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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Q: I got a gift for my birthday which was a lottery ticket and don’t know if I can cash it. (South Park, PA)
A: The lottery is legalized gambling, the operative word being “legalized”. Unless the terms and conditions of your probation prohibit going to Casino’s or buying scratch cards, you should be OK.
Q: I was in a neighboring county enjoying myself at the annual fair grounds. Apparently, I unknowingly ingested synthetic cannabis, but I don’t remember even having it or smoking it. The police report only states that I ingested it. Not that it was found on my person. Also, it states that I was found passed out and when I awoke I was handcuffed for being combative. I was taken to the hospital. No charges were filed. I was dehydrated, and they gave me sodium chloride to give my body fluids and a sedative called Ativan. When they gave me papers it said that I overdosed accidentally on the summary from the hospital. (Sewickley, PA)
A: Sounds like a good time. Maybe, maybe not. If you were cited or charged with a crime or non-traffic offense, it is more likely. I would look at your probation papers to see what your conditions are. In many counties, the probation office gives you a document which specifies your conditions. If one of the conditions is that you must report any new arrest or citation, then you run the risk by not doing so. Your conditions probably state that you must refrain from using drugs or alcohol but do not require you to report such use. My guess is that your PO should not know of it unless the officer who handled your hospital trip, runs your record, sees your prior case, knows you are on probation and calls your PO. It happens. Not to lecture you, but you could have died from whatever you ingested or have been seriously injured. Hopefully you will learn from this experience.
Q: I am receiving calls from a mediation service for a debt I’m not sure I even owe. I have dealt with the company they claim to represent about 3 years ago. They have threatened to file felony theft charges with the district attorney if I do not pay immediately. (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: They sound like scammers, flim-flam men, con-artists, shysters, grifters, sleaze merchants, crooks, fleecers, con artists, hustlers, swindlers, bilkers, bunco artists, cheaters, clip artists and altogether bad men or women. If you were to be arrested, the police would contact you and no one else. These algae eater, bottom feeders are hoping you are gullible enough to pay them by credit card. Don’t do it and tell them to go pound salt!
Q: My son is facing 3 criminal charges. We have hired a criminal defense attorney and have been told by our attorney that he (the attorney) doesn’t need to be at the preliminary arraignment. After reviewing the criminal process in Pennsylvania, it seems like the District Magistrate will be questioning my son about what happened. This seems like a good time to have the attorney present. Could a PA criminal defense attorney give me some insight? Thank you. Should an attorney be present at a Preliminary Arraignment in Pennsylvania? (Pittsburgh, PA)
Q: In Allegheny, attorneys never attend Preliminary Arraignments unless they can bill the client for it or get news coverage. The District Justice will not be questioning your son about what happened. The DJ may ask questions regarding bond only-his address, phone number, etc. The purpose of the Preliminary Arraignment is to set bond, hand the defendant his criminal complaint and a subpoena for his next court date which is his Preliminary Hearing. I think you should follow the advice of your counsel.