Magisterial District Judge Steven Lachman
District Court 49-3-05
Welcome to Magisterial District Court 49-3-05, serving the following neighborhoods in State College Borough: College Heights, West College Heights, Greentree, Holmes-Foster, Waupelani/Orchard Park, and the West College/Beaver Avenue areas. We also serve the western half of the Penn State University campus and the downtown area bordered by Garner Street, College Avenue, South Allen Street, and Beaver Avenue.
Our goal is to uphold the law and administer justice as fairly as possible. People seldom want to be in court, but we hope to make your experience as painless as possible. Here is a quick user's guide to the court.
121 South Pugh Street, State College, PA 16801. We are located at the corner of South Pugh Street and Calder Way, immediately across the street from the Pugh Street Parking Garage.
1. Please turn off your cell phones before entering the court.
2. You may attend another person's hearing as long as you are not disruptive.
3. Stand when the judge enters the courtroom.
4. Dress appropriately. This is a court of law, not a basketball court.
5. No photography is allowed in the courtroom except during weddings.
6. Be on time.
Right to Counsel
Although the constitutional right to counsel attaches only if imprisonment is likely, litigants may bring attorneys into my court in all cases. If you cannot afford an attorney, there are several options for free representation: In civil cases, Mid-Penn Legal Services: 814-238-4958
In criminal cases, Centre County Public Defender's Office: 814-355-6798
If you are a Penn State University student, Penn State Student Legal Services: 814-867-4388. Student Legal Services does not represent students on felony charges.
If you want to be represented by an attorney, contact the attorney immediately. We will not continue your case because you delayed in retaining an attorney.
The court does not have any public restrooms. However, there are public restrooms immediately across the street in the Pugh Street Parking Garage.
Parking and Transportation
There is parking immediately across the street in the Pugh Street Parking Garage. There is also CATA bus transportation with stops on both College Avenue and Beaver Avenue.
Scheduling and Continuances
Once you receive your hearing notice, if you find that the date conflicts with another obligation, you may request a continuance in writing. Oral requests will not be considered. Your request must identify the reason and should be made at least a week in advance. As a general rule, the court will not grant more than one continuance to a party.
What cases does the Magisterial District Court handle?
The court has jurisdiction over civil and landlord-tenant cases with monetary values of up to $12,000, and over summary criminal offenses – including both traffic and non-traffic citations. The court handles parking appeals and truancy cases as well. If you believe you are a victim of a crime, and the police have not filed criminal charges, you may file a private criminal complaint in the court.
Foreign and Sign Language Interpreters
The court will provide, free of charge, an interpreter for witnesses, attorneys, and defendants who are not fluent in spoken English. This includes persons who may need a sign-language interpreter. Please give the court as much advance notice as possible so that the hearing is not delayed.
Payment of Fines
If you plead guilty to or are convicted of an offense, your fine, costs, and restitution are normally due within 30 days of your plea or verdict. However, if you cannot afford to pay everything at once, you may ask to be put on a payment plan. The request must be in writing and must contain two things: (1) the reason you cannot afford the assessment; and (2) how much per month you can afford to pay. The court usually requires that the full amount of the assessment be paid within six months.
Payment may be made by cash, check, or money order. Do not send cash through the mail. We do not accept credit card payments over the phone or in person. However, credit card payments may be made online: http://ujsportal.pacourts.us.
If you are assessed a fine, costs, and/or restitution and do not pay your assessment on time, the court will issue a bench warrant for your arrest. The constable who serves the warrant charges the court a fee, and that fee is added to your assessment.
If you absolutely cannot afford to pay your fines, notify the court promptly. Don't wait for the court to issue an arrest warrant. The court will schedule a payment determination hearing to determine your payment ability. At that hearing, you must produce documentation of your income and expenses. If it truly appears you are unable to pay, the court may extend your payment plan. Please be aware that if you can afford cigarettes, alcohol, or cable TV, then you can afford to pay your fines.
What happens at a trial?
Criminal Trial (including traffic and parking cases): The prosecution goes first, and has the burden of proving its case beyond a reasonable doubt. Although the prosecution may be represented by an attorney, usually the police or parking officer appears pro se. They may call and question witnesses, or testify themselves. After each person testifies, the defendant or his/her attorney may cross-examine the witness. After the prosecution completes its case in chief, the defendant may (but is not required to) introduce his or her own testimony through witnesses, and the prosecution's representative may cross-examine the defense witnesses. At the conclusion of all testimony, I listen to any arguments that each side may make, with the defense going first. I will then consider everything I have heard and announce my verdict.
Civil Trial: The burden the plaintiff must meet in a civil trial is "a preponderance of the evidence," meaning that there must be more evidence supporting the plaintiff's position than against it. The plaintiff calls its witnesses first, and when the plaintiff completes its case, the defense may call its witnesses. Every witness is subject to cross examination by the opposing side. The court has 5 days after the hearing to render a verdict, which will be mailed to the parties. Individuals, corporations, and partnerships may be represented by attorneys, officers, or non-attorney representatives with personal knowledge of the subject matter of the case. If you or your firm want to be represented by a non-attorney employee or agent, you must provide written authorization signed by you, a corporate officer, or a partner before the trial begins. Otherwise, the representative will not be allowed to present the case. Attorneys must enter a written notice of appearance before the court.
Alternative Dispositions for Summary Offenses If you have been charged with a summary minor's law violation (underage drinking or false ID), you may be eligible for an alternative disposition in lieu of a trial or conviction. The alternative disposition typically involves a combination of community service and alcohol counseling. The program is open only to first-time offenders and you must pay your courts costs when you sign up for the program. Please inquire by phone or at the office window. Under state law, a conviction or an alternative disposition for a minor's law violation both result in a 90-day driver's license suspension.
Judge Lachman is happy to help couples seal their vows. Centre County charges a fee for the performance of weddings in the Magisterial District Court. Please call the court to schedule your wedding. You must have a Marriage License issued by your county prior to the wedding ceremony. You are encouraged to bring family and friends to the ceremony.