Q: I was sitting in the car all night getting high and I woke up to the police knocking on the window. I opened the door and I had drugs laying on my shirt. (Union City, PA)
A: This is difficult to give a reasonably accurate answer without more information. Generally, the courts sentence according to the sentencing guidelines which are a complex matrix of numbers. The two key factors in the guidelines are the Offense Gravity Score (OGS) which is a number assigned to each offense based on how serious it is, and the Prior Records Score (PRS) which is a number based on the individual’s prior records score. The OGS for Possession of a Controlled Substance will be low as it is an ungraded misdemeanor, but the unknown factor here is the OGS. In larger counties like Allegheny and Philadelphia, possession of a controlled substance usually results in probation. However, in smaller counties, a jail sentence is possible, even for possession of marijuana. Ask your private or public lawyer, they will know.
Q: She was mailed 2 charges at her dorm at IUP. One for public drunkenness and one for “possession” which she did not have. She was transported to ER in an ambulance but walked in voluntarily (called by a college student resident). She noticed while in her room that there was a backpack on a chair that the nurse said was brought in with her. It was not her backpack and she didn’t bring one with her to town. She said it had a male student ID in it of no one she knows. Her trial was rescheduled 7 days later, and we have just found out that the requesting person is a police officer that has a bad record and notorious for doing things like this. Should we get legal representation? We are not fighting the drunkenness charge but do want to fight the possession charge. She was not carrying any beverage or container and did not purchase anything. We simply want to ultimately have her record expunged for underage drinking. We definitely want to fight the possession now that we know the officer has a history. (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: Don’t risk her future, speak with a lawyer. The public drunkenness, if convicted, will stay on her record as a non-traffic summary offense for 5 years, before she can expunge it. The possession is a misdemeanor which could also stay on her record for I believe 10 years if convicted, before she can expunge it. There are ways to have these charges dismissed or first-time offender’s programs available that involve a withdrawal. An experienced criminal defense attorney can guide you through this. The police could even add a charge under 18 PA CSA Section 6308 for underage drinking which also can result in a record and a driver’s license suspension. That charge too has a first-time offenders disposition that can be offered. Again, do not plead guilty to any of the summaries and request a hearing to be heard at the time of the Preliminary Hearing on the misdemeanor possession case.
Q: I carry my prescription medicine in an unmarked plastic bottle. I was recently questioned by building security when entering a building during a search of my back pack. They said I need to carry all prescription pills in their prescription bottles. I cannot find a law on this. I need to know as I pass security points in the courts of my job. (Scott Township, PA)
A: I know of no such law. If there is such a law, all those senior citizens with the pill counter containers will be busted. There is no doubt that you will attract law enforcement with your pills in an unmarked container if you are subject to been screened at airports or buildings. The issue is whether you have a current prescription. I would therefore keep my written prescription folded in my wallet.
Q: If someone has a criminal record that includes possession of substances in another state but then incurs the charges below in Pennsylvania will they be able to avoid jail time with a public defender? The person in question does have a valid diagnosis and prescription for the pain killers on hand. Does this seem like definite jail time or could a public defender offer a plea without jail time? Should a private attorney be retained for something like this? Here is the list of charges recently incurred: 1 35 § 780-113 §§ A16 M Int Poss Contr Subst By Per Not Reg 2 35 § 780-113 §§ A31I M Marijuana-Small Amt Personal Use 3 35 § 780-113 §§ A32 M Use/Poss Of Drug Paraph 4 75 § 3802 §§ D2* M DUI: Controlled Substance – Impaired Ability – 1st Offense 5 75 § 3301 §§ A S Fail To Keep Right
A: No one can answer this question with any precision as much more information is needed. For example, whether there are any defenses, what the sentencing guidelines are, the position of the police and the DA. As far as a general prognosis, having prior possession of controlled substance charges and new DUI and drug charges, which according to you, are misdemeanors, this person most likely is not looking at any serious jail time. If handled correctly, this person could receive a probation sentence which will address drug counselling and rehabilitation with a negotiated plea. The prior out of state conviction will count toward his or her prior record score. The county DA will examine the other state prior charges and weigh them in accordance with the most similarly graded PA crimes in arriving at a prior record score. If the person is out on bond, it is important that they are involved in treatment and stay in treatment before they go to court.
Q: On New Year’s Eve, I was pulled over. I had been drinking and also had a small amount of cocaine on driver’s side. I would say .5grams. The passenger had a lot more he also told the police what was on my side was his. I think they found it on the floor of driver’s side. The passenger was arrested. I was compliant and cooperate to the best of my ability with the police. They detained me, took me back to the station. I did a sobriety test there and passed, agreed to a breathalyzer and failed .135. They let me call a friend to pick me up. However, they did not tell me what I was being charged with or given any paper work. What should I expect? DUI, drug charge? Both?
A: I would guess both. The police don’t have to tell you what they are charging you with. Sometimes there are not sure as they need to consult with the chief, a DA, or think about it after writing everything up. You can expect to be arrested by summons. A summons is a written notice for you to come to court for a preliminary arraignment, preliminary hearing, as well as a fingerprinting order. It will be sent to you both by regular mail and certified mail, return receipt. I assume you will be charged with 2 or 3 counts of DUI, possession of cocaine, and any motor vehicle summary offense that the police will use to justify stopping your car. Once you receive these papers, take them to a lawyer. The summons process is permitted under the PA Rules of Criminal Procedure to be used for most misdemeanor arrests when the police feel your contact information shows you have sufficient ties to the community, and will likely show for court. It is better for you than the traditional arrest process which would have resulted in your car impounded and you and you buddy spending the New Year’s Eve and the first day of 2017 in the jail.
