Can my nephew come home if on probation?

Q: My nephew was arrested in Washington County but lives in Glassport. Now on probation. Does he have to stay in that county while on probation. He took a plea bargain as opposed to jail time and is on probation 3 years for a felony he didn’t commit. (Glassport, PA)

A: Normally, probation can be transferred to another county. This is not always true with house arrest or alternative housing. Ideally, he should ask the judge at sentencing to transfer jurisdiction of his sentence to Allegheny and then ask his probation officer to. It should be no problem.

Will a speeding ticket in MD put points on my PA license?

Q: I was pulled over for going 10mph over the limit, but the trooper was kind and only gave me a ticket for going 9mph over as I have never had a moving violation on my record in the 19 years I’ve been driving. I deserve the ticket and will pay the fine, but I really do not want any points on my license as my insurance is already going up moving to Maryland. Should I mitigate the ticket to keep it off my record and the points off my license or just take the hit?(Pittsburgh, PA)

A: 6-10 miles over in PA is 2 points on your record. PA and MD have reciprocity through the IC. My guess is that PennDOT will assess 2 points when the information from the MD DMV is received. Plead not guilty, go to the hearing and ask the trooper if he can make it 5 over, so you get no points in PA. He may not care since he will get his conviction, MD will get its $ and you were nice.

Can I be sued by the former cult I was a member of?

Q: I was a member of a cult for decades. They practice shunning and have split up many families over the years. I have created a website to warn potential visitors and current members about the church. I signed a NDA while I was there. I am wondering if that is enforceable, what the line is between stating facts, vs slander/libel and are there any limits on my speech. I am commenting on their 4 churches in PA, OH, and ME. (Cranberry Twp., PA)

A: The Non-Disclosure Agreement must be read. Truth is generally a defense to a libel or slander suit. However, if the NDA is restrictive enough, you could be liable for any sort of disclosure. Some of these cults have lots of money and pursue legal action against former members aggressively.

Can a debt collector garnish my wages?

Q: Can a debt collector garnish my wages for an overdrawn bank account? Some time ago I had an account that someone else had access to and it was overdrawn. Now a firm is threatening to garnish my wages. They call me now twice a day. Can they do that? (Washington, PA)

A: To my knowledge, in PA, wage garnishment is limited to taxes, child support, and criminal restitution. What this “debt collector” is doing may violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and subject them to fines and possibly compensation to you. You should contact an attorney who handles consumer law.

Can I charge finder’s fee for a cell phone I found?

Q: If I find a cell phone, can I contact the owner and charge a fee to return the phone to the original owner? Can I sue City of Pittsburgh for a fee? Is it lost and found property? Specifically, I am talking about cell phones. What type of Attorney is needed and who in Pittsburgh, PA practices such law? Is there a limit I can charge? Is this illegal? Can the Pittsburgh police threaten felony charges on me (because he’s doing an investigation on someone else who steals phones then charges people to get them back) whereas I found phone, negotiated a fee (price) to return phone to owner, owner agrees to price, then when meet police show up (obviously the owner called them beforehand because he wants to get phone back free) then police try to threaten me to give ID ‘because investigating similar case’ AND to give phone to officer for free for him to hand over to owner. When he asked for phone I said it’s XX $. The owner has agreed to a price to get his cell back. He then repeats he’s investigating a case similar to this and he’s including me in it -and some other talk. -then when I hand over the phone, he then says, ok so I just took you out of the investigation on that point so your no longer being investigated. Then as we talk casually for the next several minutes -he says I knew you weren’t the guy I’m investigating because we have video footage of him. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: There is a crime in Pennsylvania called “Theft of property lost, mislaid, or delivered by mistake.” 18 Pa.C.S.A. Section 3924 of the PA Crimes Code. The statute says that someone who finds the property of another is guilty of a crime “if, with intent to deprive the owner thereof, he fails to take reasonable measures to restore the property to a person entitled to have it.” I think you are lucky the police did not arrest you and naïve to think you would get away. My suggestion is to cease this type of behavior.

How to avoid jailtime?

