Category Archives: Motor Vehicle Law

How do I try to have a misdemeanor hit and run dismissed?

Q: On Monday, November 4th , on my way home from work, I entered a traffic circle and was immediately blinded by oncoming headlights. I felt a very slight bump and felt I may have bumped a reflector pole in the circle. At home, I checked the car and there was a scratch on my right front fender. That evening an officer arrives to let me know I bumped another car and he needed my insurance, license and registration to share with the other driver. Tuesday the officer calls to tell me I need to come in for fingerprinting due to a hit and run charge! It was a minor hit and run charges with little damage and no injury! Can it be dismissed. How would I try to do that? (Mt. Pleasant, PA)

A: Try to get an experienced criminal defense attorney. Most people are not aware of the laws applied to these circumstances, but they are strict. Section 3743 of the Title 75 of the PA Motor Vehicle Code requires you to remain at the scene and exchange information when there is an accident involving property damage. Section 3744 basically says that if you cannot locate the other driver or property owner you need to go to the closes police station and make a report. A misdemeanor 3 can stay on your record for years, and there is a hidden driver license suspension with this offense. Believing that you hit a reflector pole, if damaged, would require such reporting to the police. However, your defense of not knowing you hit another vehicle and you being fully insured and hopefully not having a bad driving record, may help in negotiating this down to a summary leaving the scene or even another less harmless traffic offense. An attorney will know every angel of this. Do not try it on your own.

How do I go about handling a fleeing and eluding charge?

Q: I was joyriding with some of a few old friends and state troopers had flashed their lights, but I didn’t see them until they were behind me completely. Once I had announced to everyone in the car that they were behind us, the friend in the passenger passed back a black hat which unbeknown to me, had a gun in there. So eventually I see an exit ramp and try to come off, but I was going too fast and lost control of the car and crashed. Now I’m and being charged with fleeing or eluding an officer, firearm not to be carried w/o license (no crim-violence) and reckless endangering another person. (Butler County, PA)

A: Lawyer up, immediately! Gun cases (Uniform Firearms Act) are taken seriously by the DA and not often bargained down. There is always reasonable doubt for an attorney to work with when there is a gun or drugs found in a car with multiple occupants. You need a good attorney to develop that “black hat” defense. It will be easier for everyone in the car if someone admits to possessing the gun. A good attorney may be able to spin the fleeing and eluding into a summary traffic offense like reckless driving or careless, but it will be a challenge. You need to hire a private attorney or sign up with the PD, now.

Is an underage drinking citation still valid after 8 years?

Q: If a 17-year-old with no license receives an underage drinking citation with an immediate loss of license for 3 months, but doesn’t get his license until he is 25, is the citation still valid?

A: Assuming you pleaded guilty or were found guilty of the underage drinking offense, the correlating driver’s license suspension from PennDOT does not take effect until the person gets a driver’s license, if they had none at the time of the offense. PennDOT doesn’t forget.

Should I fight for a speeding ticket for 5 mph over in PA?

Q: I got a speeding ticket in Allegheny County, PA. The officer cited “Speeding 60 MPH Allowed 55 MPH”. He told that I was doing 78 MPH (He did put that on the ticket: actual 78 mph), he was giving me a break and there would be no points and record. Should I just plead guilty and pay the $150 fine or hire a lawyer to fight for it? (Youngstown, OH)

A: Unless a motorist has a bad driving, record was going excessively fast, or was a jerk to the officer, most officers will work out a speeding ticket to 5 mph and under to avoid points being assigned to the motorists driving record. Usually the officers only do this at the hearing. If you trust the ticket is indicated so, you could mail in a guilty plea and the required payment.

Will I lose license. Will I have to do rehab?

