Can I get a public defender to help me with a warrant?

Q: I have a warrant for a simple assault charge. I have a court date coming up. I also want to get a public defender for my court date and to help squash warrant. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: Public Defender’s in Allegheny County do not deal with warrant issues. It is not deemed a critical stage of prosecution. However, you can obtain a Public Defender to represent you on the new charges at the Preliminary Hearing stage. You will need to go to Room 400 of the County Office Building and sign up. You will be appointed counsel if you qualify-meaning if your income is at a certain level.

Can my mother and I sell her home and dissolve the life estate?

My mother is 89 years old and developed mild dementia and heart disease. The doctor does not want her to live by herself, so she has moved in with me. We set the life estate up about 5 years ago after a lawyer assured us it was the right thing to do. I am the only surviving child and do not plan to put mom in a nursing home and will use hospice if needed in the future. I do not want to rent the property because it is about 100 miles from me and would be more trouble than it is worth. Can I sell the property since I am providing my mother with a place to live and am also her caregiver? (Baldwin Borough, PA)

A: I would need to know is the life estate in the deed or a trust and look at the documents. If in a deed, does the life estate terminate upon conditions of her death or her being unable to live in the home independently? If in a trust, the trust will have similar conditions which constitute the ending of the life estate. Who does ownership pass to when the life estate conditions have been fulfilled? If one of the conditions of the life estate terminating is her being unable to live in the home independently, then that condition has been fulfilled and you should be okay. However, you should review the paperwork with attorney for a more definitive answer.

Can I get emergency medical power of attorney for my brother in Tennessee?

Q: I’m in Pittsburgh, my brother is in Nashville. My brother had end stage cirrhosis of the liver and had to have emergency surgery that left him with a permanent ileostomy. He detoxed at the hospital, but he is a chronic alcoholic. His mind is confused, and he is in denial about his entire situation. He has discharged himself several times against doctor’s orders and is in very grave health. He needs to be admitted to the hospital and stay there for medical care. The hospital told me they do not do any type of psychiatric evaluations. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: You need a lawyer who practices in Davidson County, Tennessee. An attorney who does hospital visits would be great. If you brother is competent and willing, the attorney can prepare a POA for your brother to sign. If your brother is not competent to sign documents, the attorney can advise you on the next step which would either using the mental health system to have your brother committed if he is a danger to himself or others, or if necessary, filing a petition in court for you to become his guardian. You really do need an attorney in that location. You can call the county Bar Association to see if they have a lawyer referral program. Good luck with your situation.

Can we commit our alcoholic dad?

Q: My dad is 59 years old and is a chronic alcoholic to the point he is starting to lose his mind. We think he has brain damage from the alcohol. We don’t know what else to do. He’s now homeless never wants to eat and doesn’t want to go to the doctor. Basically, he wants no help he says he wants to die. We know he is very depressed and he is not mentally right anymore. He raised us alone after my mom passed away. I don’t want him to die like this. So how can we have him involuntarily committed? He is a danger to himself. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: If his behavior meets the standard under Section 302 of the PA Mental Health Act regarding being a danger to himself or others, you can probably commit him. There is a plethora of free public information on the subject. You can try calling an organization called “Resolve” for help. You can also call a hospital, the police, or even legal services for a referral. Generally, they need someone to be the petitioner, which can be you if you are willing. Based on what you are saying, he may not meet the standard under 302, but it may be worth a try. You should also call Greenbriar, Gateway and Pyramid. They are drug and alcohol programs with in-patient and out-patient programs and may offer advice. If he can be persuaded perhaps a 28-day detox and in-patient follow-up can save him. Good luck.

My father is in assisted living with Alzheimer’s What do I do with his car?

Q: The car has been parked in front of his condo (which we will eventually sell) for months. We would like to drive the car and keep it at our house. Do I need to transfer title, or can I just put the car on my own car insurance? I am his financial power of attorney, and do not want to do anything unethical. (Hermine, PA)

A: There is a larger picture here that any lawyer would need to know before giving you a definitive answer on what seems like such a minor thing. We would need to know if your father is incompetent. If so, the transfer would need to be through the POA. Very generally, if your father has any foreseeable need to apply for Medicaid in the next five years, a transfer of this vehicle out of his name could subject him to a Medicaid penalty to the extent of the value of the transfer. If Medicaid is not an issue more information would be needed on who the potential heirs of his estate are. If these heirs would ultimately object to transferring the car into your name via the POA (if the POA authorizes such transfers or gifts), as a gift, then it may be an issue. Even using the car which will ultimately be estate property, could be objected to. If you are confident you have no potential Medicaid issues, and you are the only heir, there is less risk here, but I would still consult with a VA attorney.

Can my mother and I sell her home and dissolve the life estate?

