Category Archives: Juvenile Law

Can a 16-year-old continue to live in a house alone if his father is in jail?

Q: If a single father is sent to jail for 6 months, is it legal for his 16-year-old son to continue to live alone at the home they rented? Does the child need to be emancipated? Are there any legal/liability implications for the landlord in this situation? (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: The child is still a minor and therefore is without proper supervision or control of an adult. This would constitute “neglect” under the Juvenile Act. This probably should be brought to the attention of the police or CYF. They will likely place him with a relative or friend of the family and if none are available, place him in shelter until he could be placed in foster care. A “mandated reporter” would have a duty to notify CYF or the police of a minor in such a situation. As a landlord, I do not think you are a mandated reporter. However, given the well-being of the child, it would be wise to notify CYF or the police. If you want to go above and beyond, you can reach out to his family to see if someone can take him in or someone can live in the apartment until his father is released.

Can a school question a student without a parent present?

Q: My child was questioned last year about an incident for 3 hours by school officials. There was no danger to anyone. They ended up calling state police and criminal charges were filed. I was notified after everything was complete. He has ADHD and ODD and was only 12 at the time. The school was aware but had no 504 or IEP in place because they have been dragging their feet. He is now facing criminal charges for which the school has no proof, no bus camera, no witness and did not do a thorough proper investigation. Now the girl’s story has changed. They coerced him for 3 hours into a confession and made him write a confession letter. Can you please provide me with law specific to this? (Peters Township, PA)

A: I assume he has juvenile delinquency charges and a court date in juvenile court. Your best course of action is to hire a private lawyer. If you cannot do so, sign up for the Public Defender. It sounds like you may have some defenses. As you have noted, you may have an issue that his statement was illegally obtained. I would need to research the latest case law for a definitive answer but how they obtained his statement does raise a red flag. If there are facts to support an illegally obtained statement, the attorney can file a motion to suppress it, and have it excluded from court. It may also help to have your son evaluated by a Psychiatrist to document his Mental health diagnosis. Additionally, if this is your son’s first juvenile case, there may be a diversionary option for him in juvenile court, so he can get out of this with no record. A lawyer can help the situation and answer your questions as they relate to your specific facts.

What are the parent’s responsibilities for an 18-year-old?

Q: Our child will be 18 soon. She is still a senior in high school and wants to move out the day she turns 18. She works and says she can pay for rent, phone, etc. She than told us her guidance counselor said we had to sign for college loans and pay for medical bills until she’s 26. If She moves out isn’t she responsible? We cannot afford to pay for college. Why are we being taunted by school and her. She does not listen to house rules and her friends are not safe near our smaller children, she’s been in trouble with law breaking entry, drinking and her boyfriend is on probation and not allowed near small kids and keeps trying to bring him here for sex. Please help. It’s for the safety of my smaller children. We don’t have the money to pay for college or her medical. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: Once she turns 18 she is an adult in PA and you have no financial responsibility for her. Under current PA law, you are not obligated to pay for college, or other post-secondary education. If you really want to cut her loose, you can, not that I am recommending it. The current law allows you to keep her on your health insurance until she is age 26 but does not require you to. If you want, once she is 18, you can put her stuff on the porch and change the locks.

Can cop arrest me for underage drinking by filming my license over a body-cam?

Q: I was at a party and some people were being quite loud and campus police were checking in and had eventually entered the home. They shut down what was going on and lined everyone up before exiting the home warning people not to flee out of the rear of the house. Checking people’s bags for alcohol in which they had to throw out if they did possess it and asking them for ID which they verbalized names over a body cam. Now, if no one was arrested could there still be future ramifications? (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: For summary offenses, citations can be issued at the scene, or by mail. The police can also charge misdemeanors without physically arresting someone. They can take the information and mail a summons to the person. You will likely receive a citation in the mail and a hearing date. Do not plead guilty. Underage drinking under section 6308 of the PA Crimes Code is a summary offense, which if you are convicted of, will stay on your record for 5 years before you can pay to have it expunged. Additionally, it carries a driver’s license suspension which will come in the mail from PennDOT, weeks later. Many District Justices offer a first-time offender’s program which will allow you to avoid a conviction, but it is not always offered unfortunately. Make sure the address the police have is a good one. If you do not receive mail at the address you gave them, miss the hearing and are convicted, you are out of luck. Hire an attorney if you can.

How does a mother can control a 16-year-old son?

Q: This child has been in court system for a year due to pot use and several crimes against property. He fathered one child and supposedly girl friend is pregnant with 2nd. He is living with mom and 3 younger siblings. She feels he is treating her and them poorly and before he creates more havoc, she could like to see him on his own. He had a job paying $400 a week and was living with girlfriend and her parents. He is “off paper” in October. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: So, apparently, this child was adjudicated delinquent and his juvenile probation case is about to close. So, on a scale from 1 to 10 he is not that bad if he successfully competed probation, but he is disruptive and abusive at home. You can try counseling. If that doesn’t work you may want to look toward filing a dependency complaint in Juvenile Court. If he is disruptive to your home to the extent he is not welcome there, he might be using drugs and is not attending school, a court may adjudicate him to be a dependent child. If this happens, the court will have jurisdiction over him and force him to comply. To inquire about filing a dependency action, you can consult with CYF or call the police. You can also consult with a lawyer who handles juvenile law.

