Can a vehicle passenger get arrested if firearm found under seat?

Q: There were the three passengers in the vehicle, a firearm was found and no one confessed to it being theirs, but only the passenger was arrested. The driver and the person in the backseat was let go while the passenger was arrested. Is that illegal? (Pittsburgh, PA)

A:  It is common for the police to charge all occupants of a motor vehicle if contraband was found in an area of the car in which any one of the occupants could have hidden the contraband. The DA can prosecute the case under a “constructive possession” theory, and even get a conviction. However, the police have the freedom to charge whoever they want. It is not unusual for the police to arrive, talk to several actors or witnesses and decide on the spot, who to charge and who not to charge. In your case, they figure, ok, if nobody will admit to it and make our job more difficult, we will charge them all and they can fight it out in court. Is it fair to the defendant who is charged and is not guilty? No, it is just the way it is. So, to answer your question, yes, the police can charge only one of the vehicle occupants. The good news is that the at trial, person charged can blame it on the other occupants to create reasonable doubt. If there is any doubt as to possession and his or her lawyer is half good, it will be a not guilty verdict.

How much jail will my son get for evading and eluding police?

Q: My son (19) took the state cops on high speed chase reaching speed limits of 130 miles per hour (my Lexis). No one was injured, thank God. He did go through some field sobriety tests but apparently, they didn’t think he was high. He surrendered in the end with no incidents. There was a passenger in the vehicle but she was passed out. He did this in Allegheny County just short of the Westmoreland County line. (North Huntington, PA)

A: 75 Pa.C.S.A. Section 3733 defines the offense of fleeing or attending to elude a police officer. It is graded as a misdemeanor of the second degree. However, if the driver was DUI, left the state jurisdiction, or endangered the police or public via a high-speed chase, the crime is graded as a felony of the third degree. The maximum penalty for a M2 is 2 years in jail. The maximum penalty for a F3 is 7 years in jail. I assume he will be charged with a misdemeanor 2, fleeing and eluding. He will probably be charged with a smorgasbord of other motor vehicle offenses like speeding, reckless driving. He may also be charged with a misdemeanor level of Reckless Endangering of Another Person (REAP). Your son needs a lawyer. If your son has no criminal record, it will be considered a win to get out of this with summary motor vehicle charges. He will no doubt lose his license for at least one year. In addition, I would take his X-Box away, make him use a bicycle for transportation and get a job.

What can I do about this parking citation?

Q: I received a Citation/Summons today left on my car windshield for an apparent parking violation while I was at work. In line #26 the “Statute” option is checked, and PAVC is written in the line. #29 “Fine” 50 written, line #32 “Costs” has 38.50 written, and Line #33 has 10.00 written. Line #34 “Total Due” has 98.50 written. The Defendant Name is not mine, nor is the Defendant Address. The Vehicle Registration Number in line #11, the make in line #14, and the color in line #16 indicate my car. My car was parked directly outside of my apartment, with two wheels on the line of ground between the sidewalk and the curb. The whole street parks in this same manner, as the street is not large enough to allow traffic otherwise. This is not an exaggeration, I have a picture showing every single vehicle in front of and behind mine parking in this manner. Even with cars parked this way, traffic is to slow when two vehicles approach each other because of how narrow the street is. It is a two-lane street with buses and large semi-trucks operating on it day and night. The car behind mine had two wheels parked in the middle of the sidewalk, farther on it than my car. I saw no citation on theirs.

A: Plead not guilty and take your photos to court and fight it. You can hire an attorney as well but the legal fees may not be justified economically given the penalty you will be subject to if you should lose.

Can my friends be issued a subpoena?

Q: My three friends and I were caught in a car with a bookbag that had marijuana and marijuana related paraphernalia in it. The car was not turned on or moving. It was just really cold and windy so we got in the car to smoke. I took full responsibility and my friends weren’t charged. It’s been over a month and I haven’t been charged yet, but I know it’s coming. Is there a chance my friends will get subpoenaed once I get charged?

A: Your friends may likely be arrested with you, assuming the officer took their information. Since you took the blame they may not be. It is up to the officer. If there is evidence of MJ being smoked in the car, there is a greater chance all will be arrested through the summons process. Tell your parents and have them get you a lawyer. There may be a defense here in lack of probable cause and if not there are other options than pleading guilty so you can avoid a criminal conviction.

Am I comparatively negligent for having an expired license?

