Category Archives: Criminal Law

Can I be charged two times for the same misdemeanor?

Q: I had a detainer for my probation. I got arrested. I paid my fines and they let me out. My probation officer told me that the case was closed. I got stopped by police and they arrested me for a warrant but it’s the same docket number. It is the same case. I told the police that and they told me to tell it to the judge. What should I do? (Beechview, Pgh., PA)

A: I am not sure what happened to you and would need to look at the docket and paperwork before reaching any conclusions. However, you can be arrested twice for the same offense but never prosecuted and convicted of the same offense. Mistakes happen and sometimes people are picked up on warrants that have been cleared or quashed. However, if charges are filed on an incident which you have already been adjudicated on (found guilty or dismissed by a court, after a hearing) that constitutes double jeopardy under PA Rule of Criminal Procedure 109 and 110.

How much time for Intent to Possess of a Controlled Substance with a record?

Q: I was sitting in the car all night getting high and I woke up to the police knocking on the window. I opened the door and I had drugs laying on my shirt. (Union City, PA)

A: This is difficult to give a reasonably accurate answer without more information. Generally, the courts sentence according to the sentencing guidelines which are a complex matrix of numbers. The two key factors in the guidelines are the Offense Gravity Score (OGS) which is a number assigned to each offense based on how serious it is, and the Prior Records Score (PRS) which is a number based on the individual’s prior records score. The OGS for Possession of a Controlled Substance will be low as it is an ungraded misdemeanor, but the unknown factor here is the OGS. In larger counties like Allegheny and Philadelphia, possession of a controlled substance usually results in probation. However, in smaller counties, a jail sentence is possible, even for possession of marijuana. Ask your private or public lawyer, they will know.

What do I do? A detective shows up at my door harassing me?

Q: A certain detective came to my house and pounded on the door until I came out. He talked about me being in a certain place and kept saying I knew why he was there and “don’t bullshit me!” I told him to get a warrant and get off my property. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: It may mean that he has no evidence, or not enough evidence and by getting you supply the details, he will have enough evidence to arrest and maybe convict you. For example, if you say something like, “yeah, I was there, but I didn’t do anything”, that puts you at the scene which he may have not known or can only establish through some sketchy witness. Now, you have admitted to being at the scene, and he has enough to arrest you. So, the advice of most attorneys would be to say nothing and hire an attorney. You have a 5th Amendment right to not incriminate yourself.

If you are a minor can a probation officer watch you pee?

Q: I am on juvenile probation, and someone told me this is not allowed. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: If you are female and he is a male (or opposite sexes), it should not be happening. If you are the same sex and he or she is legitimately monitoring urine tests, it is allowed. If it goes beyond that, you need to report it. (Pittsburgh, PA)

Can you get probation on a Felony 3 charge?

Q: My fiancé had 4 charges against him and it got reduced to 1 charge to an f3 he took the plea bargain that the public defender told him to take. The judge took his plea and said she advises him he might face a possible seven years and a $15,000.00 fine. What does that mean. Will he get probation, or does he go straight to doing that time? (Pittsburgh, PA)

A:  The Judge must read the statutory maximum a defendant is facing at sentencing but rarely sentences to the statutory maximum. The judges follow a matrix called the “sentencing guidelines” and normally sentence within the guidelines. If they do not sentence within the guidelines, they must state specific reasons on the record for issuing a sentence above or below the guidelines. If they do not they can be appealed. The sentencing guideline matrix factors in the Offense Gravity Score (OGS) based on how serious the crime is and the Prior Record Score (PRS) based on how many and what type of prior criminal convictions the person has. In larger counties such as Allegheny or Philadelphia, having no criminal record or having a minor criminal record can be a probation sentence on a Felony 3. Smaller counties tend to issue higher sentences, but I think with no criminal record or a minor one, probation is possible. You should ask the Public Defender. They do this every day and are very competent. The PD has the guidelines in her head and will know the tendencies of the judge when it comes to sentencing.

What is the Pennsylvania law for stacking drug charges?

Q: My husband has multiple drug charges. Many are the same charges multiple times. We just want to know what the PA law is against stacking of charges. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: A judge can stack or run what is called run “consecutive”, each count on a Criminal Information. However, many crimes which contain the same elements and arise out of the same event, merge for sentencing, and therefore the judge can combine the sentence on more than one charge for sentencing purposes. I would have to look at the charges to opine as to which charges merge.

