Spivak Law Firm | Pittsburgh, PA

Based in Pittsburgh, PA

412-344-4900

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What is DUI Hotel?

SO000183In Allegheny County, DUI Hotel has quickly become the default sentencing option for most first-time DUI offenders. An alternative to jail, DUI Hotel offers participants the opportunity to complete all their required penalties during an intensive four-day program lasting from Thursday to Sunday. It is geared toward first-time offenders with a blood-alcohol content (BAC) exceeding .10.

But what exactly is DUI Hotel?

Just as it sounds, participants spend four days in an actual hotel – located either in Oakland or some 20 miles from downtown Pittsburgh. Participants enter the hotel on Thursday night and undergo a check-in process that includes a Breathalyzer test. Participants’ luggage is inspected, as alcohol and non-prescription drugs are strictly prohibited. The first night concludes with a group dinner and introduction to the program.

For the next three days, DUI offenders participate in classes and group therapy facilitated by Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, Mon-Yough Community Services, Alternatives, and Mercy Behavioral Health. The group therapy sessions aim to encourage participants to examine their behavior.

DUI Hotel is relatively cheap. Each participant pays $500 for the program, which includes a shared hotel room, food, and the classes. Participants may have their own private room for an additional cost of $350 ($850 total). Courts often assist low-income people by delaying sentencing to give them more time to raise the money.

To speak with a Pittsburgh DUI and criminal lawyer, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

Jail Alternatives in Allegheny County

200488043-001Allegheny County has six specialty courts that offer intensive treatment as an alternative to jail for repeat criminal offenders. These courts, which generally handle non-violent offenders only, often require longer time commitments than typical incarceration. The main purpose of specialty courts is rehabilitation not punishment. Allegheny County’s specialty courts are described below.

DUI Court is available to defendants who have been arrested at least two times on misdemeanor counts of drunken driving and have not been convicted of a violent crime for at least ten years.  DUI Court requires monthly progress hearings, electronic home monitoring, and breathalyzers before entering the courtroom.

DUI Hotel, an alternative to the mandatory minimum jail term for persons convicted of DUI, involves four days of intensive programming, classes, and therapy at a specific location in Allegheny County. The sentence is completed at the end of the program, which is paid for by the defendant.

Drug Court is available for repeat drug offenders who have not been convicted of a violent crime in the past ten years. All defendants entering the program must plead guilty to the charges, be placed on electronic monitoring, and complete all treatment requirements recommended by the Drug Court Specialist.

Mental Health Court is available to misdemeanor and non-violent felony offenders with a documented diagnosis of a mental disorder. Defendants may be released from jail and placed in mental health treatment as part of probation.

Veterans Court is available for veterans of the United States Armed Forces with substance-abuse issues and mental-health disorders. Like Mental Health Court and Drug Court, Veterans Court meets monthly and undertakes regular progress reports, treatment plans, and probation.

Prostitution Court is mandatory for most defendants charged with prostitution crimes. Like Drug Court and Mental Health Court, it requires therapy and monthly progress hearings.

To discuss whether you may be eligible for a specialty court as an alternative to jail, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

7 Tips For Avoiding High-Conflict Divorce

111787230Even the most civil divorce can be devastating emotionally and financially. But high-conflict divorce – in which parties litigate over all aspects of the divorce, including custody, child support, alimony, and property division – can be especially damaging. Protect yourself by following these tips for avoiding high-conflict divorce:

1.     Develop an emergency plan.

Your partner could assault or evict you at any time. Figure out a safe place to go, and get some ready cash, and think about who can help you on short notice. Copy important records and keep them in a safe place.

2.     Keep a journal.

As soon as possible after they occur, write down accurate details of problems and events between you and your partner that could become issues in court. Keep a journal or other written record of anything pertinent. Save email and text-message correspondence in a safe place, especially copies of hostile and harassing exchanges.

3.     Think before hitting “send.”

Communicate very carefully and respectfully with your partner, because anything may be introduced into evidence. Make any emails, whether initiated by you or in response to your partner, brief, informative, friendly, and firm. This is especially true if your partner’s emails are hostile.

4.     Seek counseling.

Obtain a therapist to help you understand your partner’s behavior, anticipate problems, deal with your emotions around the divorce or separation, and learn about yourself.