Q: My mother is 89 years old and developed mild dementia and heart disease. The doctor does not want her to live by herself, so she has moved in with me. We set the life estate up about 5 years ago after a lawyer assured us it was the right thing to do. I am the only surviving child and do not plan to put mom in a nursing home and will use hospice if needed in the future. I do not want to rent the property because it is about 100 miles from me and would be more trouble than it is worth. Can I sell the property since I am providing my mother with a place to live and am also her caregiver? (Baldwin Borough, PA)

A: I would need to know is the life estate in the deed or a trust and look at the documents. If in a deed, does the life estate terminate upon conditions of her death or her being unable to live in the home independently? If in a trust, the trust will have similar conditions which constitute the ending of the life estate. Who does ownership pass to when the life estate conditions have been fulfilled? If one of the conditions of the life estate terminating is her being unable to live in the home independently, then that condition has been fulfilled and you should be okay. However, you should review the paperwork with attorney for a more definitive answer.

Can my father in law sue me?

Q: My father in law was getting evicted from his apartment he asked if he can stay with us we told him no we don’t have the room. He asked can he store his stuff in our basement we said sure. So, we started moving his stuff in as we were doing this he offered my son his bed and his dresser, so we took the items. We let my father in law stay one night because of the weather and he had nowhere to go. One night turned into 40 nights and then we put our foot down said you gotta go, in so many words. He moved out and he bought the house next door to us and demanded his bed and dresser back. We told him no, in no in so many words, because we can’t afford a new bed and already threw the old one out. Now he is suing us for 2,300 dollars. Does he have a case? He never paid rent and there was no agreement for rent. (Elizabeth, PA)

A: Anybody can sue anybody. It doesn’t mean they will win. No attorney will take the case (I can think of one who would). Will he go to the District Justice Office and sue? Probably not. If he does, will the DJ award him money or the bed to be returned? Probably not. He has no written agreement, it would be your word against his that it was a gift versus conditional loaner furniture.

Can I use this to win the trial?

Q: First-off the cop that was accusing me charged me with a wrong case number and was corrected by the judge. He then tried to say my registration and tags were from different vehicles and on his report literally everything he put down about my car info was wrong. I quickly proved he was wrong and on top of that he never asked me to take a test when he pulled me over but I’m charged with 1547b1. It makes no sense then he told the judge he pulled me over because I had illegal tent but my car has no tent at all he told me my plate was cruked but said some different in court in he never mentioned how he damaged my car trying to find drugs when I only had 2 packs of cigarettes in the car. I know that’s not how probable cause works it’s this because of my race. I feel like I was pressured to plead guilty in fully and did not understand what I was charged with. I did some research and it seems like I was falsely charged. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: You can use it. However, if you present this argument in court the way you present it here, you will likely not win at trial. I think you need a lawyer to help fashion your story into a more understandable and cogent defense. When you say you were pressured to plead guilty, then you need to be aware that there will be no trial to present this defense unless you appeal within thirty days of your conviction or plea. I think you could greatly benefit from having a private lawyer or public defender review this situation.

Can we marry if he is on federal parole and I am on state probation?

Q: Can I being on Probation and house arrest marry my fiancé who is on federal parole? I am on house arrest for my 3rd DUI. He came home 6 months ago from the Federal prison. Are we still able to get married and if so how do we go about it the correct way without getting into extra trouble. (Coraopolis, PA)

A: Sounds like you have some common bonds. I can’t think of anything that would legally prevent your marriage unless it violates the terms of either of your probation about not associating with each other. If it is not specified in the written sentencing order or probation condition documents, the probation officer can still object to you cohabiting due to a history of drugs, domestic violence or other criminal behavior. In that case, you can might be able to put a motion in front of the judge asking that such condition be lifted.

I have my boss on video calling me a liar

Q: I have video footage that my boss called me a liar and that he is willing to do anything to get me disciplined. I am a union bus driver in the City of Pittsburgh. About a month ago I was spit on by passenger a few days later the passenger’s friend who had calmed her down when I threatened to call the police called him claiming that I called the first woman a cow there is no proof one way or the other than the fact that the woman who sent into complained her story does not match up with the video footage mind you there is no audio and so because there is supposed discourteousness towards a passenger I was given three years-probation on a written warning I videotaped the hearing without my boss and knowing and came to find out he thinks I’m nothing but a big liar and states in the video that he has no proof and then because I failed to mention the last thing that she had said to me before she spit on me in the hearing but I had in my written statement he’s claiming that it’s probably fraudulent on my behalf. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: This is hard to follow as written. Your video tape obviously has an audio track. This was an illegal recording if you have audio. PA is a two- person consent state. You can be charged criminally for this. I suggest that you be extremely careful in using this tape. You should speak with an employment discrimination lawyer before you do anything.