Category Archives: Criminal Law

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.

After I’m done paying the fine will the charge change?

Q: I pleaded guilty to a M1 charge. They told me they would give me a fine and it will be a non-traffic fine. I’m still paying on the 1100 fine. Will the charge change once the fine is paid off?

A: The fact that you are asking this question is not reassuring that you even know what happened to you in court. A plea to and conviction of a Misdemeanor 1 and a plea to and conviction of a Non-Traffic Summary offense, are entirely different things. A Non-Traffic Summary offense is usually satisfied by fine. A plea to a Misdemeanor 1 will result in confinement or probation or both. If you cannot ask your lawyer who handled this, call the court to see exactly what your sentence was and what you were convicted of.

Can I have a felony warrant for a traffic accident with injury under suspended license?

Q: I was recently involved in a traffic accident involving injury while under suspended license. I was free to leave the scene. I have received the police report and that’s it. My father received a phone call from the sheriff looking for me with a felony warrant. Why is this and what steps should I take? (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: Because your actions arise to felony charges in PA. To be charged with a Felony 1 in these leaving the scene of an accident cases, there needs to be serious bodily injury. The police often charge this if there is just bodily injury, because it is not known at the time they file the charges if the victim has incurred serious bodily injury or not.
3742. Accidents involving death or personal injury.
(a) General rule.–The driver of any vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury or death of any person shall immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the accident or as close thereto as possible but shall then forthwith return to and in every event shall remain at the scene of the accident until he has fulfilled the requirements of section 3744(relating to duty to give information and render aid). Every stop shall be made without obstructing traffic more than is necessary.
(b) Penalties. —
(1) Except as otherwise provided in this section, any person violating this section commits a misdemeanor of the first degree.
Also, if you are operating a motor vehicle and have an accident when you are not licensed, i.e., suspended, revoked, etc., you can be charged with a Felony 3.
Do not make statements to the police and get yourself an attorney.

Why didn’t his time start months ago?

Q: My boyfriend has been in jail for more than 6 months already. He was charged with theft, again, while in jail. The judge sentenced him to 6 more months, to be run concurrent with his other time. So why is his lawyer saying that his time didn’t start till 4 days ago? (Jefferson Hills, PA)

A: I would ask his lawyer first. Just because two sentences are “concurrent” with each other does not mean that they start and stop at the same time, or simultaneously. For example, if he is serving a 6-month sentence that started on January 1, 2018 it would end on June 1, 2018. If he was sentenced to a new 6 -month sentence on March 1, 2018, it will end on September 1, 2018, not June 1, 2018.

My son getting sentence and the lawyer said he has a PSI what is that?

Q: He was in a car with some children and it was a gun in there and everybody in the case died except for him. (Philadelphia, PA)

A: A Pre-Sentence Investigation Report (PISI) is a sentencing aid, prepared by a probation officer to assist the court in understanding the full background and current circumstances of the defendant before sentencing. A PSI probation officer will be assigned. He or she will talk to witnesses, victims, the defendant, gather records and take statements from anyone who can provide relevant information that will help the judge determine an appropriate sentence. The defendant and counsel have the right to review the report prior to sentencing and can object to any portions of it that they dispute.

If I plead not-guilty to summary offense can they add charges?

Q: I got pulled over the other night, I had just left work and before even asking me for my license and insurance he told me to get out of the car. They then searched my car for 45 minutes without my permission and without asking me. They then claim to find money with drug residue on it and are now trying to give me a paraphernalia charge. I’m afraid that if I plead not guilty they’re going to figure out a way of proving there is drug residue on the money. Therefore. I don’t want to be charged with possession because I did not plead guilty to the paraphernalia. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: I would need to know more and therefore advise you to hire an attorney to review the complaint and get more details on the facts. It sounds like you are charged with summary offenses now, but you are wondering if a potential misdemeanor for paraphernalia or possession may be filed? It is possible. The Commonwealth can amend the charges almost at any time before an adjudication occurs. If you are found guilty of the summaries and they later attempt to charge you with the misdemeanors, and the new charges arise from the same event, you may have a double jeopardy argument under PA Rules of Criminal Procedure 109 and 110. However, if you have no criminal record, you may not want to plead to these summaries as they will stay on your record for 5 years until you can expunge them. There are a few issues here for which I think you need counsel.


WTF will happen to me now?


Q: I missed a probation appointment and haven’t contacted my probation officer. She called and said to contact her today or she is putting a warrant out for me! (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: Hmmmmm. That is a tough one. The choice is to call your PO and not go to jail, or ignore her and have a warrant issued, which will land you in jail at some unsuspecting future time. If it is not too late already, call your PO and apologize and think of a damn good excuse for not calling her back. If you call and she says, tough, I already requested a warrant, you have two options. You can turn yourself in and expect to sit awhile in the Allegheny Iron Hilton. Or, you can hire an attorney to prepare a petition to lift detainer which puts a good spin on your screw-up and walk you into the probation judge’s court room. It may or may not keep you out of jail, there is no guarantee.

The Judge refused my guilty plea

Q: I went to my sentencing on August 29th n the judge refused to take my guilty plea. What happens next? (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: You need to ask your attorney. He or she will know. A judge has the discretion to accept or reject a plea bargain. A judge normally rejects a plea bargain because it is too lenient (easy) on the defendant but can also reject because it is too harsh on the defendant (very seldom). My guess is the judge thought your plea deal was too lenient. Your options now are for your attorney to negotiate a different plea bargain, or, choose to go to trial and ask the judge to recuse himself and have the case transferred to another judge.