Q: I got caught with 2 grams of marijuana when I was driving. I already had my preliminary hearing where I signed a waiver saying I am eligible for the “probation without verdict” program. If I do this, will I have to go to rehab. I’ve been there, and it doesn’t help, that is where I got hooked again. And, I don’t have the money. Will I lose my license? (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: If the judge orders drug and alcohol treatment, you will need to go. Otherwise, no. With Probation Without Verdict, there is no conviction. You cannot have your driver’s license suspended when there is no conviction. There are exceptions, such as when you refuse sobriety testing, but that does not apply to you. Make sure to expunge your record of this offense when your case is closed.

I have a traffic court warrant. Will child support arrest me?

Q: It’s not the type of warrant where they come to your door. But I don’t want to go to Family Court to file for child support, if I’m going to get arrested. My son won’t have anyone to take care of him. I plan on handling the warrant when my mother comes to visit. Can I file for support without arrest? (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: If the warrant was issued by a District Justice office for failure to appear, I would call the office. Most of the time you can reschedule a missed traffic hearing. This may involve paying the collateral deposit and pleading not-guilty. Once this is done the warrant would be cleared

Is an unregistered vehicle or vehicle with expired inspection a misdemeanor?

Q: I was cited in Pittsburgh for driving a vehicle with expired registration and for driving a vehicle with expired inspection stickers in a separate citation. Are these non-moving traffic violations considered criminal violations as a misdemeanor or are they like speeding or parking violations as a non-criminal summary offense? As a side note, the traffic dockets were recorded under the magisterial district courts and not in the criminal courts dockets. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: These particular offenses are motor vehicle summary violations. If your docket number starts with “CR”, the charges are misdemeanors or felonies. If your docket starts with “TR”, the offense are summary motor vehicle offenses. If your docket starts with “NT” they are non-traffic summary offenses and usually criminal (Public Urination, Disorderly Conduct, Harassment, Public Drunkenness, etc.) Your hearing will be held in the Municipal Court Building, 2nd Floor, on 2nd Avenue, not in the Allegheny County Courthouse.

I received five tool violations in the mail

Q: I received 5 separate tool violations and am afraid I’ll have more coming. I exited the EZ-pass lane and thought I had funds. The cost of the tools are a few bucks each, but each separate violation has a 25.00 admin fee. Is it possible to appeal or get those waived or reduced? (Export, PA)

A:  I think you mean toll, not “tool”. I have never represented anyone for this offense. I however, committed a similar violation. I read my appeal rights on the back of the EZ fine material that came with the ticket, and appealed. I provided supporting documentation and my appeal was granted. I was spared. If you have a defense you may want to appeal.

Can I get probation for being caught while driving with a suspended license?

Q: I haven’t been driving. My kid goes to a friend’s house sometimes while I sleep for work. She called me saying he was vomiting and no one could get out of work early to drive him. I decided to get him to take him to the emergency room. I got caught speeding. Now I must go to court and it says prison/house arrest. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A:  It depends. If it is a DUI related suspension, you are subject to a $500 fine, 60 days in jail and a one-year license suspension, for a first-time offense under 1543 b. If it is a non-DUI related offense, 1543 a, you are subject to a $200 fine, no jail and a year license suspension. Take your papers to a criminal defense lawyer. He or she may be able to bargain it down to a less severe offense or at least get your prison sentence served on house arrest electronic monitoring.

Do I fight a 3111 (a) citation as an out of state driver?

Q: I was pulled over for speeding outside of Pittsburgh and was given a citation for 75 Pa. C.S.A § 3111 (a). The officer said he was giving me a break as it was a no point offense. As a Massachusetts driver, will this result in points being added to my Mass driving record? (Acton, MA)

A:  It is a no point offense in PA. You need to ask a MA attorney as I only know PA law. In PA, when the DMV receives a notice of a conviction of a motor vehicle offense from another state, it is reviewed to see what the similar offense in the PA Motor Vehicle Code is. If it is in substance it is similar to a PA offense, the PA DMV will impose whatever sanction on the licensee that is fitting under the similar PA offense. If I had to guess, I would not imagine that the DMV of MA would take any action on such a relatively minor driving offense. Different story with DUI, Reckless Driving, Accidents Involving Death or Serious Bodily Injury, etc. Happy Motoring!