Daughter charged with public drunkenness and possession

Q: She was mailed 2 charges at her dorm at IUP. One for public drunkenness and one for “possession” which she did not have. She was transported to ER in an ambulance but walked in voluntarily (called by a college student resident). She noticed while in her room that there was a backpack on a chair that the nurse said was brought in with her. It was not her backpack and she didn’t bring one with her to town. She said it had a male student ID in it of no one she knows. Her trial was rescheduled 7 days later, and we have just found out that the requesting person is a police officer that has a bad record and notorious for doing things like this. Should we get legal representation? We are not fighting the drunkenness charge but do want to fight the possession charge. She was not carrying any beverage or container and did not purchase anything. We simply want to ultimately have her record expunged for underage drinking. We definitely want to fight the possession now that we know the officer has a history. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: Don’t risk her future, speak with a lawyer. The public drunkenness, if convicted, will stay on her record as a non-traffic summary offense for 5 years, before she can expunge it. The possession is a misdemeanor which could also stay on her record for I believe 10 years if convicted, before she can expunge it. There are ways to have these charges dismissed or first-time offender’s programs available that involve a withdrawal. An experienced criminal defense attorney can guide you through this. The police could even add a charge under 18 PA CSA Section 6308 for underage drinking which also can result in a record and a driver’s license suspension. That charge too has a first-time offenders disposition that can be offered. Again, do not plead guilty to any of the summaries and request a hearing to be heard at the time of the Preliminary Hearing on the misdemeanor possession case.

Will son’s underage drinking citation expunged in OH be a second offense if cited in PA?

Q: My son pleaded guilty to underage drinking on a college campus in Ohio Labor Day weekend of 2017. He did the diversion program to completion and submitted paperwork for expungement. It is currently dismissed and should be complete by June 1. Unfortunately, he ran into trouble visiting friends in PA this spring and was cited by a campus police officer for underage drinking. Does he have to disclose his expungement in OH to a judge if asked? Will it be considered a second offense if it happened in a different state? Or considered first offense in PA? the officer told me he would only be asking the judge for community service time at the time of his hearing. Should we ask for a continuance until after the Ohio expungement is finalized before having the hearing in PA with the campus officer? (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: If the prior case happened in PA, the police on the new case would be able to see he had a prior citation for a 6308 offense. Therefore, he would not be eligible for a second chance at a diversion. You would think that police could not find the first case, because it was expunged, but District Attorneys seems to be able to access cases that are expunged. Whether the PA police will be able to see the prior Ohio citation, I am not certain. Your son has no obligation to offer the fact that he does have a prior. Only if he is sworn in to testify and is under oath and asked by the District Justice here in PA, would have to tell the truth. At his new hearing, let the officer tell you if a diversionary program is on the table, and if it is, jump on it.

What are my options for an underage?

Q: Last night I received an underage at a party with some friends. I’m 20 and have never been in trouble before. I’ve never even gotten a traffic citation. I recently was kicked out of my house and live in emergency housing at my school with no car and no income. I know I will need a lawyer to plead not guilty but also know I cannot afford one. What are my best options? (Millvale, PA)

A: There is a first-time offenders program offered by most District Justices which allows this charge to be withdrawn if the minor completes a program. I doubt if you can obtain a Public Defender as you charged with a summary offense. You may also have a defense to this if there are no witnesses who saw you consume, possess, transport or purchase alcohol. However, you will have a better chance if you have an attorney present that defense. Be aware that if you plead guilty to this, your driver’s license will be suspended.

Can corrupting the morals of a child and unlawful restraint be misdemeanors?

Q: My son picked up a minor. The story goes he coerced the child into doing something but I am not sure what at this point. Is this a misdemeanor or felony? (Upper St. Clair, PA)

A: If the alleged victim is under 18 and the accused over 18, Unlawful Restraint can be charged as a felony. Corruption of Minors can be charged as a felony if the alleged corruption is sexual in nature. I highly advise your son to not make any statements to police and to get him an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. The potential stakes are high. He could be facing jail and be subjected to 10 or more years of Megan’s Law conditions.

Can a juvenile be referred to the ARD program?

Q: My son who is 15, has just been arrested for retail theft. This is a first-time offense. Do I need a lawyer for this case? Can he be referred to the ARD program? (South Side, Pittsburgh)

A: ARD is an adult criminal court alternative to prosecution. While there is no alternative disposition called “ARD” in juvenile court, there are similar programs for first time juvenile offenders who qualify. One is where they divert the case to a juvenile probation program, sometimes called an intake disposition. The other is a “consent decree” whereby if the juvenile successfully completes probation with conditions, he or she is not adjudicated delinquent.