Q: Am I comparatively negligent for having an expired driver’s license? Even if I’m in an accident where the other driver is at fault? Will I be found comparatively negligent for having an expired license? Someone hit my truck but they were hauled away in an ambulance.

A: To my knowledge, having no license or a suspended license or other licensing issues, has nothing to do with liability in an accident case. It can be raised at trial by the opposing counsel in cross examination of you, or admission of your certified driving record at trial

Can I get PennDOT to grant me concurrent driver license suspensions?

Q: Is it possible to get my consecutive suspensions to run concurrently? My license is suspended and I am reviewing my restoration requirements. I have 4 charges of driving on a suspended license, producing 4 suspensions of 1 year each. Plus, a drug delivery charge yielding a 6-month suspension.  I have already served a year in jail and 6 months on probation, but can hardly imagine my future if I must wait 4.5 years to be allowed to have a license again. Is there any chance that some action I could take, or with representation that is affordable, I could somehow get this significantly reduced, perhaps so that my consecutive 1 year suspensions could run concurrently?

A: PennDOT does not run driver’s license suspensions concurrently and the court has no authority to do so as it an administrative procedure. You may be eligible for an Occupational Limited License if the suspensions are not DUI or drug related. The PennDOT website has information on the OLL procedures.

Unlawful stop DUI?

Q: Hello, I was pulled over recently and was charged with a DUI for marijuana in my system. I was not impaired at the time, but the officer believes that I was. He said I failed the field sobriety tests and took me in for blood. His reason he said he pulled me over was because I went on the line, I don’t even believe that is true and I am pretty sure I was driving 100% fine. Nothing was wrong with the car or any other reason to pull me over. This is my first DUI and since I’m waiting on the blood work, hiring an attorney right now is pointless until then. Is it possible to fight this due to an unlawful stop? Does anyone have any similar stories where they got it thrown away due to unlawful stop? I also want to mention that it was a holiday weekend, at night and on a quiet rode. I really believe he just pulled me over because he felt like it.

A: You have recognized one defense, probable cause. Crossing a painted road line while driving can constitute sufficient probable cause to stop a motor vehicle. However, an attorney would need to know much more than this to opine as to whether you have a defense. An attorney can advise you on other matters regarding your arrests such as the blood test and programs available to you as a first-time offender.


Can I let unlicensed driver drive my car?

Q: Car and insurance in my name being driven to work by someone without a valid license. What happens to me if he gets pulled over? He is in process of getting his license back, the title and insurance are in my name. Will only he get in trouble if caught, or will I also get in trouble?

A: In PA, if you have knowledge that a person has no driver’s license-whether suspended or they just don’t have one, and you allow them to operate your motor vehicle, you can be charged with a summary motor vehicle offense. In addition, read your insurance policy to make sure your carrier will not deny coverage if such person is involved in an accident while driving your car with your consent.

My eighth suspended license offense

Q: I was caught driving on a suspended license for the 8th time. This time in Dauphin County. I live in Westmoreland. Can I appeal the sentencing? I missed my court date with the district justice office and got 6 months county prison time. I have appealed it, but was wondering what my chances are of getting the sentence changed to something other than prison time. I know of people who have been caught 15 times or more and did no jail time. (Murrysville, PA)

A:  I cannot tell if this a Motor Vehicle Code 1543 (a) or (b) suspension. 1543 (b)’s are DUI related and carry additional penalties under the habitual offender statute. If you have appealed in a timely fashion, you may be able to receive a sentence of house arrest or electronic home monitoring. However, I am unfamiliar with the practices of the DA and courts In Dauphin County, so you will have to confirm this with a Dauphin County attorney. You may want to hire the attorney who  has kept your friend with 15 license suspension convictions out of jail. Be aware though, you may face problems in having Dauphin County transfer an electronic monitoring house arrest sentence to Westmoreland County for supervision.

What happens with his car, if he dies?

Q: What happens to a child’s car if the child dies (it was paid for) and the only name on the title is the child’s? In case something happened to him, what would happen to his car ?

A: If there is a loan on the car, the bank can repossess the car, reclaim it actually. They would sell it and if any money was due your son they would issue a check to either his estate or his next of kin. My experience is that you can probably talk them into issuing a check to the next of kin if you sign some releases. If he owned the car, and therefore there was no lien on it, you can probably get AAA to transfer the title to his next of kin. It will be easier if he has a will which states who inherits from him. That way, you can take a copy of his death certificate and will to AAA and they will be more likely to transfer title. If you think he will die soon, you should hire an attorney to draft a will for him. Good luck!