Q: My husband is on state parole and has been doing very well staying out of trouble. However, this past week I had issues with my car, and it broke down and I was hysterical crying. He had offered to drive although he has a suspended license due to his legal issues. We ended up getting pulled over and my husband was very compliant and explained he does not have a license. The police officer ended up issuing 3 tickets; 1 for inspection, 1 for fail to change address and the last for driving with a suspended license due to a prior DUI offense. Today we got a court hearing notice for the tickets and our main concern is if he will have to do jail time considering this would be a violation of his parole. For being on good behavior, he did just step down in his program so it’s not so intense for his PO to do check in. Is it worth seeing if there is a possibility for house arrest or extended parole sentence as opposed to jail time? We are trying to prepare ourselves in this matter and plan accordingly for what our options may be, if any. (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: Your husband is only charged with summary level motor vehicle offenses. Summary level motor vehicle offense convictions on parole are only considered to be technical violations of probation or parole, and hence not subject to penalties invoked if one is a “convicted violator” as in being convicted of a misdemeanor or felony while on parole. If he is convicted of the 1543 driving under suspension, his parole officer could recommend no action being taken, sanctions or a small amount of jail time. As far as the 1543, this carries a 60 days jail sentence for a first offense, but Allegheny County offers electronic monitoring house arrest. Make sure he has an attorney. Depending on the Assistant DA and the officer, this case could be pleaded down to a 1501 or 1511. Neither of those carry a jail sentence or license suspension. I have luck with these cases, but it really depends if law enforcement wants to give him a break.
Q: My license has been suspended for until 2017, one year for not responding to a letter regarding my fine, and another year from years ago. (Bridgeville, PA). Can I get a public defender to help me?
A: No, at least not in Allegheny County. As mentioned a driver’s license suspension is actually an administrative punishment from PennDOT, separate from any underlying criminal case. Traditionally, the PD is to be appointed to represent a defendant at the critical stages of criminal prosecution to ensure due process and to protect constitutional rights. A driver’s license suspension is not considered to be a criminal matter evoking due process and constitutional rights. Your best bet is to do the background work yourself. Contact PennDOT and obtain a restoration letter and a copy of your driver’s record. These documents and if necessary, a call to PennDOT will help you understand what you need to do to restore your license. If not, then contact a lawyer who handles driver’s license issue.
Q: Is an underage correct? So I was at a frisbee tournament in Johnstown, PA and we had to get a hotel to stay overnight. The team was separated so that 21 year olds stayed with each other and everyone under stayed together. While watching the Penguins game, one of the 21 year olds came over to our room and asked me to take them to get beer because they had drank and didn’t want to drive. So I did, they put their beer in the trunk, then an undercover cop followed us back to the hotel from the beer store. The cop stopped me and charged me with an underage and confiscated my teammates’ beer. I hadn’t had anything to drink so I didn’t think that was the correct charge. I honestly didn’t know that I couldn’t transport alcohol, but he told me that was illegal. He also said I should have let my friends drive drunk, Soooooo.
A: The statute you are charged with, 6308, applies to consumption, possession and transportation. You are probably guilty of transportation. There is a driver’s license suspension if you are found guilty. You should review the case with an attorney, to determine if you have a defense, such as an illegal stop of the vehicle. If there a probable cause defense available to you, the attorney can advise whether you should pursue or not. If the defense exists, the attorney can use it to push the police for a better deal. If no defense is available to you, or if you don’t want to pursue it, the attorney can advise if a diversionary program can be made available by the district justice so you do not end up with a conviction. A diversionary program used in Allegheny County refers the minor to a course, which if successfully completed results in a dismissal.