Will kids being in the car keep me out of ARD?

Q: When I was pulled over for my marijuana DUI the officer said I would get ARD. My kids where in the car and everything I’m reading says I will not be able to get ARD if minors where in the car. The officer also stated he would tell the judge I was very cooperative, but it seems that there isn’t much that can help me. I have a consultation scheduled with a lawyer, but I have very little money. I am the main supporter of my family and it was just Christmas, so I feel I am in a very bad position with no options it is really worrying me. (Rochester, PA)

A: Each county District Attorney sets its own criteria for ARD eligibility. It would not be unusual for crimes like Endangering Children (EWOC) or Recklessly Endangering Another Person to make you ineligible for ARD. In situations where someone in your situation who obviously has no criminal record, the DA can make an exception and drop those additional crimes to allow you to enter ARD on the DUI alone. In my county, it often takes a letter from an attorney asking for this type of exception to be made. Your options are to hire an attorney, or, talk to the officer and see if he will help you out by talking to the DA on your behalf and requesting the charge that makes you ineligible (EWOC) be withdrawn. If this is a plea, I am sure you can find an attorney to work with you on the fee if you call around. You should also talk to the Public Defender in your county to see if you qualify.

What are the rules governing a police officer questioning minors?

Q: Recently, a police officer was in my neighborhood investigating an incident. I was next door speaking to a neighbor, and my 6 year-old let the officer into my home. I came home approximately 7 minutes later and he was questioning my 6 and 9 yr old children about a poaching incident in our neighborhood. Obviously, they could not have committed the crime at such young ages. When I returned and asked him why he was questioning my children without my presence, he informed me that he was just seeking answers. Later that day, Children services came to my home because the officer had filed child endangerment charges. I was less than 100 feet away, my 9 yr old has a cell phone with which to call me, and child services dismissed his concerns about the children.

A: I would need more information. The way you describe it, or suspect, is that the police gathered evidence illegally about you and called CYF to make it appear that there questioning of the children had a legal basis. It doesn’t sound like a strong case of Endangering Welfare of Children, but the standard to arrest you is not demanding. If arrested for EWOC, you may have a good defense, based on your information. If you are arrested for something else, like poaching, which was based on the evidence the police obtained from your children, your attorney may have grounds to suppress the evidence as illegally obtained, but that is always an uphill battle.