Q: I got pulled over the other night, I had just left work and before even asking me for my license and insurance he told me to get out of the car. They then searched my car for 45 minutes without my permission and without asking me. They then claim to find money with drug residue on it and are now trying to give me a paraphernalia charge. I’m afraid that if I plead not guilty they’re going to figure out a way of proving there is drug residue on the money. Therefore. I don’t want to be charged with possession because I did not plead guilty to the paraphernalia. (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: I would need to know more and therefore advise you to hire an attorney to review the complaint and get more details on the facts. It sounds like you are charged with summary offenses now, but you are wondering if a potential misdemeanor for paraphernalia or possession may be filed? It is possible. The Commonwealth can amend the charges almost at any time before an adjudication occurs. If you are found guilty of the summaries and they later attempt to charge you with the misdemeanors, and the new charges arise from the same event, you may have a double jeopardy argument under PA Rules of Criminal Procedure 109 and 110. However, if you have no criminal record, you may not want to plead to these summaries as they will stay on your record for 5 years until you can expunge them. There are a few issues here for which I think you need counsel.