Q: I live in Pennsylvania and was attending a wedding California in October 2016. After the arrest, I hired a Sonoma lawyer. I am being told to accept informal probation and I am curious how this could affect my life in PA. Is it public record? Also, I am going through a messy divorce with an 8-year-old so I don’t want this used against me. Thank You. (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: You need to determine if you are entering a plea agreement for a first-time offender’s program that leaves you with no criminal record, like ARD in PA. If that is not the case, my best guess is that you will have a criminal record for a DUI which will be part of a national database. PA will know about it. There is a law called the Interstate Compact, through which all states share information. Also, any driver’s licensing penalties related to a DUI conviction in CA will be imposed by PA. I think you need to call the CA attorney and verify more details as to your plea agreement.
Q: My little sister just passed away and my mind was not in the right place and I was driving drunk and crashed into a neighborhood pool (closed). This is my first mess up on probation and I never been in jail. Do you think I’ll get longer probation or jail time?
A: Much more information would need to be known before any lawyer can answer this question. I suggest you consult with a lawyer immediately. In Allegheny County with a DUI, if you are not ARD eligible, you may receive alternative housing or possibly house arrest, but jail is a possibility too. Again, more information is needed. As you are aware, your probation judge can treat your DUI offense committed while on his or her probation as a probation violation and potentially sentence you to jail or extended probation.
Q: I was charged with DUI and my lawyer wanted to challenge the stop because the cop has a reputation of pulling people over on “hunches”. (the judge ruled the stop was legal). All my paperwork says that I am being charged with DUI 1st offense. Now, 10 months later the court changed my charge from dui 1st offense to DUI 3rd offense. I only found out about this because I looked up my court status online at the clerk of courts. How does the court get an elementary school “do over” when this thing went on for months as a 1st offense?
A: I would need more information to give you a specific answer. However, it sounds like the DA just discovered your prior two DUI’s. They can amend the information when they receive new evidence. This can happen especially if the prior convictions were out of state. Your counsel can object to an amendment of the Criminal Information (charges). However, I don’t know if that would be a valid defense if a jury has not been sworn in and double jeopardy has attached. I believe the Commonwealth can amend their Criminal Information (charges) upon discovering new information. You either have two priors or you don’t have two priors.
Q: I was given ARD probation of one-year for a DUI. This is my tenth month on ARD and have completed all the conditions of my ARD program except for the 30 hours of community service, which I will complete before my ARD term is over. The only other condition I have not completed is the $3,000 in fines and restitution. I am a student and working every day to get a job.
A: You do not want to lose your ARD. Try to get an extension from the ARD probation officer. If you are summoned to the court for an ARD revocation hearing, be prepared. If you cannot afford counsel, bring all records of your bills, and income to prove to the judge that you are trying but are financially limited.
Q: I am in an out of state prison now, due to some bad decisions that I made. I went through Therapeutic Community in the DOC. It was like brainwashing, but I was top of my class. I want to know if this is equivalent, or better than what the DUI court in Allegheny County has ordered be taken and accomplished. And if it qualifies, who do I fax completion forms to.
A: Call Allegheny County Clerk of Courts and ask for the person who handles Act 122 compliance. That person will know. You can also write to him or her.
Q: This is my 1st offense DUI with no injuries but I did refuse the breath test. I don’t live in PA. I live in Michigan. If I’m found guilty or I plead guilty what will my penalty be? Jail time? Fines? I posted a $2000 cash bond. Also, would they extradite from Michigan for failing to appear on it? I guess I’m just asking what I’ll get if found guilty and or if they will extradite? A: Whatever you do, do not blow this off. Get an attorney in Pittsburgh and get advice. Not appearing in court here will end up with a warrant for your arrest which will be active in Michigan. They will not come looking for you with the task force. However, if you have contact with police in Michigan or anywhere, even for something as harmless as a traffic ticket, if they see the warrant, they will take you to jail. You will wait at least 20 days in jail to see if PA will extradite you, which they probably won’t. Handle this now. If you have no prior record, you may be eligible for a first-time offender’s program called Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) which will be like a slap on the wrist, albeit an expensive one. There is no jail time, and more importantly no conviction on your record if you complete the program successfully. Unfortunately, the refusal of the BAC testing will hurt. It is a one year license suspension which will be sent from PennDOT to the DMV in Michigan for enforcement according to Michigan law. I suggest a DUI bicycle. Michigan is relatively flat.
