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.
Q: My 12-year-old has a public defender. She is accused of felony indecent sexual assault and misdemeanor indecent assault against a 12-year-old peer. We believe it was consensual and the girl has “buyer’s remorse”. I would like to plead not guilty. She can plead to the misdemeanor, I don’t accept that. What do you think would be best? (Cranberry Township, PA)
Q: These cases require a great deal of preparation and attention. The penalties are drastic and unfair. Jail is unlikely but sexual offender registration could be, which is oppressive. I had a similar case between teenagers. We were in the middle of trial and because the judge sensed that it was consensual, the judge brokered a consent decree with no admission of guilt for my client. This seemed fair to me as it would help avoid any Megan’s law (SORA at the time) compliance or registration and a criminal/juvenile record. However, every fact pattern is different. You have an entirely different prosecutor and Judge. I am not sure what options are available to your child. Talk with her public defender and gauge how involved they are and how interested they are in defending your daughter. If you are not comfortable, you can always hire a private attorney.
Q: My son rolled through a stop sign and was pulled over by cop in PA. The cop could smell marijuana and asked my son if he had any. My son said yes. The cop got the marijuana and arrested my son. He was released the same day but they confiscated his phone and money and car. We can pick up the car but the police still have his phone and money. (Munhall, PA)
A: I will assume your son has no criminal record. Your goal should be to get him out of this with no criminal record. An attorney can increase the chances of this result. Perhaps there is a constitutional illegal stop and search defense but if not, there may be other options, especially if he has no record. He will likely be summoned in the mail and charged with possession of marijuana and prohibited acts as well as some sort of motor vehicle summary. The summons will likely come from Allegheny County Juvenile Court. I have seen police departments keep cars in this situation and force the owner to petition the court for return of property. They can try to keep the cell phone and money by arguing they are linked to criminal enterprise if the case is active. Seek legal representation for him.
Q: Can I suppress a statement in juvenile court? When I first got arrested I was being tried as an adult and my miranda rights were violated when they questioned me and I incriminated myself.They ended up sending me to juvenile court because of a plea but looking at the evidence, I see I can beat this case because the only evidence against me is the statement.
A: The same constitutional rights that apply in adult court apply in juvenile court. Review the case with an attorney. If he or she feels it is advisable, he or she will file a suppression motion and challenge the legality of the statement you allegedly gave. If the statement is in fact the only evidence against you, you may have a Habeas Corpus defense or a cognizable suppression issue. Either, could conceivably lead to the case being dismissed or withdrawn.
Q:Roughly how much would a retail theft fine for a minor be? Also, will it be on your permanent record?I got caught stealing 20 $ headphones from Wal-Mart and the state trooper said I would be charged with retail theft. I am 16 and this is a first offense.
A: Make sure your parents get you a lawyer. As a first timer, you may be able to enter a program to avoid a conviction and juvenile criminal record. Your case may be taken into Juvenile Court at the Common Pleas Level, or may be filed at the District Justice level, which is more likely. A first time Retail Theft charge is a summary offense if the merchandise is valued under $150.00. So if you were found guilty of this, or pleaded guilty to it, you would pay $150.00 plus court costs which could be another estimated $115.00 for a total of $265.00.
Q: Juvenile possession charges, what will happen next? I was recently caught with a small amount of marijuana (about 4 grams), some rolling papers, and my mom’s prescription pill bottle which I carried the marijuana in. It is my first offense and i am under the age of 18, i was wondering what possible consequences i am facing.
A: Several possibilities. The Probation Officer may handle it informally, with no petition being filed in juvenile court. This usually involves some informal monitoring, drug counseling and possibly community service. The next step would be for him or her to file a petition for delinquency in juvenile court. If you manage to stay out of more trouble, you may be offered a consent decree, which will have similar requirements as the informal adjustment and result in no conviction if you complete the program successfully. If a consent decree is not offered, you may receive normal probation and then you could expunge your record down the road. Review the case with an attorney to see if you have a defense, especially if the first two options are not offered.
Q: Can a minor be charged with perjury in Pennsylvania? Judge reports at least 2 statements made by her, which are false and can be easily disproven. Such statements were given considerable weight in a trial. She’s almost 17, can she be prosecuted? (Baldwin, PA)
A: Not sure if you are saying the judge found her statements to be false, or, she made two statements to the judge, which you know and think you can prove to be false. If you can prove that they are false, it may be possible for her to be charged for false statements in Juvenile Court with the filing of a Delinquency Petition by the police or Juvenile Probation. You can review it with Police or DA to see if they are interested. Normally, they do not go after minors with these types of cases, but I cannot say for sure if that will be the result for you.