Q: I was pulled over for a traffic violation while away at college and was charged with possession of a small amount of marijuana and paraphernalia. I understand that the possibility of being drug tested varies county by county, but I was wondering if Berks County was one that mandates drug tests with their ARD program. My ARD program is a 30 day one. (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: I would consult with a lawyer before you do anything. You might want to consider trying to get Probation Without Verdict on this first offense, if available. You might want to save the ARD card for your first DUI.
Q: I got caught with 2 grams of marijuana when I was driving. I already had my preliminary hearing where I signed a waiver saying I am eligible for the “probation without verdict” program. If I do this, will I have to go to rehab. I’ve been there, and it doesn’t help, that is where I got hooked again. And, I don’t have the money. Will I lose my license? (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: If the judge orders drug and alcohol treatment, you will need to go. Otherwise, no. With Probation Without Verdict, there is no conviction. You cannot have your driver’s license suspended when there is no conviction. There are exceptions, such as when you refuse sobriety testing, but that does not apply to you. Make sure to expunge your record of this offense when your case is closed.
Q: This is my first time being charged with a crime. I was in my car with my friend at a park. There was less than a gram of marijuana in the car and a roach (end of blunt smoked containing some marijuana). A cop car quickly pulled up behind us and a cop got out fast and knocked on my window. My friend had put the small bag of marijuana in his sock and the blunt was left in the center console. We both said the marijuana and blunt was ours to the officer. We were both charged with “Possession of Marijuana” and “Use/Possession of Drug Paraph” labeled as “Misdemeanor”. Please help me with this charge. (Mars, PA)
A: An attorney may be able to get you out of this with no criminal record, especially if you have none. If you try it on your own, and represent yourself, A) the DA and police may persuade you to waive your case to court and hope the District Attorney at the trial level offers you Probation Without Verdict, or, B) they may force you into pleading guilty to a summary Disorderly Conduct at the preliminary hearing. The summary will stay on your record for five years before you can pay to expunge it. Call an attorney.
Q: My son rolled through a stop sign and was pulled over by cop in PA. The cop could smell marijuana and asked my son if he had any. My son said yes. The cop got the marijuana and arrested my son. He was released the same day but they confiscated his phone and money and car. We can pick up the car but the police still have his phone and money. (Munhall, PA)
A: I will assume your son has no criminal record. Your goal should be to get him out of this with no criminal record. An attorney can increase the chances of this result. Perhaps there is a constitutional illegal stop and search defense but if not, there may be other options, especially if he has no record. He will likely be summoned in the mail and charged with possession of marijuana and prohibited acts as well as some sort of motor vehicle summary. The summons will likely come from Allegheny County Juvenile Court. I have seen police departments keep cars in this situation and force the owner to petition the court for return of property. They can try to keep the cell phone and money by arguing they are linked to criminal enterprise if the case is active. Seek legal representation for him.
Q: I was pulled over and received a simple possession charge a week before my introduction to the ARD program for a previous DUI charge. What’s the best course of action from here? (Peters Twp., PA)
A: You need to get the simple possession charge withdrawn or reduced to a summary offense at the District Justice level. If that is not possible you should try for a Probation Without Verdict (PWV) disposition at the trial level. It is still possible that the DA will revoke your ARD. I would talk to your lawyer immediately so he or she can check what the current DA policy is on this. The last time I had a client in this situation, the rule was that you could have a prior PWV and get ARD, but you could not have a prior ARD and get PWV.
Q: What happens if I am in ARD in Green County and have been charged with small possession of marijuana while still in the program? I was charged with a DUI and small possession in May 2015. I started the ARD program in November 2015 and was charged last night with another small possession. I was wondering what will most likely happen next? Should I hire an attorney? Jail time because it is a subsequent offense? What are the chances that I can get the case dropped?
A: In Allegheny County, this new misdemeanor arrest could get you kicked out of ARD. You need to hire a lawyer and see if he can turn the Possession charge into a summary charge at the District Justice level. Taking this measure could keep you in ARD, but no guarantee. My experience in Allegheny County is that you can receive ARD on a DUI even if you have a prior Probation Without Verdict (PWV) on a drug charge, but not the other way around. Another problem is that since you had a prior possession of drugs with your DUI ARD, you cannot get another diversionary program like PWV after your ARD if your new charge is held for court. You need to have this new possession charge pleaded down to a summary.
Q: I was charged with possession of a small amount of weed in my car. My friends and I decided to get out the car to go to a gas station and someone had called the police because my friend was intoxicated. We were not in the car but a light was on in the car and police officer told me to shut it off I opened the door and police officer smelled the weed in the car. I told them it was mine even though it wasn’t to get the people I was with off the hook. I have a previous DUI in NJ where I go to college but none in PA. I took some DUI classes in NJ and paid the fines. Now I have a possession of marijuana charge in PA. It is my first and I want to get ARD program for it? Also, since we were not driving nor in the car, can my license be taken away? I am a college student and I work so I need to get back and forth. What should I do?
A: You really need to review this with a Criminal Defense Attorney in your area. You may have enough of an illegal search defense to push the police into turning this into something that does not result in a criminal conviction if just outright asking them to cut you a break doesn’t work. You may not be able to get ARD as you have had it once in NJ and you cannot get ARD for a drug case in PA. If you cannot get it withdrawn at the Preliminary Hearing, or turned into a summary offense like Disorderly Conduct, your next option would be to receive Probation Without Verdict (PWV) at the trial level which will not result in a conviction. However, be aware that some county DA’s will not offer PWV if you have had a prior ARD for DUI. Your goal is to get out of this without a record which is more difficult since it is your second time at the plate. If you are offered to plead to a Disorderly Conduct summary offense at the Preliminary Hearing. However, a summary conviction will stay on your record 5 years before you can expunge it, assuming you can stay out of trouble. Again, your chances of minimizing your damage will be better with an attorney.
Q: What can I be charged with for having an empty weed bag with just weed residue in it? I am 16 years old and live in PA. The cop cuffed me immediately upon discovering the bag, and I was taken to the police station and was told I could be charged with possession of paraphernalia. The cop also took my phone and said he was going to send it to a lab to be searched. I signed a paper giving my permission to do so because he made it out to be that that would be the only way I would get my phone back. Is it legal for him to take my phone and when will it be returned? Also, there are pictures of weed on my phone and messages related to purchasing weed, is that grounds for more charges?
A: The police can charge you for possession of a controlled substance, a Misdemeanor, for the residue in the bag and for possession of paraphernalia, just for the bag. The officer taking your cell phone was probably just a way to get you to agree to a search. He probably wouldn’t expend lab fees on a case involving marijuana residue. A lawyer should review the case. You may or may not have a defense but an experienced lawyer may get you out of this with no record.