Q: I have been charged with DUI, due to being on prescribed medications. I was arrested and charged only after an officer pulled up behind me because I had a flat tire. My public defender is now refusing to meet with me prior to the morning of my trial date to go over the state’s evidence. I was told that I would have the opportunity/right to go to the PD office to see the discovery, including the officers dash cam video. I’ve requested to make an appointment with my PD and she has refused. What can be done about this and is this illegal? I’ve been on the same prescribed meds for over 10 years and I even have notes from my prescribing doctors stating that they have never witnessed me act or appear “impaired” in any way and that I have always abided by their necessary drug testing and so forth. Even my Psychiatrist and Physician are shocked that I’ve been charged, especially since I wasn’t pulled over for appearing/driving impaired. I have absolutely no prior record at all and this situation just doesn’t seem right or fair, especially the refusal of my public defender to meet with me, prior to my trial date, to go over evidence I to subsequently build a fair and proper defense for my case.
A: You have the absolute right to see the evidence including the video and your attorney should obtain this evidence through discovery and take time to review it with you. The way you describe this, it sounds like you may have a defense. If the officer cannot say you smelled of alcohol, the Commonwealth must either 1) have an expert to say that the blood test revealed an amount of prescribed drugs in your system that was beyond the medically prescribed therapeutic level, and/or, 2) have the officer testify that your behavior and mannerisms rendered you incapable of safe driving. The dash cam video should shed some light on your behavior. If I was your counsel I would have your prescription information ready and your doctor as a witness. I would request to review the Commonwealth’s medical expert’s report. If you cannot hire private counsel, persist with your Public Defender. If she is not helping you, be polite, but insist on speaking with her supervisor.
Q: I got my 1st DUI. Yeah. I got 12-month ARD probation. Can I get it expunged after 6 months? My fines and restitution are paid off and I completed my ARD. I have professional licensure and don’t need an arrest record as public information.
A: Allegheny County’s ARD program will automatically expunge your arrest record when a person has completed all the terms and conditions of probation. They do not expunge until you are finished. You can petition the court to close your case early if you have completed all the requirements and have paid all costs and fines. You would need to have a lawyer petition to close your case. Before doing so that lawyer can ask the probation officer and the Assistant DA if they agree, which will increase your chances of the judge issuing an order to close your case.
Q: On New Year’s Eve, I was pulled over. I had been drinking and also had a small amount of cocaine on driver’s side. I would say .5grams. The passenger had a lot more he also told the police what was on my side was his. I think they found it on the floor of driver’s side. The passenger was arrested. I was compliant and cooperate to the best of my ability with the police. They detained me, took me back to the station. I did a sobriety test there and passed, agreed to a breathalyzer and failed .135. They let me call a friend to pick me up. However, they did not tell me what I was being charged with or given any paper work. What should I expect? DUI, drug charge? Both?
A: I would guess both. The police don’t have to tell you what they are charging you with. Sometimes there are not sure as they need to consult with the chief, a DA, or think about it after writing everything up. You can expect to be arrested by summons. A summons is a written notice for you to come to court for a preliminary arraignment, preliminary hearing, as well as a fingerprinting order. It will be sent to you both by regular mail and certified mail, return receipt. I assume you will be charged with 2 or 3 counts of DUI, possession of cocaine, and any motor vehicle summary offense that the police will use to justify stopping your car. Once you receive these papers, take them to a lawyer. The summons process is permitted under the PA Rules of Criminal Procedure to be used for most misdemeanor arrests when the police feel your contact information shows you have sufficient ties to the community, and will likely show for court. It is better for you than the traditional arrest process which would have resulted in your car impounded and you and you buddy spending the New Year’s Eve and the first day of 2017 in the jail.
Q: I was driving on Christmas Day, at night, on the way to pick up my husband from work. I had a police officer come right up on my car, and pull me over. He was IMMEDIATELY persistent that I was under the influence. I haven’t drunk in 4 years, and I haven’t had any drugs in my system for well over a year. I told him I had nerve damage and have bad balance, and such I failed the old toe to heel walk and was given a blood test. I was then released and went on my merry way (with someone else driving my car, which was not towed, thankfully) after being driven back to my car by the officer. I am on 2 medications (methadone and Elavil) but have been on them long enough that I am very well adjusted (13 months and 12 years respectively) and am not impaired when I take it. What should I expect from here? (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: As you may be aware, you can be charged for DUI based on a police officer’s observations, and/or based on the laboratory result from your blood alcohol testing. Methadone is a controlled substance, as I believe Elavil is. I will assume you have prescriptions for both. To prosecute, the Commonwealth would have to send your blood to a lab which has the capability of determining if the levels of either narcotic exceeded prescribed therapeutic levels. I have had the Commonwealth continue preliminary hearings with these cases numerous times awaiting these lab tests but have never seen a conclusive test. I would not treat this lightly and get prepared. First, contact a lawyer. Secondly, do not make statements to police if they contact you. Third, obtain copies of your past 6-months prescriptions from your physician to show that you are maintaining a legally prescribed dosage and not abusing medication. You can also talk to your doctor about the situation and see if he will draft a letter or provide documents that support your physical limitations.