Will I be looking at jail time driving on a suspended license while on state parole?

Q: My husband is on state parole and has been doing very well staying out of trouble. However, this past week I had issues with my car, and it broke down and I was hysterical crying. He had offered to drive although he has a suspended license due to his legal issues. We ended up getting pulled over and my husband was very compliant and explained he does not have a license. The police officer ended up issuing 3 tickets; 1 for inspection, 1 for fail to change address and the last for driving with a suspended license due to a prior DUI offense. Today we got a court hearing notice for the tickets and our main concern is if he will have to do jail time considering this would be a violation of his parole. For being on good behavior, he did just step down in his program so it’s not so intense for his PO to do check in. Is it worth seeing if there is a possibility for house arrest or extended parole sentence as opposed to jail time? We are trying to prepare ourselves in this matter and plan accordingly for what our options may be, if any. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: Your husband is only charged with summary level motor vehicle offenses. Summary level motor vehicle offense convictions on parole are only considered to be technical violations of probation or parole, and hence not subject to penalties invoked if one is a “convicted violator” as in being convicted of a misdemeanor or felony while on parole. If he is convicted of the 1543 driving under suspension, his parole officer could recommend no action being taken, sanctions or a small amount of jail time. As far as the 1543, this carries a 60 days jail sentence for a first offense, but Allegheny County offers electronic monitoring house arrest. Make sure he has an attorney. Depending on the Assistant DA and the officer, this case could be pleaded down to a 1501 or 1511. Neither of those carry a jail sentence or license suspension. I have luck with these cases, but it really depends if law enforcement wants to give him a break.

If I plead not-guilty to summary offense can they add charges?

Q: I got pulled over the other night, I had just left work and before even asking me for my license and insurance he told me to get out of the car. They then searched my car for 45 minutes without my permission and without asking me. They then claim to find money with drug residue on it and are now trying to give me a paraphernalia charge. I’m afraid that if I plead not guilty they’re going to figure out a way of proving there is drug residue on the money. Therefore. I don’t want to be charged with possession because I did not plead guilty to the paraphernalia. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: I would need to know more and therefore advise you to hire an attorney to review the complaint and get more details on the facts. It sounds like you are charged with summary offenses now, but you are wondering if a potential misdemeanor for paraphernalia or possession may be filed? It is possible. The Commonwealth can amend the charges almost at any time before an adjudication occurs. If you are found guilty of the summaries and they later attempt to charge you with the misdemeanors, and the new charges arise from the same event, you may have a double jeopardy argument under PA Rules of Criminal Procedure 109 and 110. However, if you have no criminal record, you may not want to plead to these summaries as they will stay on your record for 5 years until you can expunge them. There are a few issues here for which I think you need counsel.


Can I get my first Aggravated Assault dropped?

Q: I was very drunk on St Patrick’s Day and don’t remember what happened but was told I was passed out in a street. When police and medics showed up I was put in an ambulance and then I attacked the medics and a nurse and was charged with 2 counts of aggravated assault, recklessly endangering another person and a disorderly conduct. I don’t believe anyone was hurt but I don’t remember a thing. I have no priors. Do I have a chance of getting charges dropped? (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: Possible, yes. There is a difference between someone who intentionally punches an EMT or Police Officer and someone who is blotto drunk and while flailing their arms around comes in contact with EMT and Police. When I have had these cases, and everything went as well as possible, the results were anywhere from a dismissal in exchange for a D&A evaluation or community service, to ARD, to the defendant pleading guilty to summary offenses. If these cases don’t go well, for example, it is usually where the victims want to push a conviction. If so, you may be lucky to have the charges reduced to Simple Assault. The fact that you have no criminal history is important. Your charges are generally not accepted into ARD, but the DA has the discretion of amending them to let you into the program. This type of case requires a lot of hustle for an attorney and there is no guarantee.

Can I have a misdemeanor or felony expunged?

Q: I have a question about expungement in PA. I was reading a new bill that is going to be voted on in PA that will allow most misdemeanors and felonies to get expunged after five years. My question is what happens if you commit a crime and then commit another crime within the five year window. You then stay clean for 5 years can you have both offenses expunged. Also if you have committed more than one crime at the same time can you have crimes that can’t be expunged along with ones that can. Can you have the crimes that can be expunged removed leaving the ones that cannot for the same offense?

A: The bill that went before the state senate in 2011, proposed allowing misdemeanor 2 and 3 crimes as well as summary offenses, be expunged after 7 years of crime free behavior for the misdemeanors and felonies and 5 years for summaries. The only portion of the bill that passed was the provision applying to summary offenses. Currently expungement of summary convictions after five years of arrest free behavior is the current extent of expungement law. Recently, a bill made it through the PA Senate that will permit the expungement of misdemeanor 2’s. This Senate bill must be confirmed by the house then signed by the Governor. This has not happened yet. There is a lot of misinformation being published about this bill. I would wait until the bill becomes law then consult with an attorney.