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QUESTION: Are there situations/offenses where you may only plead guilty or not guilty?  

A college student was arrested for public drunkeness and public urination, was never read his Miranda rights, never told why he was being arrested and held in the drunk tank at the jail, and never given a field sobriety test or breathalyzer (arresting officer assumed the person was intoxicated).  The person would prefer to enter a no contest plea and just pay the fine but was informed by the courthouse that he may only enter a guilty or not guilty plea.  Why would you not be permitted to plead no contest?

ANSWER: Brooke,

The reason is because the charge of public drunkenness and public urination are probably summary grade offenses.  They are punishable by a fine only.  He or she will most likely have to plead one way or the other.  If he or she wants to put the incident behind them, then tell he or she should plead guilty and pay the fines.  If he or she feels wrongfully charged then plead not guilty and have a hearing.  If no presumptive field sobriety test was performed then the officer will have a hard time proving there was alcohol involved.  Judgement call.  I hope this helps.


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you for the explanation.  The citation lists both offenses together which (I assume) means they would have to prove both for a conviction and as you mentioned (and I believe) it would be difficult for the officer to prove the drunkeness charge.  However, the time, energy, and money that would go into taking it to trial seems unnecessary, especially considering the court will not give him a public defender (although in PA the maximum sentence does include 90 days of jail time - an unlikely sentence in this first offense case but should still qualify him for court appointed representation).  So while he was not intoxicated but did in fact need to relieve himself in some bushes to avoid urinating all over himself during his walk home, it seems his best course of action is to plead guilty and then hopefully have it expunged from his record after 5 years.  Would you agree or have any other suggestions?


As it is a summary offense (non-traffic) and he can afford the fine, I would just pay it and move on.  He will never have to disclose this offense and it carries no more weight than a traffic ticket.  He will not even need to expunge it but he could petition the court to try if he wanted to.  That is my suggestion.


Jeffrey Peter Hauck, JD, CPO, CII, LPD
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Jeffrey Hauck


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Criminologist. Professor of Criminal Justice. Licensed Private Detective with expansive clientele base encompassing hundreds of cases. Donates resources and time to the Children's Rescue Network in Orlando, FL.

Associate of Science; Bachelor of Arts; Master of Science, Doctor of Jurisprudence Degree.

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