Category Archives: Criminal Law

Can I be convicted on one person’s word?

Q: I went to store to purchase some items. Some stranger was standing next to me at store. Next day when I went to the same store that random stranger is blaming me for pick pocketing his mobile saying I was the only one standing next to him and when I left his mobile was missing. He doesn’t have any evidence nor any eyewitness and there’s no CCTV as well. Is this evidence enough for conviction? If not, what evidence will state require for conviction? Will I be entitled for benefit of doubt in this case? (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: If in fact, that is the ONLY evidence against you, and the alleged victim did not see you take the phone and can only say you were nearby, I think you have a good defense. The standard for a criminal conviction is that the state must prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The law does permit a person to be not only arrested, but convicted solely on the word of another person. However, in these situations, the person’s word must be extremely believable.

Will I get arrested for lying about drugs on Facebook messenger?

Q: I was trying to convince someone I was messed up so they would leave me alone so I said I was having sex for heroin. After I blocked the man (from Florida) on Facebook he drove to Green Tree (Pittsburgh) and messaged me after I told him I wanted no further contact and said he was going to the DA’s office to report prostitution. I was wondering if I could be arrested for that even though I have no drugs in my system. I was trying to get him to think I was too sick to be involved with him because he wanted me to move with him to Florida when I barely know him. He knows a lot about the legal system though which scares me. (Greentree, PA)

A:  If he is someone that trolls for sex on the internet and is desperate enough to drive to Pittsburgh from Florida for it, it is doubtful he will speak to law enforcement regarding his interactions with you. His threat of reporting you is just more manipulation that he hopes you will fall for. He probably knows the criminal justice system because he has been through it. His actions also sound closer to extortion and harassment.

Will my son go to jail for simple assault?

Q: Back in March my son who has an anger management issue donkey kicked me down the basement steps and I sustained a fracture of my right heel. It was a very significant fracture necessitating surgery and the physician feels that I will continue to have issues the rest of my life because of it. He and his five-year-old daughter had been living with me and now that he was arrested he refuses to let me see my granddaughter. Will he have to pay the medical costs that I have incurred? Will I be awarded any pain and suffering? Will he be forced to let me see my granddaughter or will he get jail time? (Glassport, PA)

A: He is in criminal court. The only decisions will be if he is guilty and if so, does he get jail time or probation. Criminal Court can make anger management counseling part of his probation. Criminal court can order him to pay back restitution (in your case, out of pocket medical expenses) over the course of his probation. Criminal Court can order him to have no contact with you. Criminal Court cannot award pain and suffering. Criminal court cannot do anything with custody of visitation of your daughter. If he gets jail time, unless the mother of the child is able and willing to parent, you may be eligible to be awarded temporary custody in Family Court. You may want to contact a Family lawyer to ask in the event your son is incarcerated, or a no contact order is invoked, if you have standing to file for custody or visitation with your grandchild.

When someone runs a criminal record what shows up?

Q: I’ve always heard after 7 years your criminal record means less. I’m just wondering why? Thank you in advance! (West Homestead, PA)

A: You have heard wrong. There is no expiration date for most criminal records. Under the recent amendments to PA law, you can now expunge a misdemeanor 2 after 10 years of arrest free behavior and a misdemeanor 3 after 7 years of arrest free behavior. Also, summary (Disorderly Conduct, Harassment, etc.) convictions can expunged after 5 years of arrest-free living. Please remember that the arrest record remains in the system even if your case was dismissed, withdrawn or you were not found guilty.

Is it true that if a victim no shows for three court hearings, the case is tossed?

Q: The alleged “victim” in my case has not shown twice at the magistrate to testify against me. The cops are trying to put a felony on me for aggravated assault. The victim started the fight and was only in the hospital overnight. If he fails to appear, will the judge throw the case out? (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: There is no such rule but since I began practicing it is a generally accepted way of operating. The only exception I have seen is where the DA can show some compelling reason.

Why does the state board of pa have my misdemeanor still listed when my name is Googled?

