Can police officer message me from his personal Facebook account?

Q: I was charged with some serious felonies, burglary being the worst of the 11 felonies. The cop has been messaging me on Facebook from his personal account saying that he’s all for God given second chances as long as someone who does the right thing and saying it’ll all pay off for me. So now it’s getting closer to the trial date and he acts as if he never said it. That’s the whole reason why I wasn’t bringing my evidence to the table completely. But now he hasn’t spoken of the two remarks he messaged me on my Facebook from his personal account. It’s almost like he told me that he’s all for giving second chances, so I wouldn’t try to prove my innocence so hard and assume that he was going to help with charges. Can he do that? Can he message me from his personal account on Facebook and say he’s all for giving second chances and then completely fall through on everything? (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: I know of no law which prevents a police officer from doing so if it is related to police work. Police are permitted to use trickery and deception to entice people to admit to criminal activity. It is only when such behavior crosses the line so as it induces someone not normally inclined to commit a particular crime at a particular moment, the entrapment defense can be raised. I would need to know more so I strongly encourage you to discuss this with your attorney

Do PD’s file motions to lift detainers?

Q: If I request for my public defender to file a motion to lift detainer and release to justice related services only, do they have to do so? I want to get my detainer lifted and be put in the care of justice related services. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: Must your PD file a petition to lift detainer if you request him or her to do so? My understanding is that the Allegheny County PD does not do so because detainer work is not a critical stage of prosecution. It is considered extra, peripheral work and them being so overwhelmed with work to begin with, they do not touch detainers. Unless the PD has changed their policy. I was a PD many years ago and that was their policy back in the 90’s. You can hire a private criminal attorney to do so. The other thing you can do is write to JRS and request them to interview you. You can also request your counselor at the jail to contact JRS and facilitate the process.

What is a status conference about?

Q: I have a status conference tomorrow. I am on probation already why would they send for a status conference? I’m on probation but me and my baby momma was arguing about our son and she pressed harassment charges on me but then tried to drop it, but we got the run around ever since. I was just wondering since they didn’t tell me what that status conference is about can I get a continuance until I find out what is happening? I am on probation for 2 grams of pot and have been on probation for about half a year with another 6 months to go. Could they just be checking on how I am doing? (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: I assume your status conference is related to your probation and not the new harassment charge. Assuming I am correct, it sounds like a Gagnon I or initial probation violation hearing to determine, if based on the alleged violation (the harassment charge) you should be sent to jail or allowed to remain at home. If you are doing everything in accordance with the terms and conditions of your probation, your angle is to minimize the new charge as being falsely made and one that will be dropped. You will do better if you are represented by an attorney. If you handle it yourself, you should not speak about the facts of the harassment case to anyone or your statements can be used against you in court.

How do I appoint a godparent to my child in case I die?

Q: How do I legally appoint a godparent to my child in case I die? What is the process? Will it have to be notarized? (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: I have never heard of appointing a godparent though a legal document. However, you can appoint a guardian of his or her person and a trustee of money he or she may inherit, through a Last Will and Testament containing a testamentary trust. I would discuss this with an attorney. A biological parent, if he or she is mentally fit and able to parent will have priority over a guardian of the child you appoint.

Can I lose custody if living with a convicted felon?

Q: I am dating a man with 3 felony convictions. The most recent being 13 years old. Could I lose 50/50 custody of my children? (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: It can be brought up at a custody hearing by the children’s father. Whether it will affect your custody, is up to the judge. Many parents coming before the court have a criminal history which doesn’t necessarily mean they are not qualified to parent. With your case it depends on the facts. How long ago was the conviction, what was it for (hopefully not for child sex crimes) what has he done since, is he clean and responsible now? Do you have a suitable and stable home for the children? You get the idea. Good luck.

Who gets the insurance check?

Q: If a house is owned by several family members and it was damaged, can one family member cash the Insurance check issued for repairs? Brothers and sisters own a house that one sister lived in. It was damaged during a Hurricane. Now the one sister left with the insurance check and won’t return our calls.

A: More information is needed. Who owns the policy? Who is the listed payee or beneficiary? If she pays the premiums and is on the policy as the owner or beneficiary, the insurance company may have no liability if they pay her. You may go after her if she was paid and did not use the proceeds to repair the property. If it is clear-cut case that the proceeds were payable to all owners for the purpose of home repair, she may have committed the crime of Theft. I would get more details from the insurance company, contact a lawyer and possibly the police if certain facts exist.

How do I become a foster parent to my grandkids without having to use a lawyer?

Q: My son and 2 grandkids (3 and 6) have lived with me 6 months. The Mom abandoned them and moved out of the country. The Dad doesn’t want them and is going to give them to me. I can’t afford a lawyer and make too much to qualify for any assistance or insurance. I’m thinking about fostering them, so they will get medical insurance and I will get paid- which I need to be able to raise them. How do I go about it without an attorney? What are the pros and cons? How long should it take?

A: You should consult with a Family Law Attorney. You may have several options. There are some recent amendments to 23 Pa. CS § 5324 which will inure to your benefit. This would allow you to get temporary custody. If going through an attorney to get temporary custody or an adoption does not interest you, you may want to consult with Children Youth and Families of Allegheny County. They may be able to assist you with having the children declared “dependent” if they are without proper parental control or guidance. If you have an appropriate home, you may be appointed by the court as caretakers and be eligible for foster care funding.

Can a warrant be issued for my arrest if I no-show for Civil Court?

Q: I rented a skid loader and took it back and company. They said that I messed up the tires and ignition, but the skid loader started and went off the lowboy when they started it. When I took it off the little-boy the tires were still brand new. I’m being charged for it and they’re charging me a whole month’s rental. (White Oak, PA)

A: Not if it is a civil case. An arrest warrant can only be issued for non-appearance at a criminal case. There are exceptions to this such as if you were under subpoena and failed to appear and the judge issued a bench warrant. Also, under certain Family Court rules, you can be jailed when found in contempt. You need to defend this. If you missed the court date, make sure you contact an attorney and file an appeal in thirty-days.

With POA can she kick me and my daughter out of my mother’s house?

Q: My sister supposedly has a Power of Attorney from my mother. I have never seen any papers and my daughter and myself have been in the house for 20 years. We were taking care of her before my sister put her in a nursing home. She is also signing my mother’s name on checks and papers. (Dorseyville, PA)

A: She is only authorized to perform acts on behalf of your mother that are authorized by the Power of Attorney. In order to determine this, demand to see the POA. If she will not share it with you, call Adult Protective Services and tell them your concerns.

Can my boyfriend evict me from my house if we both own it?

Q: My boyfriend and I own a house. He owns 80% and I own 20%. I recently had a heart attack and am disabled. I have been the only one working for the past 16 years and we have two daughters that live in the home with us. He says because he is a majority owner, he can just kick me out. Is that true? (West Newton, PA)

A: What a guy. To answer your question, no. Based on your facts, I will assume you are in fact an owner as tenants in common. That is the only legal tenancy that would permit percentages to be owned. As having an equitable interest in the house, even if smaller than his, he cannot evict you from real estate that you own. If he persists being an 80% owner, strike a deal with him whereby you share the kitchen and bathroom, as they are essential, and section off 20% of the home with a TV, couch and your favorite amenities and stay away from him. The kids will probably hang out with you