a prior child sexual assault case that he was found not guilty of. He recently had another false accusation, and has the same DA. I feel like that is impartial and just like a jury, there should be no ties It is like it’s personal now. Is this against the law, or is there a way we could say since she has prior ties with the last case she’s impartial to this case? (Penn  Hills, PA)

A: No, it happens all the time. If she was in private practice, she could defend him on two criminal cases, one being subsequent. She could also sue him on two civil cases, one being after the other. In either scenario, she may not be able to defend him on the first case, then prosecute him criminally (if she takes a job with the DA) or sue him in civil court, on the second case. Is she prejudiced against him? She could be if she thinks he was guilty of the first case. Will it matter, probably not. If there was prosecutorial misconduct alleged or found in the first prosecution, that could be reason for the defense attorney to file a motion requesting the DA to recuse him or herself from the prosecution.

What do I do?

Q: Supposedly I am being accused of selling to an undercover cop 6 months ago and didn’t hear anything about it. Suddenly, I’m told I had a warrant for my arrest on March 16th. I wouldn’t have even known if I hadn’t gotten a letter from a lawyer in the mail saying I should call them to represent me for my charge which I had no clue I supposedly had! (McCandless, Twp., PA)

A: This is common where the police are using a criminal informant (“CI”), who sets up various “controlled” buys from other people (usually users/addicts) for a period of time which could be months. At the end, all the people targeted are arrested and prosecuted. I have had success in these cases in getting the charges lowered to possession or withdrawn, but it takes a lot of work-motions to produce the CI, to produce records on all the CI’s cases, to release the terms of his or her deal and favorable treatment. Having a lawyer will benefit you greatly.