Category Archives: Criminal Law

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.

I’m on Westmoreland County probation till July.

Q: My husband I go to a local Fireman’s club that we are members of. They have a class C liquor license and serve food. I’ve been a member there for four years. I went to renew my membership and the club escorted me out. They told me I am banned because I’m on county probation. I do not drink. We sit at a table and have some food. They knew I was on probation and never said anything. I know that a kid went to the steward and told on me. Is there anything in the liquor control law statue on private clubs and serving members if they are on probation? I have my probation conditions that state I may not consume alcohol or use any type of drugs (which I do not). Nowhere on my conditions set forth by the county or court say I can’t be in a private membership club.

A: This is not a public place. A private club can set its rules as they wish, if those rules don’t conflict with state or federal law. If their by-laws and club rules do not allow persons on probation to be in the premises, there is not much you can do about it. Your house is private property, and you can tell anyone present to leave if you do not want them in your house. If they do not leave, they are a trespasser. I imagine no private club wants probation officers stopping in to check on defendants.

What kind of time may be imposed for a repeat offender?

Q: If someone has past assault charges, both misdemeanors and felonies, and is now facing a charge of unlawful restraint and another simple assault charge what kind of prison time may they be facing? (Coraopolis, PA)

A:  No one can answer this question without much more information. For example, first and foremost, the criminal history of the defendant and how the charges are graded (sentencing guidelines), the particular circumstances of this case, the position of the DA and the personality of the judge.

CRIMINAL LAW, ASSAULT, SENTENCE

Sexting

Q: Hi. I met a woman on a site where you post Snapchat names claiming to be 18-20. I asked her age and she said 18 on two separate occasions. She sent me no nude pics but I did send a nude picture of myself. She sent a video sucking on a pen and selfies. Again, no nudity from her. I have no reason to suspect she lied about her age but now I am stressed if she did. What is the outcome if she lied? (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: Whatever you do, do not send her “father” a gift card in exchange for his promise not to prosecute.

Will I get in trouble?

Q: I was in a gas station last night and no one was in there, the cashier probably in the bathroom. I took an item under 5 dollars, the cameras most likely didn’t see me. Just due to the fact on how I did it. If they somehow found out or see footage what can happen? Will they press charges since it was under 5 dollars? I feel horrible for what I did since I never do anything like that but I want to know what are the steps in this case. (West Mifflin, PA)

A: If they have evidence against you, can identify you, and wish to press charges, they can charge you. You will be charged with a summary Retail Theft offense and it can be sent via the summons process, which is basically by mail. Usually it is mailed both certified mail, return receipt and regular mail. If you receive such mailing, see a lawyer immediately.