5.     Retain a family law attorney.

Hire an attorney with good communication skills, and consult with this professional to prepare for predictable crises and accusations.

6.     Avoid social media.

Delete your Facebook, Twitter, or any other publicly accessible online social networking account. You may wish to erase your browsing history from your computer. Make sure your passwords are secure. Make sure that what you want to keep private, such as letters or lists, is kept private.

7.     Reach out to loved ones.

Tell your family and friends what to expect, how to respond, how they can help, and how to avoid splitting either of you into being viewed as all good or all bad.

This list was adapted from Splitting: Protecting Yourself While Divorcing Someone with Borderline or Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

To schedule an appointment with a family law attorney, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

Accused of Abuse?

147285315Spivak Law Firm routinely defends people accused of domestic violence and abuse. We defend people facing Protection From Abuse (PFA) orders and criminal charges such as simple assault, aggravated assault, harassment, stalking, terroristic threats, child abuse, and reckless endangerment. We also help people facing abuse charges assert child custody and visitation rights.

In family court, it is important to understand that credibility is everything. Someone accused of abuse instantly loses sympathy and credibility in the eyes of the court. Only a rapid, fact-based response can prevent a negative stereotype from attaching to you if you’re falsely accused of abuse. If this happens, it often helps to request a custody or psychological evaluation for both parents and the children, which some judges will order to get beneath the surface and thoroughly evaluate the truth, the dynamics of the parties, and their parenting abilities. Ideally you need to be prepared with a fact-based response to these common types of allegations from the start of the case.

If you’ve been accused of abuse, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

Types of Domestic Violence

77005984At Spivak Law Firm, we handle many cases involving allegations of domestic violence, including: Protection From Abuse (PFA), criminal charges such as assault and harassment, and high-conflict divorce and child custody matters. According to family law experts, there are four distinctly different types of domestic violence:

1)    Battering: Also known as coercive controlling violence, battering involves a pattern of power and control by one partner and a pattern of fear in the victim partner. There may not be frequent violence, but when violence occurs, it can be severe and result in bruises, broken bones, and even death. The victim often becomes isolated, loses self-esteem, and finds it very hard to leave. Most batterers seem to have characteristics of borderline, narcissistic, or anti-social personalities.

2)     Situational Couple Violence: This type of domestic violence is the most common type. Instead of a pattern of power and control, both parties in the couple have difficulties resolving conflict peacefully and get into pushing and shoving types of behavior, sometimes with injuries. Neither party lives in fear of the other, and the violence is generally less severe. Research shows that men and women engage in this type of violence fairly equally.

3)    Separation-Instigated Violence: Sometimes there are one or two incidents at the time of separation, but no prior history of violence. Both parties may engage in this behavior, and it is fairly equal among males and females.

4)    Violent Resistance: This term is used when a victim of a batterer fights back, sometimes injuring the usual perpetrator. Sometimes, batterers set up a spouse to fight back, then call the police. Sometimes victims get arrested because of one injury to the batterer, while the batterer gets away with numerous injuries on other occasions that the victim does not report.

To schedule an appointment with an attorney experienced in cases involving allegations of domestic violence, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

ARD Gives Offenders A Second Chance

139378055In Allegheny County, first-time non-violent offenders may qualify for the ARD program, which gives them a second chance for a clean criminal record. ARD stands for Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition. It is commonly offered to first-time DUI offenders.

ARD participants agree to a probationary period lasting from six months to two years that may include community service, restitution, and offense-specific classes. Although the program isn’t cheap – court costs alone exceed $2,600 – successful completion of ARD allows an offender’s record to be erased or expunged.

To learn if you are eligible for ARD, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

Protecting Kids in Divorce

Little girl wearing sundress holding flowersIn Pennsylvania, courts generally frown on parents who fail to protect their children from conflicts during divorce.

If you’re engaged in a child custody dispute, protect your children from conflicts between you and your partner. Don’t say anything against your partner, no matter how provoked you might be, because anything could become evidence.

Avoid the following behavior:

  • Asking your children questions about the other partner;
  • Discussing court with your children or within their hearing;
  • Asking your children to compare you and your partner;
  • Giving your children choices between their two parents;
  • Exposing your children to your negative emotions.

