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Would it be cost effective to hire a lawyer for an underage drinking citation? I am a college student in Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh, PA |

A couple of friends have gone through the process, and they did not hire any lawyers. They were able to get the diversion program (comm. service) and told me to just be honest and apologetic, and the judge will often offer this diversion. The catch is: I missed my initial court date due to the citation never coming in my mailbox, and so campus police came to me with a bench warrant, I had to pay a small collateral fine, and had to reschedule for a later date. I still have a bit of time to think about hiring a lawyer before the trial. If I hire a lawyer, it would only be to lessen the repercussions and not trying to fight against the charges. Should I do this by myself? I have talked with a few lawyers and they say its advisable to hire one, but I am still not sure, as I have limited funds.

Attorney Answers 6


  1. Do you drive without insurance? You won't need it until... you need it. Maybe find someone with whom you can pay to consult to get the advice you need. What is the price you are willing to pay to have the peace of mind knowing you are taking the correct step? That you have asked attorneys and are on this forum suggests that having some peace of mind is worth something to you. The attorney may also have a solution that is better than you thought possible. Good luck.


  2. Anyone facing any criminal charge, including a charges that does not seem "serious", is best advised to retain counsel. Attorneys are usually worth the expenses in criminal cases for a number of reasons. First, an attorney can likely achieve the best results, and may even be able to get a case dismissed altogether, without probation or using a diversionary program. In these best case scenarios, the attorney is worth every dime, as a person can avoid a conviction. Second, an attorney can help ensure that a person avoids worst case scenarios. Many courts around the country can be tough on pro se defendants who do not have counsel, with courts imposing sanctions that an attorney could persuade the court not to impose (such as bail revocations and increases, imposition of jail time, higher fines, drug treatment, drug testing, and many more). Prosecutors also tend to be tougher on those who do not have lawyers, and they have no duty to look out for a defendant's interests or to provide them with legal advice. In sum, an attorney gives the best chance for a person to avoid terrible outcomes, and to achieve the best result possible, and hiring an attorney is usually worth the cost.

    The author provides answers on this site based on hypothetical questions and fact patterns. The answers provided are for general educational and informational purposes only, and they do not constitute legal advice, which would require a personal consultation and representation agreement. Questions and answers on this site do not create an attorney-client relationship, and the communications are not privileged. Any citizen with a legal issue should consult personally with an attorney and should rely only on legal advice provided in a formal attorney-client relationship.


  3. Ten years ago, I'd have told you to do it yourself. Alcohol offenses are now implicating employment, military service, Assistanceships and security clearances. There is talk that there will soon be FAFSA implications (like for weed.). Get a lawyer. Amortized over your lifetime, it will be a wonderful investment.

    Every Good Wish.


  4. Yes you should hire a Pa atty to help u thru the process and make sure you ger the best result. Most pa attorneys will travel all over the state including myself but find someone you are comfortable with.


  5. I have had clients who go to the initial court date and feel out the judge to see if the diversion is going to be offered. If it's not, and you still want to hire a lawyer ask for a continuance so you can get one. I can't guarantee you will get it but I would be surprised if you were denied. Good Luck.

    This answer is generally how a lawyer would go about handling a termination of probation hearing. It is not a guarantee that a Court will terminate your probation and does not create a attorney/client relationship between us.


  6. I have handled many of these offenses in Pittsburgh City Court. You will probably get the diversionary program, but no guarantee. The City Court judges rotate in from the suburbs and you don't know which one you will get. If you handle this yourself, the advice is correct, be respectful, apologetic and stress you are in college and a conviction will hurt your educational and career potential.

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