Q: I accidentally missed court, so I rescheduled my date. Unfortunately, I missed the second date. The court asked me to come in in two days to try and clear the warrant. What should I do in order to show the judge I’m taking my case seriously and should not be arrested? (Munhall, PA)

A: Show up for court this time. If you can afford a lawyer bring one with you. If you go in alone, dress like you are going to a funeral-your own (just kidding). More importantly, be respectful, apologize and don’t lie if you are not extremely good at it. The judge will probably not incarcerate and reinstate your bond if it was revoked. Just in case, bring your tooth brush.

What are my rights on a property if mom died without a will?

Q: Mom died without a will. She has a living son and step-father. Step-father did not adopt the son. Step father is not willing to divide the property or the items in the property. Just need to know what our options are? (Kittanning, PA)

A: If I understand this correctly, mom died without a will and was survived by a son and a step-father to the son, her husband? If I am correct my answer is as follows. Since mom has no will, the Pennsylvania intestate (no will) statute applies. That statute related to these facts would result in the husband getting the first 30K from mother’s estate (things in her name only) and the husband and her son would share the balance. You would need to make sure she is on deed alone, or on the deed with her deceased husband, for this result. If she and her husband are on the deed as husband and wife (tenants by the entireties), he now owns the property.

My docket sheet from June 2016 still says awaiting A.R.D. completion?

Q: Two years-ago I ended up in ARD and the docket still says awaiting completion. I just finished my community service Wednesday and it still allows me to pay my fines off so I’m not sure if I’m still on it or not. (East Pittsburgh, PA)

A: ARD will not close the case until ALL the requirements of your ARD conditions are completed. This includes all costs and fines, classes, community service, if ordered, etc., etc. The idea is to get through ARD as fast as you can afford it to get off probation.

How can I fight a texting while driving ticket?

Q: I got a ticket for texting while driving. I explained I was looking at my phone because I was looking at the GPS. I even told the officer he could check my text messages to see I wasn’t texting while driving, he didn’t do it instead he responded that I was still distracted. I really want to fight it, but I would prefer to get lawyer that doesn’t cost more than the ticket. (Wilkinsburg, PA)

A: I believe the statute precludes texting and does not include talking on a cell phone or using GPS. The officer can say what he wants, but if you did not admit to texting, and have your phone or phone records to support your defense, you should not be convicted. I would bring my phone and testify that you were not texting. You can enter your text log as an exhibit. You can also order your phone records from your cell phone carrier if you think you need better evidence.

Will I be looking at jail time driving on a suspended license while on state parole?

Q: My husband is on state parole and has been doing very well staying out of trouble. However, this past week I had issues with my car, and it broke down and I was hysterical crying. He had offered to drive although he has a suspended license due to his legal issues. We ended up getting pulled over and my husband was very compliant and explained he does not have a license. The police officer ended up issuing 3 tickets; 1 for inspection, 1 for fail to change address and the last for driving with a suspended license due to a prior DUI offense. Today we got a court hearing notice for the tickets and our main concern is if he will have to do jail time considering this would be a violation of his parole. For being on good behavior, he did just step down in his program so it’s not so intense for his PO to do check in. Is it worth seeing if there is a possibility for house arrest or extended parole sentence as opposed to jail time? We are trying to prepare ourselves in this matter and plan accordingly for what our options may be, if any. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: Your husband is only charged with summary level motor vehicle offenses. Summary level motor vehicle offense convictions on parole are only considered to be technical violations of probation or parole, and hence not subject to penalties invoked if one is a “convicted violator” as in being convicted of a misdemeanor or felony while on parole. If he is convicted of the 1543 driving under suspension, his parole officer could recommend no action being taken, sanctions or a small amount of jail time. As far as the 1543, this carries a 60 days jail sentence for a first offense, but Allegheny County offers electronic monitoring house arrest. Make sure he has an attorney. Depending on the Assistant DA and the officer, this case could be pleaded down to a 1501 or 1511. Neither of those carry a jail sentence or license suspension. I have luck with these cases, but it really depends if law enforcement wants to give him a break.