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Chris T., JD
Chris T., JD, Attorney
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Subject: Minor (16) using Tobacco (Skoal) at a school function

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Subject: Minor (16) using Tobacco (Skoal) at a school function 40 miles away from school in a hotel

State: PA

My son was at an overnight FFA event that was a school function and when one of the chaperones was doing room checks that night my son was found with tobacco. It was not his but he was using. We received a call and had to go pick him up.

The following day he was called in and was given 1 day of in school suspension.

Now 3 months latter we received a call from the local police that we will be receiving a summons to appear before the district magi straight where his punishment and fine will be decided.

My questions are:

1. Is it illegal in PA for a minor to posses and use tobacco?

2. The police are located in a small town and the school district is outside of that town but the school contracts with that police department. Can that police department be contracted to issue fines (if illegal) for incident that happened at an event that occurred 4 counties away and out of their jurisdiction?

TexLawyer :

Good evening. I'll be assisting you with your question.

TexLawyer :

To answer your second question first, a police department may issue a citation for an incident that happened outside their jurisdiction, so long as they are within the state. The license a police officer holds is technically state-wide, so they may enforce laws even when not in their city or county.

TexLawyer :

However, the court that should handle the offense should be where the "crime" occurred.

TexLawyer :

Which brings me to your first question.

TexLawyer :

Pennsylvania does not specifically criminally prohibit possession or use of tobacco by a minor. It does, however, prohibit PURCHASE of tobacco by a minor. http://law.onecle.com/pennsylvania/crimes-and-offenses/00.063.005.000.html

TexLawyer :

So, really the question comes down to whether they can prove that he purchased the tobacco. You should check with your son and see if he told the police or anyone else that he did, indeed, purchase the tobacco and, if so, where.

Customer:

I

Customer:

I know for a fact and it has been established that another minor brought the tobacco to the event.

TexLawyer :

In that case, he can likely contest the case and win.

TexLawyer :

Purchase of tobacco is likely the charge. It should say on the ticket or give a statute number. Do you know if it does?

Customer:

We were only informed today that they were mailing it, we have not received it yet.

TexLawyer :

Once you see what exactly they are charging him with you will get a better idea, but I've been unable to find a Pennsylvania statute that specifically prohibits the possession or use of tobacco by a minor. They may have tried to charge him with purchase of tobacco, but there is no way to know until the summons arrives.

Customer:

Thank you very much. When I get that information will i be able to open this same secession and give you that informing for you feedback.

TexLawyer :

Yes, you can either reply to this question or post a new question, including "this question is for TexLawyer" in the title.

TexLawyer :

Do you have any other questions?

Customer:

Please look at this attachment and let me know if it changes anything. It is off the school web site and sites some PA codes.

TexLawyer :

This statute makes is a crime (punishable by a fine up to $50) to USE tobacco on school property.

TexLawyer :

A "school" for purposes of the statute includes a school building, a school bus or on school property owned by, leased by or under the control of a school district.

TexLawyer :

So, if he used or possessed tobacco on school property, he can be sanctioned under this statute.

TexLawyer :

The question here is whether the hotel room is considered school property under the statute.

Customer:

It was at a hotel, A Hilton hotel

TexLawyer :

I understand. If it went to court, the school district may argue that they paid for the room using school funds, therefore it was property "leased by or under the control" of the school district. However, the cost and time spent fighting the charge may not be worth it.

TexLawyer :

This is only a summary offense and doesn't create a criminal record.

Customer:

I understand that it's the principal of the issue. I know it's not worth fighting but if we did do you think we have a case with the information that I have provided?

TexLawyer :

I think that you have a good case to argue that he was not on school property.

Customer:

What about the lack of any PA possession law. Does that still play into the case or not?

TexLawyer :

PA does not have a general possession law, but does have one that only applies to schools.

Customer:

I think we are done. Thank for the good work

TexLawyer :

Glad to help.

Chris T., JD and 9 other Legal Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Ok im back. On this subject we received the summons and it is for section 6306.1 sub sect A.


 


§ 6306.1. Use of tobacco in schools prohibited. (a) Offense defined.--A pupil who possesses or uses tobacco in a school building, a school bus or on school property owned by, leased by or under the control of a school district commits a summary offense.


 


We need to plead guilty or not guilty. My son did use tobacco at a school function but on the summons it states that the location was at the school and it was not. It was at a hotel in another county. The Summons is from a MDJ of Cumberland County. The incident happend in Dolphin County. If he is guilty of the charge but is receiving a summons from with the wrong incident address and from the wrong county should he plead guilty or not guilty.


 


The other kid that was involved with this (the one who had the tobacco) pleaded guilty and had his case at the Cumberland County MDJ today. The MDJ was surprised to learn that the incident (caught) happened in Dolphin County. The MDJ told the other kid that she has no jurisdiction where the incident happened but because he admitted that had the tobacco with him when he departed the school on the bus (in Cumberland County) that she could charge him, and she did with 40 Hr's of community service.


 


Should my son plead guilty and explain to the MDJ that although he is guilty of the charge that no wrong doing occurred within her jursdiction or should he plead not guilty because the summons has the wrong location, county and is being filed by the wrong MDJ?


 


I think you have a strong case to object that the case was not filed in the proper jurisdiction, and the case should be dismissed. Of course, it could still be filed in the proper jurisdiction and then it could go forward. However, it seems unlikely they would go through that for such a low level offense. As far it not being on school property, the statute addresses an offense that occurs on property leased by the school. In this case, it could be argued that a hotel room being paid for by the school is "property leased or under the control of the school district." Of course, that is assuming they refile in the proper jurisdiction, which they very well may not do.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

I acknowledge that yes he was guilty to the charge.


 


But should he plead guilty and the explain that it has been filed in the wrong jurisdiction or should he plead not guilty based upon the summons being filed in the wrong jurisdiction.


 

If he pleads guilty, he waives his argument regarding jurisdiction. One of the elements of the crime that must be proved is proper jurisdiction. If that element can't be proved, then, technically, he's not guilty.

If he pleads guilty, he loses his ability to argue that it was filed int the wrong county.
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