Q: I was arrested on April 17, 2017 for my third DUI. My first DUI was in 2006. I do not remember the date of sentencing and the docket sheet is not available on the UJS Portal website which has the public records. I also had ARD for my first one. Because I cannot find the date of disposition I do not know if it qualifies for the 10-year look-back. I hired a lawyer and paid him a good sum of money for the preliminary hearing all the while he said he would look into the first DUI. He never did it he always seems to have some an excuse. The preliminary is over and now I am awaiting formal arraignment in a few days on October 31st. I am now paying him more money and he says he cannot find anything out until after the arraignment. He even said that I don’t have to be present for the arraignment which is suspicious to me because I was unaware that the arraignment is where I either plead guilty or not guilty. Either I had my head in the clouds or he didn’t inform me of this. I’ve been doing research and I’m starting to get irritated with him. My last question is if I choose to go with another lawyer can I request a postponement to obtain my records? (West Homestead, PA)
A: It sounds like you should listen to your attorney. In Allegheny County, the defendant need not appear at the Formal Arraignment if an attorney who has entered his appearance handles it. You do not plead guilty or not guilty at your Formal Arraignment. Your attorney may be waiting for a confirmation from the DA. The Allegheny County DA has a department that does nothing but run criminal histories on defendants and they are usually accurate. The DA should have your record at the Pretrial Conference to share with your attorney or shortly thereafter and this will shed light as to whether you have made ten years from date of conviction to date of arrest. If the last DUI was in 2006 and you made ten years, it will be graded as a first offense under the guidelines.
Q: I got two DUI charges in Allegheny County with probation. My first DUI was for controlled substance, second for alcohol. I was on probation in Allegheny. I received third DUI for alcohol in a Beaver County. How does that affect my charges and sentence? (Scott Twp., PA)
A: I suggest an attorney. Perhaps one that handles cases in both counties. If you have three pending DUI’s and have not been convicted (pled guilty or found guilty) of any one of them, then they are all considered first-time DUIs. This means obviously the sentence range will be lower. However, a judge will take note that you have three pending DUI’s even if none are considered prior to the others and add a little time to your sentence. As far as probation is concerned, obviously, your probation judge will not be pleased that you committed three DUIs on his or her probation. You could possibly be detained by the probation judge and sentenced to jail time.
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: I caught a minor felony like 8 years ago. I did a few months in the county and they let me out early. Do I still have this on my record and can I pay an attorney to take it off?
A: You don’t catch a felony, like a cold or virus. There were probably some events-mainly your behavior-that led up to the charge or charges which were followed by court proceedings. First, get your criminal record from the state police to see what happened in court if you are uncertain that you were convicted of a felony. Many of my clients are unsure of what happened after they went to court. Some think nothing happened to them and they got out of it somehow when in reality they pleaded guilty and received probation. Next, there is no such thing as a minor felony. It is like saying you someone is the tallest midget in town. The person is still a midget. You are still a felon if you were in fact convicted of a felony. As a convicted felon, you are barred from possessing a firearm under PA and Federal law.