Can the cops search your vehicle if they smell marijuana?

Pennsylvania Supreme Court to Hear Case Involving Cannabis Odor and Vehicle Searches

Is the smell of cannabis probable cause for the police to search your vehicle?

That is the question up for debate this week in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. In Commonwealth v. Barr II, the defendant was charged with illegally owning a firearm after police searched his vehicle because they initially smelled marijuana coming from the vehicle.

PA marijuana vehicle smell lawsThis case could have greater implications on anyone who may be smoking marijuana in public. For instance, the way the law works currently, the smell of marijuana inside a vehicle could prompt a DUI arrest. As thousands of people in Pennsylvania are allowed to smoke medical marijuana, the line is blurred between legalities.

Recently cities in Pennsylvania have begun decriminalizing marijuana, issuing only small fines and seizing the drugs for illegally smoking marijuana. However, in most parts of Pennsylvania, you could still receive a $500 fine and 30 days in jail for illegal marijuana use.

Whether or not the smell of marijuana can legally provoke a vehicle search during a traffic stop is an important detail for anyone charged with a crime stemming from that search. 

If you have a pending marijuana case or were recently charged with marijuana possession or marijuana PWID, contact Pittsburgh Marijuana Attorney Justin Ketchel to get more information on your rights and Pennsylvania’s marijuana laws.

Attorney Ketchel can provide a free phone consultation.

If the cops catch you, call Ketchel.



Call 412-456-1221 for a free consultation

If you have been charged with a crime in Pennsylvania, contact Ketchel Law today.

Our number one goal is to have your charges dismissed and your record clean.



We offer free legal consultations to anyone charged with a crime. Call us today to find out how we can help defend your rights.

Learn more about Ketchel Law:



Penalties for Not Wearing a Mask in Pennsylvania

What are the penalties in PA for non-compliance of face coverings / masks?

As the Covid-19 pandemic roars on, mask requirements and laws enforcing masks to be worn outside and in public places are becoming more stringent and prevalent.

Currently, there is a Covid-19 order that states any person outside of their home that will come within six feet of contact of another person, is required to wear a mask, including on the street and inside all businesses.

In addition, even when inside your own home, you are required to wear a mask when people other than household members are present.

People who fail to comply with the mask requirement may be issued a citation and fined between $25 and $300 dollars.

This is true for any of the orders issued by Governor Wolf, which are enforceable as a disease control measure under the Disease Prevention and Control Law. Citations may be written under the Administrative Code of 1929 71 P. S. § 1409 and/or the Disease Prevention and Control Law of 1955 35 P.S. § 521.20(a).

In addition, there is currently a bill being considered by Pennsylvania Senate lawmakers (Senate Bill 1287) that could make non-compliance of a mask a misdemeanor, which could include additional fines and criminal charges.

Business and Non-compliance of Mask Wearing in Pennsylvania

While businesses may ask a person to leave the premises if they are not complying with mask requirements, businesses themselves may be subject to investigation if they are found to not be in compliance of mask enforcement of either their employees or their patrons.

If a business does not comply with enforcing that patrons or employees wear a mask or face covering, people are encouraged to contact local law enforcement or to submit a complaint form to the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

If the business is suspected of not complying with PA Department of Health and CDC guidelines, the health department will make unannounced inspections and a license revocation could be issued. Different counties may apply different measures. In addition, the businesses are also subject to a citation between $25-$300 dollars.

Enforcement agencies include the Pennsylvania State Police, local law enforcement, the departments of Agriculture and State, the PA Department of Health, as well as the PA Liquor Control Board.

Are There Exceptions to the Face Mask Requirement?

The only people and situations exempt from this rule include the following:

  • A person under the age of 2;
  • A person traveling in their vehicle alone or in a public space in a private room;
  • If there is an emergency situation and the person did not have time/means to put on a mask;
  • A person with a health-related or physical issues that would prevent them from wearing a mask, such as a hearing/speaking impairment;
  • A person in a medical situation where a face covering would impede care, such as in a dentist office;
  • If your job puts you in a safety risk for wearing a mask.

Additional Information on Covid-19 Laws in Pennsylvania and Resources:





Making a False Statement on a Firearm Application in Pennsylvania

What Happens When You Make a False Statement on a Firearm Application in Pennsylvania?

False Statement Attempting to Purchase a FirearmPeople who attempt purchasing a gun from a dealer in Pennsylvania are required to complete an application that asks various questions about an applicant’s prior criminal history.

Most people think that if they answer a question wrong on the application, even if it was a mistake, it will be caught by the background check and they will simply be prevented from buying a gun. A “no harm no foul” argument.

However, applicants often do not know that a mistake on a gun application can, and almost always, leads to being criminally charged.

Charges Often Brought Against Applicants for Making False Statements on Firearm Applications

One charge is a felony offense of Sale or Transfer of Firearms for “knowingly and intentionally” making a materially false written statement in connection with the purchase, delivery, or transfer of a firearm.

Typically, the applicant is also charged with a misdemeanor offense of Unsworn Falsification to Authorities for making a false statement “which he does not believe to be true” with the “intent to mislead a public servant in performing his official function.”

Both of these charges allege that the person intentionally lied on the gun application in order to buy a gun, even though most times it is simply a mistake.

Prior Criminal History When Applying for a Firearm

The question that results in these charges being charged against an applicant most frequently is the question that asks if a person has ever been convicted of a felony or a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one-year.

For this question, it is important to know that in Pennsylvania, misdemeanors of the second degree carry a maximum sentence of two years, and a misdemeanor of the first degree carries a maximum of 5 years.

This means if you have been convicted of any crime that is a misdemeanor two or above, you must answer the above question with a “YES.” It does not matter that the actual sentence you received was less than a year or even only probation.