Q: I received a misdemeanor under the Drug and cosmetic Act for Pa State Board of Nursing. For my first offense, I was offered an ARD. I checked my criminal court record numbers, they stated NO RECORDS EXIST. I am job seeking, worried about my record and decided to Google myself. There it is, my name, license number, offense, and punishment of 1-year suspension listed. WTF? This will prevent me from getting a job and now I must explain my misdemeanor. Isn’t that what the auto expungement was for as stated.  I paid my fine in full, finished my probation of 3 months. It is over, the 1-year probation as well starting 4/20/16 to 4/20/17. Why are they listing it still? What gives? I do realize the state board and criminal court are two different entities. I just don’t know what I didn’t’ do correct. Will it go away ever? Please advise. Thank you. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: It sounds like you successfully completed ARD in Allegheny County and the DA expunged your record for you. Your expungement removes all records from criminal data bases such as Allegheny County, the Bureau of Criminal Information, the Uniform Judicial System, the PA State Police and the FBI. There is no way for the expungement order to reach the hundreds of criminal record search websites proliferating the internet. It is possible that one or more than one of them have your arrest record posted. You can send them a certified letter demanding them to remove it or correct it. It is most likely that a future employer in PA will run your record through the PA State Police and not rely on any of the hundreds of rogue websites that provide this “service.” You can always answer, I was never convicted of a crime, truthfully. If asked were you ever arrested, you will have to say yes. Additionally, if the state board took some action against you, that has nothing to do with criminal court. That information is controlled by whatever board you are licensed by. If their disciplinary action against you was posted on the internet, you must ask them why so and how to remove it.

How can a Judge deny my right to withdraw my guilty plea?

Q: I pleaded guilty because I was promised Drug Court. The deal exploded and the DA refused to agree but I entered the plea anyway as I was nervous and my attorney was little help. Can the Judge deny my right to withdraw my plea? I have not been sentenced yet and have no idea what my sentence will be and don’t trust anyone. Is there a civil rights violation here?

A: You can file a petition to withdraw your plea at any time prior to sentencing. You must file a written motion making the request. The decision is entirely in the judge’s discretion. Usually such requests are granted. Be aware however, that now you will face trial unless you can negotiate a deal with the DA that is acceptable to you. I do not see a civil rights violation here.


Can I carry prescription medicine in an unmarked bottle?

Q: I carry my prescription medicine in an unmarked plastic bottle. I was recently questioned by building security when entering a building during a search of my back pack. They said I need to carry all prescription pills in their prescription bottles. I cannot find a law on this. I need to know as I pass security points in the courts of my job. (Scott Township, PA)

A: I know of no such law. If there is such a law, all those senior citizens with the pill counter containers will be busted. There is no doubt that you will attract law enforcement with your pills in an unmarked container if you are subject to been screened at airports or buildings. The issue is whether you have a current prescription. I would therefore keep my written prescription folded in my wallet.

Can I beat this?

Q: I was pulled over for out registration and police call tow truck driver for a tow. Police officer said he would take inventory of car so I could grab what I need but never did because he also was responding to a disable tractor trailer. I asked him to grab my girlfriend’s wallet. The cop goes into car lifts the center console and grabs it but I never got it. Tow truck pulls up. Tow driver was about to load car then. He opens driver side door reaches in. Then flags down officer and walks him over to say that there was a bag of marijuana on the floor. I am getting charged. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: You have a Fourth Amendment right against illegal searches. However, here it sounds like a tow truck driver alleges to have found the marijuana while performing his job and in in plain view. If the tow truck driver had a legitimate reason to be in the car and the marijuana is in plain view, you will have no Fourth Amendment protection. If that is what the tow truck driver will testify to, you may have a problem. The marijuana belongs to either you, your girlfriend or was planted by the cop or tow truck driver. The latter two are unlikely and hard to prove. The tow truck driver is a necessary witness. If you want to fight this, I would hire a lawyer for the preliminary hearing to make sure the tow truck driver appears and to cross examine him on the details. If this is a small amount of marijuana and you have no record, you may be able to get out of this with no conviction with the guidance of a good attorney.

Will I get jail time for first-time probation violation?

Q: I was in subway with friend and they got into a fight. I was pulled in middle of situation but, didn’t have anything to do with me. We both were arrested. Now I go to court. I didn’t start anything just defended myself. (Castle Shannon, PA)

A: You need to inform your probation officer. Normally, he or she will wait until the preliminary hearing and see if your case is held for court or not, before he or she will file for a violation. Your goal is to get your case dismissed or at the most pleaded down to a summary conviction at the preliminary hearing. If it is dismissed, you may not face a probation violation. If you end up pleading to, or being found guilty of, a summary Disorderly Conduct, the PO may or may not file for a violation given that a summary conviction on probation is considered a technical violation of probation. I would get a lawyer for the preliminary hearing. A lot of times, victims in these situations do not show for court.