To speak with a Pittsburgh family law attorney, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

5 Common PFA Misconceptions

86505321Many people have misconceptions about Protection From Abuse (PFA) orders. As a result, they might accept a PFA instead of fighting it.  Or they might violate the PFA unknowingly, resulting in criminal charges. Protect yourself by reading Spivak Law Firm’s five most common PFA misconceptions:

Misconception #1: “It doesn’t matter if I get a PFA because I don’t want to see the plaintiff anyway.

Even if you don’t want to have contact with the plaintiff, we strongly advise you to contest the PFA. A PFA stays on the civil docket and can haunt you for years, especially if you seek a job that requires a background check. Protect your future by hiring an experienced PFA attorney to try to get the PFA vacated, withdrawn, or dismissed.

Misconception #2: “The PFA means we can’t contact each other.”

In fact, the PFA means the defendant cannot contact the plaintiff. But the plaintiff can contact the defendant because the PFA restricts the defendant only. If the plaintiff contacts you while the PFA remains in place, do not respond. The plaintiff could be setting a trap to get you arrested. The plaintiff may always seek to withdraw the PFA.

Misconception #3: “I won’t get in trouble for having somebody else tell the plaintiff to drop the PFA.”

A PFA is a no-contact order. No contact includes physical contact as well as phone calls, texts, emails, faxes, and regular mail. It also includes third-party contact. Instructing another person to give any message whatsoever to the plaintiff is a violation of the PFA that could result in criminal charges.

Misconception #4: “A PFA can’t be used to take my kids away.”

Plaintiffs sometimes misuse PFAs to gain leverage in child custody and divorce cases. Plaintiffs may temporarily receive sole custody of a child until the final PFA hearing, causing defendants to go weeks or even months without seeing their kids. Custody provisions are often included in final PFAs that stay in place indefinitely.

Misconception #5: The plaintiff can’t afford a lawyer so I don’t need to get a lawyer either.

In many Pennsylvania counties, including Allegheny and Westmoreland Counties, plaintiffs may receive a free lawyer regardless of income. In these counties, free lawyers are offered to all plaintiffs, not just low-income plaintiffs. Spivak Law Firm strongly advises defendants to hire an experienced PFA attorney to level the playing field.

To speak with an experienced PFA defense attorney, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

Defining “Income” for Child Support Cases

78287715Child support is largely based on parents’ income. At a child support hearing, both parents are required to bring federal income tax returns, including W-2s, and pay stubs for the last six months.

But what is “income” for child support purposes? According to Pennsylvania law, incomes includes:

–wages, salaries, bonuses, fees and commissions;

–net income from business or dealings in property;

–interest, rents, royalties and dividends;

–pensions and all forms of retirement;

–income from an interest in an estate or trust;

Social Security disability benefits;

–Social Security retirement benefits;

–temporary and permanent disability benefits;

–workers’ compensation;

–unemployment compensation;

alimony;

–lottery winnings;

–income tax refunds; and

–insurance compensation or settlements.

Income does not include public assistance and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, Social Security payments for a child, and foster care payments.

To speak with a family law attorney, contact Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

What To Do If You’re Stopped By Police

200274121-001If you’re stopped by the police, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDot) suggests that you do the following for your safety and the safety of others:

-Activate your turn signal and drive as close as safely possible to the right edge of the road, stop, and park your vehicle safely away from traffic.

-Turn on your vehicle’s interior light as soon as you stop and before the officer approaches, if it is nighttime.

-Limit your movements and the movements of your passengers – do not reach for anything in the vehicle.

-Alert the officer immediately, if you are transporting any type of firearm.

-Place your hands on the steering wheel, and ask any passengers to have their hands in view.

-Keep your vehicle doors closed as the officer approaches, and stay inside your vehicle, unless the officer asks you to get out.

-Keep your seat belt fastened until the officer has seen you are appropriately restrained.

-Wait until the officer asks you to retrieve your driver’s license, registration and insurance cards. Do not hand the officer your wallet – just the requested items.

-Always be polite. It is not in your best interest to argue with the officer at the scene. If you believe you have not been treated in a professional manner, you should contact the appropriate police department at a time following the traffic stop, and ask for a supervisor.

If you are given a citation and disagree with it, you are entitled to a court hearing where you can present your arguments. Spivak Law Firm represents people in traffic court throughout the Pittsburgh area. To speak with a traffic law attorney, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.