Q: Our friend couldn’t hold it anymore. No bathrooms were available anywhere He hid in the woods far from anyone. He was not intoxicated and was respectful but was cited. Should he plead not guilty, no contest or ask for ARD? What should they do when they go to the magistrate’s office? (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: Take a toothbrush and pray for mercy. No, just kidding. Advise him to plead not guilty. It is a summary offense but will stay on their record for five years if they are found guilty. I wouldn’t rely on the District Justice dismissing or the police officer withdrawing the citation, although they may. Tell them to hire an attorney if possible, they will have a better chance.
Q: I received a traffic ticket for speeding while driving under a suspended license (from a DUI). The police officer did not bring it up or address it in the fine, but rather wrote that I was speeding 22 mph over the speed limit. I thought I was getting a huge break but when I got home I noted no fine amount so that I may plead guilty, pay the fine and hope I am not caught in the process of the suspension? Being that this would add 4 points to my driving record, does that warrant a mandatory appearance in front of a judge or could I call the Clerk of Courts to get the fine amount, pay it, and move on? (White Oak, PA)
A: Your question is a little unclear. I suggest taking the citation to a lawyer. If you were cited for speeding, 3362 and driving under a suspended license, DUI, 1543 b, you have a problem. The speeding will carry a fine, but the 1543 for a first offense can result in a one-year license suspension, 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. If you were cited only with speeding citation, and not a 1543 b, if you plead guilty and pay the speeding fine, the police cannot cite you thereafter for the 1543 as it would constitute double jeopardy and violate Criminal Rule of Procedure 109 and/or 110. However, what will likely happen is the cop will run your record after he gets back to the station, discover you are under and DUI suspension and cite you with a 1543 before you can get to court on the speeding offense.
MOTOR VEHICLE LAW, MAXIMUM SPEEDS, DUI SUSPENSION, 1543 (b), PLEA
Q: Seven years-ago I took a plea deal. I was 20 years old and made a horrible mistake. This was the one and only time I ever got in trouble. When I took the deal, no one explained to me I would be in ineligible for expungement. Not my lawyer, not the DA, not the judge. I never would have never taken the deal if I had known this. What are my option? Can I do anything? All advice is greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance. (Carrick, PA)
A: I suggest confirming what crime you pleaded guilty to, so you are certain it is a felony. You can do this by ordering your criminal history from the PA State Police. Under the present state of the law, a felony cannot be expunged. You are well out of your appeal range. You must appeal within thirty days of your sentencing. Or, under the Post-Conviction Relief Act, you have one-year to file. You may want to consult with a criminal appeals attorney, but my thought is that it is too late to challenge the appeal. I know of no law that requires anyone to inform you at the time of your plea that you will be ineligible to expunge. The fact that you are entering a guilty plea to a crime should put you on notice of a conviction, although, I understand what you are saying. I always inform my clients that their conviction will result in a record which they may not be eligible to expunge.
Q: Can a plea bargain at the preliminary hearing level be taken back if I signed it? I was charged with 2nd DUI on the 2nd tier, and also child endangerment and was offered a plea bargain, which I did sign. My lawyer told me the DA didn’t know about a new law. My question is what are my chances of losing the deal when I go to big court? (Pittsburgh, PA).
Q: I am not sure if I understand your question. If you signed some waiver agreement at the preliminary hearing and your case is now going up to “big” court (Court of Common Pleas), you can still change your mind and go to trial or have your attorney push for a better deal. If you actually pled guilty and were not sentenced, but now want to withdraw your plea, prior to sentencing, the rules are generally favorable for you. You really need to have serious discussion with your attorney about this.