Category Archives: Criminal Law

Can I get a public defender to help me with a warrant?

Q: I have a warrant for a simple assault charge. I have a court date coming up. I also want to get a public defender for my court date and to help squash warrant. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: Public Defender’s in Allegheny County do not deal with warrant issues. It is not deemed a critical stage of prosecution. However, you can obtain a Public Defender to represent you on the new charges at the Preliminary Hearing stage. You will need to go to Room 400 of the County Office Building and sign up. You will be appointed counsel if you qualify-meaning if your income is at a certain level.

Can I get emergency medical power of attorney for my brother in Tennessee?

Q: I’m in Pittsburgh, my brother is in Nashville. My brother had end stage cirrhosis of the liver and had to have emergency surgery that left him with a permanent ileostomy. He detoxed at the hospital, but he is a chronic alcoholic. His mind is confused, and he is in denial about his entire situation. He has discharged himself several times against doctor’s orders and is in very grave health. He needs to be admitted to the hospital and stay there for medical care. The hospital told me they do not do any type of psychiatric evaluations. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: You need a lawyer who practices in Davidson County, Tennessee. An attorney who does hospital visits would be great. If you brother is competent and willing, the attorney can prepare a POA for your brother to sign. If your brother is not competent to sign documents, the attorney can advise you on the next step which would either using the mental health system to have your brother committed if he is a danger to himself or others, or if necessary, filing a petition in court for you to become his guardian. You really do need an attorney in that location. You can call the county Bar Association to see if they have a lawyer referral program. Good luck with your situation.

Can I use this to win the trial?

Q: First-off the cop that was accusing me charged me with a wrong case number and was corrected by the judge. He then tried to say my registration and tags were from different vehicles and on his report literally everything he put down about my car info was wrong. I quickly proved he was wrong and on top of that he never asked me to take a test when he pulled me over but I’m charged with 1547b1. It makes no sense then he told the judge he pulled me over because I had illegal tent but my car has no tent at all he told me my plate was cruked but said some different in court in he never mentioned how he damaged my car trying to find drugs when I only had 2 packs of cigarettes in the car. I know that’s not how probable cause works it’s this because of my race. I feel like I was pressured to plead guilty in fully and did not understand what I was charged with. I did some research and it seems like I was falsely charged. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: You can use it. However, if you present this argument in court the way you present it here, you will likely not win at trial. I think you need a lawyer to help fashion your story into a more understandable and cogent defense. When you say you were pressured to plead guilty, then you need to be aware that there will be no trial to present this defense unless you appeal within thirty days of your conviction or plea. I think you could greatly benefit from having a private lawyer or public defender review this situation.

Can we marry if he is on federal parole and I am on state probation?

Q: Can I being on Probation and house arrest marry my fiancé who is on federal parole? I am on house arrest for my 3rd DUI. He came home 6 months ago from the Federal prison. Are we still able to get married and if so how do we go about it the correct way without getting into extra trouble. (Coraopolis, PA)

A: Sounds like you have some common bonds. I can’t think of anything that would legally prevent your marriage unless it violates the terms of either of your probation about not associating with each other. If it is not specified in the written sentencing order or probation condition documents, the probation officer can still object to you cohabiting due to a history of drugs, domestic violence or other criminal behavior. In that case, you can might be able to put a motion in front of the judge asking that such condition be lifted.

I have my boss on video calling me a liar

Q: I have video footage that my boss called me a liar and that he is willing to do anything to get me disciplined. I am a union bus driver in the City of Pittsburgh. About a month ago I was spit on by passenger a few days later the passenger’s friend who had calmed her down when I threatened to call the police called him claiming that I called the first woman a cow there is no proof one way or the other than the fact that the woman who sent into complained her story does not match up with the video footage mind you there is no audio and so because there is supposed discourteousness towards a passenger I was given three years-probation on a written warning I videotaped the hearing without my boss and knowing and came to find out he thinks I’m nothing but a big liar and states in the video that he has no proof and then because I failed to mention the last thing that she had said to me before she spit on me in the hearing but I had in my written statement he’s claiming that it’s probably fraudulent on my behalf. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: This is hard to follow as written. Your video tape obviously has an audio track. This was an illegal recording if you have audio. PA is a two- person consent state. You can be charged criminally for this. I suggest that you be extremely careful in using this tape. You should speak with an employment discrimination lawyer before you do anything.

Can I use a doctor who lost his license?

Q: I asked this doctor to be my primary care physician when I had an abscess from Diverticulosis. He then got be hooked on prescription pain pills. I just read that he was running a pill mill. Can I use him? (North Versailles, PA)

A: There is a lot of that going around. Can you use him? You can treat with a witch doctor if you wish. The problem is that if his license has been revoked, it will be a crime for him to “practice” medicine. If he continues to do so, out of his house or car, or whatever, you do so at risk. You could end up as a witness against him in a criminal prosecution or being hassled by the police or the state licensing board.