Q: I live in PA and was pulled over for expired license plate. I haven’t had my driver’s license for 8 years due to an accident that placed a suspension on me which I still owe fines for. I was charged with 4 misdemeanors and 2 summary offenses. I was hit with possession of pot, possession of cocaine, DUI, driving with no license, and expired registration. (Brentwood, PA)
A: A first time DUI carries 72 hours in jail. First time DUI offender’s are eligible for Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) whereby there is no jail, no resulting criminal record and a reduced license suspension (from 12 or18 months down to 30 or 60 days). However, you must have a valid driver’s license and you must not owe any prior court costs, fines or restitutions. If you are not ARD eligible, you may receive a fast track or “Phoenix Court” deal whereby you would be sentenced to the DUI hotel, an alternative to jail. If the DUI hotel is not acceptable to you, some judges will offer you a choice between 72 hours in the jail or a longer period on electronic home monitoring house arrest. You should really consult with a criminal defense attorney.
Q: Juvenile possession charges, what will happen next? I was recently caught with a small amount of marijuana (about 4 grams), some rolling papers, and my mom’s prescription pill bottle which I carried the marijuana in. It is my first offense and i am under the age of 18, i was wondering what possible consequences i am facing.
A: Several possibilities. The Probation Officer may handle it informally, with no petition being filed in juvenile court. This usually involves some informal monitoring, drug counseling and possibly community service. The next step would be for him or her to file a petition for delinquency in juvenile court. If you manage to stay out of more trouble, you may be offered a consent decree, which will have similar requirements as the informal adjustment and result in no conviction if you complete the program successfully. If a consent decree is not offered, you may receive normal probation and then you could expunge your record down the road. Review the case with an attorney to see if you have a defense, especially if the first two options are not offered.
Q: Is there a case in this situation with underage drinking and possession? My friends received an underage and possession. A friend of mine had five of her friends having out in her dorm room (all girls). They were just watching television and drinking a little bit. A guy from the same hall walked in lit his bowl of weed and said he will go back to his room and get a fan. When he left the cops went to the girl’s dorm and knocked. A girl (non-resident) opened the door and the cop forced the door open all the way. He then asked if he is allowed to search the place but the resident said he needs to get a warrant. The cop then waited in the doorway for 4 hours, would not let any of the girls leave the dorm, and finally got the warrant. The girls told the police officer to leave but he said he won’t. The warrant was for marijuana and a alcohol.
A: I would suggest that everyone get a lawyer. No doubt the cops are angry at making them get a warrant but they should know about the warrant requirement. Possession of a controlled substance is a misdemeanor and the Possession, Consumption and Transportation of Alcohol is a summary offense. Both can result in a criminal record and each carries a driver’s license suspension. Each lawyer can advise each defendant on the law of possession. Each lawyer can examine the warrant and determine if it is legal. There may be a defense. If there is no defense, all is not lost. There are options for first time offenders, and the lawyer can advise you which ones are feasible under the circumstances.
Q: Will I get arrested when I report to pre trial services because I got a possession charge due to a heroin overdose? I was released with condition of reporting to pre trial services from Allegheny county jail on a conspiracy charge. I am not on probation. What if I sign into rehab for help instead of reporting to pre trial services but call & let them know where I am?
A: You need to take care of yourself as a priority. If you truly feel you are at risk if not entering a rehabilitation facility, enter the facility. It is best to be honest with pretrial services whether you enter a facility or not. Pretrial services may only recommend a more stringent bond condition such as screening and intense drug and alcohol counseling. On the other hand they could revoke your bond and take you before a judge. You may do better with a lawyer who you can explain all of the facts. I really cannot give any certain answer without knowing more.
Q: Do I need a lawyer if I was caught after smoking marijuana and the marijuana that was subsequently found clearly wasn’t mine? Due to a faulty latch on our front door, a cop gained entrance to the office I work at where my coworker and I had just smoked marijuana. We were cooperative, which the cop appreciated, and, when he went through our stuff, he found a relatively small amount of marijuana in my co-workers bag. Weighs less than 30 grams. My coworker admitted it was his. He decided not to do anything that night but asked us to come talk to him at the police station next week. Can I get in trouble for being high and being with someone in possession of marijuana? Do I need a lawyer? (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: Being around marijuana in and of itself is not a crime. Possession of marijuana is a crime. If your friend admitted to possession, you really should not be charged with anything. I think it would be a stretch, but the cop may charge you with some sort of conspiracy to possess or conspiracy to commit a prohibited act. I doubt it, but it is possible. He probably wants you guys to work with him and lead him to the seller in exchange for the charges being withdrawn. If you go and talk to him, you may say something that hurts you, even though there is practically no real case against you. I would nonetheless hire a lawyer who can speak on your behalf. In addition, if your friend gets charged, he should have a lawyer look closely at the probable cause to search here.