Category Archives: Juvenile Law

Will I go to jail? I am a minor and an honors student.

Q: I’m on probation for selling drugs turned from felony to misdemeanor. I’m 17 years old and recently am going to court for DUI. I got pulled over and admitted I had been drinking. I know I will need a lawyer. What will most likely happen in court since I also violated my probation. Also, I don’t think I’ll be able to get a lawyer because of my family income.

A: Being arrested while on probation, will be considered a probation violation, if you are adjudicated delinquent of the new offense. This means the probation judge can hold a probation violation and sentence you on the probation violation. You need to stop doing whatever it is that you are doing, and, try to get a lawyer. Apply to the Public Defender. If you qualify, you will be assigned a lawyer. A good lawyer can look at the case to see if you have a defense, and if not, mitigate your damages. You will also receive a lengthy driver’s license suspension for DUI while being a minor. The biggest challenge will be to prevent you from getting a criminal record. The juvenile court system is designed to rehabilitate youth and not to punish-at least it is thought to be. My thought is that either of your judges will be inclined to order more intense drug and alcohol counseling through your probation. You may want to be proactive and get yourself a Drug and Alcohol evaluation and follow any treatment recommended before the final court date on your case.

Can her mother and step dad search her bedroom?

Q: She is 17 years old. They go into her room when she is at school and go through everything just to see if they can find something. The step dad is the worse about doing it. She has no privacy whatsoever. Can she get a restraining order or PFA?

A: In PA, she is a child until she reaches the age of majority at age 18. Even if she is 18, and living in her parent’s home, she has no privacy rights unless she is paying rent pursuant to a lease, assuming she does not own the property. She would not qualify for a Protection from Abuse Order if there is no violence. She can petition the court to become emancipated, which sounds attractive to kids, but is normally unrealistic as she would need to prove that she can sustain herself independently of her parents (rent, food, health insurance, etc.) I think she needs to play by the rules at home. If she is not hiding drugs or having on-line contact with sexual predators, she should have no problem.

My daughter was cited with underage drinking at a party but she was not drinking!

Q: My 17-year-old daughter was cited tonight for underage drinking at a house party. The cop said she wasn’t drinking. She will lose her license and be fined. Do we have recourse?

A: I believe the statute (6308) applies to possessing, transporting or consuming. If she did any one of those she can be cited. Many times, officers cite all the kids at a party, even when they don’t have evidence against all of them. If the officer will state the she didn’t drink, possess or transport the alcoholic beverages, he may withdraw the citation. She may have a defense if he does not. Whatever you do, do not have her plead guilty. As you already know, being found guilty of this summary non-traffic offense will result in a driver’s license suspension and will remain on her record for five years before she can expunge it. If she has no defense, there is a program (if offered) for first time underage drinking offenders that will involve the charges being withdraw. (Munhall, PA)

Is it legal for a 19-year-old to produce homebrewed beverages?

Q: I’ve always been interested in experimenting with the possibility of homebrewed beverages, and am curious if I truly need to wait to start trying different things out. Assuming I DO NOT CONSUME what, I produce, and do so with direct supervision of someone over 21 in their home, with them maintaining possession of the drink the entire time, would I be legally allowed? (North Strabane Township, PA.

A: Probably not a good idea. Under Title 18 section 6308 of the PA Crimes Code, a minor (under age 21) cannot consume, transport or possess alcohol. It would be hard to argue that you do not possess it if you are making it. Maybe stick with non-alcoholic beer or root beer.

Can my friends be issued a subpoena?

Q: My three friends and I were caught in a car with a bookbag that had marijuana and marijuana related paraphernalia in it. The car was not turned on or moving. It was just really cold and windy so we got in the car to smoke. I took full responsibility and my friends weren’t charged. It’s been over a month and I haven’t been charged yet, but I know it’s coming. Is there a chance my friends will get subpoenaed once I get charged?

A: Your friends may likely be arrested with you, assuming the officer took their information. Since you took the blame they may not be. It is up to the officer. If there is evidence of MJ being smoked in the car, there is a greater chance all will be arrested through the summons process. Tell your parents and have them get you a lawyer. There may be a defense here in lack of probable cause and if not there are other options than pleading guilty so you can avoid a criminal conviction.