What Happens After You Are Charged with Making a False Statement?

The Criminal Attorneys at Ketchel Law are experienced in successfully handling cases in which a person attempts to purchase a firearm and is then charged with a crime.

Outcomes have included the criminal charges being dropped down to a summary offense citation or being dismissed all together.

If you, a friend or family member find themselves criminally charged after making a mistake on a gun application, call our attorneys at Ketchel Law so that our attorneys can help resolve this mistake.


Our experience and knowledge, along with our strong persuasive skills, allows us to provide you with the best possible defense.


If you have been charged with a crime, call us immediately so we can begin working with you on defending your rights.

2016 Pennsylvania Law Allows Expungement of Misdemeanor Offenses

Can You Now Have Your Criminal Record Expunged? 

One of the biggest concerns an individual may have during a criminal prosecution is, “Will this criminal charge be on my record forever?” The answer is usually yes, but there are some exceptions where criminal charges can be cleared from your record and will not show up on things like credit reports or background checks. This process is usually referred to as “expungement“.

Currently, the law in Pennsylvania states that an expungement may only be achieved in connection with a conviction of a summary offense (not a misdemeanor or felony offense). Of course, if the case results in a dismissal or a verdict of not guilty, the offense is eligible for expungement. Any conviction or guilty plea for a misdemeanor or felony offense will remain on your permanent criminal record.

However, a new Pennsylvania Senate Bill introduced in January, 2016 will allow for an ‘Order of Limited Access’ to be issued by the Court of Common Pleas concerning certain non-violent misdemeanor offenses following a post-conviction period of ten years that is arrest free.

Note that an ‘Order for Limited Access’ means that the criminal record information maintained by a criminal justice agency may only be disseminated to another criminal justice agency or governmental agency.

In other words, it is not an ‘expungement’ in that the records are not destroyed. However, the Bill precludes access to other agencies seeking such information (e.g. certain employers, online companies, educational agencies, etc.).

Pennsylvania Senate Bill 166 outlines the following as conditions for eligibility to obtain an ‘Order for Limited Access’ concerning these misdemeanor offenses:

  • The offense at issue must be graded as an M2, M3 or an ungraded Misdemeanor which carries a maximum possible sentence of 2 years;
  • The post-conviction time period is an arrest-free 10 years, and;
  • The offense at issue must be non-violent in nature.

As with many laws, there are certain exceptions. The exceptions for eligibility that have been outlined are as follows:

  • An offense punishable by imprisonment of more than 2 years;
  • An individual who has been convicted of 4 or more offenses punishable by imprisonment of 1 or more years;
  • Simple Assault, except when graded as an M3;
  • Sexual Intercourse with an Animal;
  • Impersonating a Public Servant;
  • Intimidation of a Witness/Victim;
  • Retaliation Against a Witness/Victim;
  • Intimidation, Retaliation, and/or Obstruction in child abuse cases; and,
  • Any offense requiring sexual offender registration.

The Act will take effect 270 days from February 16, 2016.

The new cost associated with the expungement filing fee will be $132.00 payable to the Clerk of Courts.

Read the new PA Senate Bill on Criminal Record Expungement in full here.

CALL KETCHEL LAW TODAY for a free consultation at 412.456.1221.

Learn More About Criminal Charges in Pennsylvania:

If you have been charged with a crime in Pennsylvania, contact Ketchel Law today.

Our number one goal is to have your charges dismissed and your record clean.


Avoiding a DUI Arrest

What Actions Could Make You Get Pulled Over for DUI?

Officers are trained to detect drivers under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs from observing the individual operate the vehicle, react during a traffic stop, and complete field sobriety tests.

The following show the different phases of a DUI arrest and highlights what you should be aware of if you are pulled over for a suspected DUI.

Operating the Vehicle

The following indicators represent a ‘high probability’ that a driver is impaired by drugs or alcohol:

  • Trouble staying in your lane of traffic;
  • Variations with braking and speed (e.g., abrupt braking, speeding up then decreasing speed, driving too slow or significantly under the speed limit);
  • The drivers awareness (or lack thereof) of road signs or signals, and;
  • Problems with the driver’s judgment (e.g., illegal turn, unsafe or risky lane change, tailgating)

The DUI Traffic Stop

Once the officer initiates a traffic stop, he is required to note indicators of impairment during his interaction with the suspect. Such cues include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Slurred speech;
  • Glassy, bloodshot eyes;
  • Odor of alcohol;
  • Unsteady balance;
  • Fumbling with driver’s license, registration or insurance information;
  • The suspect repeats comments or questions;
  • The suspect has slow or delayed responses;
  • The suspects becomes angry or argumentative;
  • The suspect admits to consuming alcohol and/or drugs (even just one beer or cocktail) Remember: You are not required to give a statement to police that may incriminate you.

Field Sobriety Tests

You are not required to submit to field sobriety tests under the law. Field sobriety tests are designed to test an individual’s balance, ability to process information and coordination but are often unreliable and can be used as additional evidence against you.

However, you are required to submit to a chemical test  (i.e., giving a blood or urine sample). A refusal to submit to a chemical test can result in additional penalties and immediate suspension of your driver’s license.

If you were charged with DUI or are in violation of the Interlock Program, call our Pittsburgh DUI Lawyers who have a thorough understanding of the laws and court process. Our attorneys can help. Call Ketchel Law for a free consultation.



If the cops catch you, call Ketchel.

Get a free legal consultation: 412-456-1221



If you have been charged with a crime in Pennsylvania, contact Ketchel Law today.

Our number one goal is to have your charges dismissed and your record clean.



We offer free legal consultations to anyone charged with a crime. Call us today to find out how we can help defend your rights.

Learn more about Ketchel Law: