Thursday, January 12, 2017


This is the classic “Frequently Asked Question” or “FAQ.”  Hello, my name is Joseph Paletta and I am a criminal defense attorney in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and because this question has been asked of me even more frequently than normal these past few weeks, it is appropriate to comment or blog on the subject.  The scenarios wherein Police want to “talk” to, or request a statement from, a citizen come in many, many different forms.  The form discussed here will be when Police want to “talk” to a driver during a vehicle stop.  However, regardless of the situation, the general rule is “the less said, the better.”

It is common for Police to stop a vehicle for a Pennsylvania Vehicle Code “operator” violation, such as exceeding the speed limit or failure to stop at a traffic signal (red light or stop sign).  It is equally common for Police to stop a vehicle for a Vehicle Code “mechanical” violation such as a burned out taillight or headlamp; these mechanical violations are often beyond the control and knowledge of the operator, and justify a vehicle stop even if a citizen is complying with all other Vehicle Code laws.  In either scenario, Police are permitted to stop your vehicle, obtain basic operator information (i.e. license, registrations and insurance information), and even issue a citation. 

It is at this point that the scenario often changes, and drivers must be aware of their rights.  In the scenarios presented above, after Police issue a written citation (i.e. a speeding ticket), the purpose – or Probable Cause – of the stop has been completed.  However, what frequently occurs is that Police will engage in additional questioning of the driver for the purpose of doing a search of the vehicle.  Once the original Probable Cause for the stop has been exhausted, Police generally need either new Probable Cause to search your vehicle, or your consent to search the vehicle.  If Police do not have new Probable Cause, nor do they have the driver’s consent, Police generally may not search the vehicle.  Therefore, it is wise for a driver to refuse to consent to a vehicle search, which refusal should be made continuously, respectfully and firmly

Another tip is, if Police continue to insist upon searching, or even threaten to tow your vehicle if the driver does not consent to a search, then a driver can inform Police that they must speak with a lawyer immediately.  Generally, asking to consult with a lawyer should terminate further questioning by Police.  Assuming no other justification to search exists, this generally will cause Police to “back off” their insistence on searching the vehicle.

However, sometimes Police will simply impose their authority on a driver at the scene and simply search.  In that circumstance, even if a search is conducted, a driver should remain silent..  The solution to the problem lies with a hiring lawyer who specializes in Search & Seizure/Fourth Amendment law who can identify the issue, and file and litigate a Suppression Motion.  For this situation, you should consult with me, Attorney Paletta, immediately.

In the near future, I will comment upon other situations where Police will want to “talk.”  These situations can include a knock on your residence door, or receipt of a phone call from Police.  Until you speak with a lawyer, remember the general rule: “the less said, the better.”

Saturday, January 7, 2017


Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolfe intends to sign into law a Medical Marijuana bill to give relief to persons suffering from certain medical conditions.  Sure to accompany this intended benefit is an unintended consequence: a rise in arrests for Driving Under the Influence of Controlled Substances or Drugs.  Other states such as Colorado which have passed similar legislation have witnessed a rise in these types of arrests, and Pennsylvania will certainly follow this unfortunate trend.   Marijuana does not dissipate from the human body in a matter of hours as alcohol does.  Marijuana will be detected in the system for days and even weeks, and those DUI suspects who are directed by police to submit to a blood test will have a problem on their hands.  Stay tuned, for the future in this area of the law should be interesting. 
Joseph A. Paletta, Esq.

Paletta Law

A good read - from the Post Gazette -

....For the sake of helping people who need help -- both those who have pain and those who have addiction -- we need to clarify our language. Under the catch-all term "prescription drug abuse," we're really talking about two things: diversion of drugs, which is a crime, and addiction, which is an illness.

Conflating the two problems into one brands all addicts as criminals, which in fact is the attitude of some physicians, most law enforcement and many unrecovered addicts. No matter where we've bought or how we've taken our drugs and alcohol, we must be criminals. It's an attitude evidenced (perhaps unconsciously) by Robert L. Hill, chief of the Drug Enforcement Administration's Pharmaceutical Investigations Section, when he spoke at the summit about the people who lined up inside one of Dr. Oliver Herndon's three West Mifflin waiting rooms or those who flock to Florida pill mills: "I hear you talking about patients," Mr. Hill told the audience, "but these people are not patients, they're customers of these drug dealers."

"These people," I wanted to tell him, look like me. They look like you. They come from all races and socioeconomic classes, from all ages and both genders. Even if they don't have an official diagnosis that calls for these medications, they're driven by another illness that's poorly understood and harshly stigmatized in our society -- in part because of the lies addicts tell....

Read more:

Friday, January 6, 2017

Commonwealth v. M.B. - (Preliminary Hearing - Possession)

Commonwealth v. M.B. (Preliminary Hearing)

Charge/Violation: 35 § 780-113 §§A16 - Int Poss Contr Subst By Per Not Reg - (Misdemeanor)
Case Summary:
            Pittsburgh Police charged Defendant with Possession of a Controlled Substance.  In fear of losing his job and causing problems in his career, Defendant contacted Attorney Paletta for representation at the Preliminary Hearing of this case.
        At the Preliminary Hearing in Pittsburgh Municipal Court, an agreement was made - that required Defendant to complete 25 hours of Community Service;  upon successful completion of all requirements, the charges would be Withdrawn.

        The Preliminary Hearing was continued and a Status Conference was to follow in 90 days. At the next Preliminary Hearing/Status Conference, Attorney Paletta presented proof to the District Judge and the Assistant District Attorney that Defendant had successfully completed the 25 hours of Community Service.  The Assistant District Attorney completed and submitted a full Withdrawal form to District Judge Ricciardi.

        THE CASE AGAINST DEFENDANT WAS WITHDRAWN and now eligible for an Expungement.