Would it be a violation of probation to be signed out of high school at 16?

Q: I recently started probation and I’ve been failing my classes for a while now and making no significant progress. Parents said if I don’t improve my grades they’ll sign me out and I’ll have to get a job. So, if they were to sign me out would it be a violation? And would getting a job soon after being signed out make it any better or not a violation if it is?

A: If staying in school is a condition of your probation, then yes. If you leave school, it would be a violation of your judges’ probation conditions. Education in PA is compulsory until age 17. This means you must stay in school until age 17. At age 17 you can sign yourself out. Until then, you cannot miss school unless you have a valid excuse, such as a note from your doctor. If you miss school without an excuse, your parents can be cited for truancy, summoned to the District Justice and fined. If you are failing, you may want to talk to your counselor about an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or an alternative school or cyber school. Stay in school and get your diploma.


Q: Can a minor be charged with a felony? (forgery, bad checks, theft by deception) What is the punishment? Checks were taken from a friend’s grandparents, their signatures forged, and the checks cashed. Two people were involved, one a minor and one an adult. The adult is currently incarcerated, but the minor would like to turn herself in for the crimes they helped commit. The minor participated willingly in the acts and is fully willing to take a punishment, given the punishment on the adult is lessened.

A:  Yes, minors can be charged with just about all of the charges an adult can be charged with. The charges are filed in juvenile court. This minor and his parents should speak to an experienced lawyer in your county, before turning himself in and confessing. He may or may not have a defense. The police may or may not have enough evidence to charge him. If there is no defense, he can accept whatever punishment they are offering. If sentenced in juvenile court, the possible sentences would depend on this juvenile’s prior criminal history among many other things. If he has a good background, he could possibly receive a Consent Decree followed by probation which does not result in a conviction, if he completed probation successfully. The other more severe sentences moving up the scale would be, electronic home monitoring and probation, regular probation, or placement in a juvenile facility.

Do I plead guilty to underage drinking?

Q: I got papers in the mail saying I am being charged with 6308 Purchase, Consumption, Transportation of Alcoholic Beverage By A Minor. It’s says it is a fine and a court date. If I plead guilty and pay the fine, do I have to go to the court date and will I have anything else other then the fine?

A: Don’t check the guilty box. Plead not guilty and send the required funds in. Many magistrates offer a first time offenders program whereby you attend a class and get the charge dismissed. If this is not a certainty, hire a lawyer to push the issue. If you plead guilty on your own, you will receive a summary conviction on your record for 5 years and a 6 months driver’s license suspension.

What is my first step in obtaining custody if I have no proof I am the father?

Q: My daughter was taken away and kept from me pretty much her whole life and never knew me. She is now involved in DFS or Child Protective Services in the state of Florida she is currently in Pennsylvania in a shelter waiting for transport to Florida. Her mother doesn’t want her but there is no proof of that. When she gets to Florida she will be placed in a youth facility.

A:The family courts and Children Youth and Families (CYF) are directed to find relatives for children in placement. They call it “family finding”. Since this child is physically in PA, you can try a few things. Call CYF and tell them you want to be a caretaker. They may work with you but there is a possibility that the child is on her way to FLA where it appears there is jurisdiction? An attorney experienced in Juvenile Dependency law can help you immensely. If you cannot afford an attorney, you should call the Allegheny County Bar Foundation, Juvenile Court Project. 412-391-4467. If you qualify for representation, you will have an excellent attorney at no cost. The idea is, if you are serious, get involved now.


Can I get a suspended sentence for 2nd underage drinking?

Q: I caught a 2nd underage drinking charge. I didn’t face jail time the first time, but I imagine the judge isn’t gonna be happy to see me again. Is there any way I could get my lawyer to work out a suspended sentence for me, or some other way to avoid jail time?

A: If the first section 6308 summary didn’t get you a 90 day license suspension because you somehow avoided a conviction for being a first time offender, this new 6308 will carry a one year driver’s license suspension. I would hire an attorney. An attorney may be able to advise you on how to avoid a conviction, if possible.