If I plead not-guilty to summary offense can they add charges?

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.


Can I have a misdemeanor or felony expunged?

Q: I have a question about expungement in PA. I was reading a new bill that is going to be voted on in PA that will allow most misdemeanors and felonies to get expunged after five years. My question is what happens if you commit a crime and then commit another crime within the five year window. You then stay clean for 5 years can you have both offenses expunged. Also if you have committed more than one crime at the same time can you have crimes that can’t be expunged along with ones that can. Can you have the crimes that can be expunged removed leaving the ones that cannot for the same offense?

A: The bill that went before the state senate in 2011, proposed allowing misdemeanor 2 and 3 crimes as well as summary offenses, be expunged after 7 years of crime free behavior for the misdemeanors and felonies and 5 years for summaries. The only portion of the bill that passed was the provision applying to summary offenses. Currently expungement of summary convictions after five years of arrest free behavior is the current extent of expungement law. Recently, a bill made it through the PA Senate that will permit the expungement of misdemeanor 2’s. This Senate bill must be confirmed by the house then signed by the Governor. This has not happened yet. There is a lot of misinformation being published about this bill. I would wait until the bill becomes law then consult with an attorney.