Can I be charged with possession if drugs were found in driver’s car?

Q: I was a passenger in a vehicle. We stopped to pump gas and I was in the store with the driver. When we came out of the store an officer called the driver over to him for an arrest warrant. The car was searched, and a syringe and 1 stamp bag were found. I was released. The driver is now claiming it was mine. Can I be charged? (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: Yes, you can be charged. Can you be convicted? It depends on the facts. Where contraband is found in a car that both occupants had access to, it is difficult for the Commonwealth to convict one of the occupants if both are denying. Him owning the car works in your favor. If the contraband was found in the glove box or in the consul, that works in your favor. If under your seat, that works in his favor. Consult with a criminal defense attorney and be prepared for your Preliminary Hearing.

I found out my boyfriend set up his old cell phone in my bedroom

Q: I found out my boyfriend set up his old cell phone in my bedroom and has been remotely accessing it through his new Samsung galaxy phone while working out of town. I found out for sure it’s a live feed type of situation because I could hear background noise on his phone when everything was silent at my house. I confronted him eventually after recording myself calling him was blocked on my home phone twice and you could hear him say hello through the planted phone and then the noise his phone makes when a call is dropped because I hung up. Right after that he messaged me and asked if I called & hung up. Is that enough to prove he accessed it? Should I give that cell phone back to him or do I need that phone in hand. I have three minor daughters in adolescence and one under 10yrs old. He is a malicious and vindictive type of person who has been threatening and blackmailing me threats of exploiting intimate materials of myself. (Uniontown, PA)

A: What he is doing, at least from what you posted, sounds like a crime. I would talk to the police. Save all evidence you can including texts and calls. If you have his phone, save that as well for the police. If he was recording you without your knowledge, you may also have grounds for a civil suit, but I would get the criminal started first.

If someone punched my van can I get arrested for pushing them?

Q: This week I pulled over in a school parking lot to try and figure out my GPS and someone was yelling. This man came out yelling that I had to move, and he punched my new van leaving a dent in it. I pushed him, now the police called me saying I need to come in for an interview. Can they arrest me for pushing him and what can they charge me with and what can I charge him with? (Monroeville, PA)

A: Yes, the police can file charges against you. They could file anything from a misdemeanor Simple Assault down to a summary level Harassment. It is highly advisable that you not discuss what happened with the police. However, you can cooperate in making yourself available to receive charges. Tell them on advice of counsel, you cannot talk to them, but tell them you will accept papers in the mail or turn yourself in if necessary. You also should report this incident to your insurance company. You can ask the police to file criminal mischief charges against him for damaging your van. They may or may not take your charges against him. Police hate to file cross criminal complaints and therefore usually file charges on behalf of the first person who contacts them. This isn’t fair but that is the way it has always been.

There is no evidence, but I am accused of recklessly endangering?

Q: My mother and her husband engaged in a verbal argument, it got physical, she proceeded towards my location further down the street not knowing I was at my girlfriend’s residence on the porch. While making her way towards me, she then collapsed, and hit her skull on the ground. It appeared to me as an overdose, while kneeling to her aid I told my girlfriend to call 911. Her husband began to get irate, insisting they leave, and she did not need medical attention. I ignored him, moments later her he reached for my fully loaded firearm. It’s was holstered up against my spine, while I was kneeling to my mother the position became comprised, I realized what he was attempting to do, and struck him with my left elbow and gained control over my weapon with my right hand, I then removed the gun from behind me to my side, barrel facing towards the ground. Later the police alleged that I put the firearms to my step father’s head. I am now being charged with recklessly endangering another person. If this is a one person’s word against another’s, you have a good shot at a not-guilty verdict at trial. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: I am assuming your mother’s husband alleges you pointed the gun at his head. That would be the evidence. Evidence does not necessarily have to be in the form of videotape. So, as you have just learned, charges can be based on victim testimony. You have the right to defend yourself and counter the victim’s story with your own testimony and testimony of other witnesses if there are any. I suggest since this case involves a gun, a felony and potential jail sentence, that you consult with a lawyer.