Q: The commonwealth has filed multiple charges against someone and have gone through all pre-trial phases of the process to the point that a jury trial is scheduled in criminal court. There were some negotiations that took place during the pre-trial process. The defense refused to plea. Now that the DA’s office will have to prepare for the case. Is it still typical that there are negotiations? Or once the case is prepared for is it more likely that it goes to trial? I know there is no concrete answer to this just curious of what the odds maybe? (South Park, PA)
A: Plea agreements have even been entered during a trial. Yes, a negotiated settlement is always a possibility no matter if the Commonwealth has prepared their case and have their witnesses under subpoena.
Q: While I was incarcerated I had a Public Defender representing me. After I was released from serving my Parole Violation I reapplied for the PD but was told my wife makes too much. Unfortunately, even at a discount, I cannot afford an attorney. I am already at the trial stage. I have two separate cases being tried and I refuse to take a plea since I am innocent on both cases and I will not let them bully me into a longer record and more time on probation or parole! If I must represent myself then I shall, I am not afraid to put in work on my cases! I only need to know what procedure or motion or petition I need to follow or submit in order to represent myself! I know each county in Pennsylvania can be slightly different and my county (Fayette) seems to follow their own rules, but I know I am afforded the right to represent myself by the US Constitution and they can’t deny that. (Uniontown, PA)
A: No one can advise you what to do without knowing all the facts and all the applicable law. You can probably find a lawyer to work with you. When I was a young lawyer, one of my first jury trial was done at a drastically reduced rate for a career criminal who had learned the law on the job, so to speak, while spending time in state correctional facilities. We ended up with a hung jury the first time, and an acquittal on the retrial. If you want to do this yourself, pro se, all I can say is read, read, read and reread the law. Go get em!
Q: We were stopped by a WCO standing on a dock around sunset for not having our stern light out as we were returning to our dock. WCO checked all safety features with no other violations on the boat. We complied with everything. There were 2 passengers with the driver. The WCO saw open beers on the boat and asked if we had been drinking and we said Yes. He then asked the driver to get off the boat and initiated 3 field tests which we recorded on our phone. It appears that he passed the tests. After the third and final test, the WCO shook his head and said “good.” he then proceeded to a preliminary breath test so driver asked if he has failed the field tests and the response was “I’m going to be honest, you are right on the border” After the prelim breath test, he placed driver under arrest and took him to a police station about 30 mins away to do a data master breath test where results came back 0.083. We have read the margin of error on data master tests is 0.004. Is this a good case for dismissal of charges? (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: Yes, as pointed out, it sounds like you have some good defense issues for trial. It is possible that the WCO will decide not to file, and/or the DA looks at the case and decides not to file given the disputable evidence. However, if law enforcement does decide to prosecute, the case will not be dismissed by a District Justice at the preliminary hearing and either of three things will happen: A) the trial DA will review the case and withdraw it, B) ARD will be offered if the driver qualifies, or C) the driver will go to trial, either jury or non-jury. Scenario “A” is unlikely, but can happen. Consult with a lawyer, preserve your evidence, remember, the WCO are now aware of you and will stop you again if there is probable cause.