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Bench warrant leads to more drug charges against Pittsburgh woman

A Pittsburgh woman who missed her sentencing hearing in January after pleading guilty to drug charges is facing further charges of drug possession with intent to distribute following her arrest on Feb. 1. The arrest was based on a bench warrant issued by the court following the hearing. This case is an important lesson about the consequences of not showing up for every court appearance.

The defendant, a 42-year-old woman, was arrested in August 2010 on suspicion of drug possession with intent to distribute. She pleaded guilty to the charges in Allegheny County court and a sentencing hearing was scheduled for January.

But the woman failed to appear for the hearing, leading the judge to issue a bench warrant for her arrest. Deputies from the Allegheny County Sheriff's Office went to her apartment in Pittsburgh's North Side to search for her.

Deputies entered the apartment the morning of Jan. 31. No one was present, but deputies later claimed that an "odor of burning marijuana" was present in the apartment. The deputies began knocking on doors throughout the building. All but one resident voluntarily admitted the deputies to search their apartments, the deputies said.

The deputies obtained a search warrant for that apartment, apparently based on the marijuana odor and the residents declining a voluntary police search. They entered the apartment and found the defendant. She was arrested, along with the residents.

Another search of the defendant's apartment uncovered 500 stamp bags of heroin and a small amount of crack cocaine, the deputies claimed.

Though facing criminal charges can be a long, time-consuming, frustrating process, almost any criminal defense attorney would say that failing to appear during a scheduled court appearance only makes things worse.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Convicted drug dealer in North Side faces more charges," Liz Navratil, Feb. 2, 2012

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