A friend was cited for urinating in the woods at a concert

Q: Our friend couldn’t hold it anymore. No bathrooms were available anywhere He hid in the woods far from anyone. He was not intoxicated and was respectful but was cited. Should he plead not guilty, no contest or ask for ARD? What should they do when they go to the magistrate’s office? (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: Take a toothbrush and pray for mercy. No, just kidding. Advise him to plead not guilty. It is a summary offense but will stay on their record for five years if they are found guilty. I wouldn’t rely on the District Justice dismissing or the police officer withdrawing the citation, although they may. Tell them to hire an attorney if possible, they will have a better chance.

What criminal sex charges will I be facing?

Q: I’m 28 years old and from Pittsburgh. I was on an online dating website and I talked to a girl. After a while of talking she told me she was 15. I am from another state where sex is legal at 14 and I have been sexually active since I was 14. I told her I didn’t mind that she was 15 because I didn’t know it was illegal in PA. Then me and her started to exchange nude pictures. We made plans to meet at the movies. Then I get a message on my phone from her saying that the police had all the transcripts and were going to arrest me soon and that when I was walking around looking for her at the movies it was just to get me on camera to prove I was there. Then she tells me she is from the activist group POP SQUAD on you tube that catch criminals for sex crimes and post the conversations. I looked them up and there are 1000s of videos and the police actively work with them. My question is what kind of charges I am looking at and what are the punishments for those charges? (Cranberry Twp., PA)

A: It doesn’t matter what the law is in the state in which you previously resided. You are bound by the laws of the jurisdiction in which you allegedly commit a crime. I also find it strange that any state allows adults to have sex with minors age 14, but I only know the laws of PA. Recordings of the telephone conversation, if they exist, would not be admissible under PA wiretap laws unless you consented to the recording. If there are emails with photos and she appears to be under age 16, you may be charged with an internet sex crime. If you went to meet her, they may have you on an attempt of a felony solicitation of a minor. However, walking around a movie theater may not be enough. My suggestion is to not discuss this on the internet anymore nor discuss it with anyone other than an attorney that you hire. I have not had a case like this in several years. The last one I had, my client drove to a Walmart to meet a girl and he was nabbed inside the entrance doors of Walmart by the County Police. Everything about this sounds strange, especially if you haven’t been contacted by the police. It also sounds strange that she is telling you the police will arresting you soon. If the police were involved, they would not tell her to say that. This group may not be who they appear to be on the internet. I would not talk to them at all and certainly do not pay money to anyone. I would keep my fingers crossed, lay low for a while and if you hear from the police, do not make any statements to them-nothing- and hire a lawyer and follow his advice explicitly.

Should I take 30-day ARD for simple possession of marijuana?

Q: I was pulled over for a traffic violation while away at college and was charged with possession of a small amount of marijuana and paraphernalia. I understand that the possibility of being drug tested varies county by county, but I was wondering if Berks County was one that mandates drug tests with their ARD program. My ARD program is a 30 day one. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: I would consult with a lawyer before you do anything. You might want to consider trying to get Probation Without Verdict on this first offense, if available. You might want to save the ARD card for your first DUI.

In Pittsburgh is the public able to attend domestic violence trials?

Q: If you want context, continue reading. If not, scroll to the bottom to see the actual question. Thanks in advance. In 2013 an ex-boyfriend strangled me. At the time the courts didn’t deem the offense worthy of more than a misdemeanor. He stole my car after the assault…to this day it boggles my mind that stealing my car was a greater offense (felony) than rendering me unconscious and cutting off my air supply during a pregnancy, but whatever. Anyway, felony dropped, he walked with a misdemeanor, and a few months in jail. Fast forward to 2018, the dockets indicate he’s been charged for the same type of offense again against yet another woman, yet this time the charges they are bringing forth are F2 charges for strangulation. Preliminary already happened, trial this month. Child endangerment charge added in the mix, I’m told he did this to the mom in front of her child. I won’t get my hopes up. Likely they’ll be lowered to a misdemeanor. None the less, at the risk of sounding salty, I would really like to be present to watch him get hauled away on a felony this time. Am I allowed to be there, just sitting quietly among the courtroom seats, or are DV trials private proceedings? (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: Yes, you can. Criminal proceedings are open to the public. Anyone can stroll through the Allegheny Courthouse on any given day and much like a shopping mall, enter a number of courtrooms and check out the wares. Homicide trials, shootings, DUI pleas, sentencings, motions to suppress evidence. It is like real court TV. You might also want to talk to the Assistant DA who is handling the case. In some cases, the prosecution is permitted to introduce evidence of prior events if there is a similar pattern of behavior by the defendant. The Allegheny County DA has done it in sex crime cases.