Are you facing criminal charges in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania? Are you in fear of what could happen to your life if you are ultimately convicted? A criminal conviction, even a misdemeanor, can turn your life upside down now and in the future. If the offense is serious enough it may haunt you forever and will exert it’s effects on many areas of your life. Criminal charges are extremely serious and need to be treated as such. You need the help of our qualified and highly competent Pennsylvania criminal defense lawyers.
Contact our team of Pennsylvania criminal defense lawyers for a free consultation. They serve the accused throughout all of Pennsylvania including Allentown, Altoona, Bethlehem, Lancaster, Lehigh Valley, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Reading, Scranton, Wilkes-Barre and York, PA.
The consequences of a criminal conviction are extremely serious, even if the charges you are facing are misdemeanor charges. By no means is this something you should face alone. Depending on your criminal history, the crime you are accused of and the circumstances surrounding your arrest you may face legal and administrative consequences such as:
Loss of driving privileges
Change in academic status if college student
The Pennsylvania legal system is very complex and is not something you should attempt to navigate through alone. Contact our team of Scranton, Pennsylvania criminal defense attorneys if you are facing any of the following types of charges or situations:
Drug crimes (felony and misdemeanor)
College student crimes
Healthcare crimes such as fraud, compound pharmacy fraud, Medicaid fraud & pill mill operation.
If you’ve been accused of a crime in Pennsylvania, you must be wondering what to do next. What could happen to me? Do I need a Pennsylvania criminal defense lawyer, and how do I find one?
When you walk into the court room and the clerk reads the case number and announces that it’s the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Our Bethel Park, Pennsylvania criminal defense lawyers know that you feel alone and scared. They get that this is a difficult time for you. The Erie, Pennsylvania criminal defense lawyers on our team need you to know there is hope and there is help.
Our Allentown, Pennsylvania criminal defense lawyers fight for their clients who are facing criminal charges throughout the entire Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Everyday, for people just like you. Whether you are facing a serious felony charge or a misdemeanor or summary offense, it is something that can seriously impact the rest of your life.
So, for the answers you need, please call our Pennsylvania law offices now for your free criminal defense consultation by Malvern, Pennsylvania criminal defense lawyers. By contacting them immediately you can get some free advice on your situation, and find out what our experienced Pennsylvania criminal defense lawyers can do for you, with no obligation.
The Pennsylvania Legal System
Criminal law refers to the area of law that involves the government or state prosecuting an individual for violating a public law. Criminal law also called penal law is established by local, state, and federal governments. Crimes fall into three basic categories:
- Felony – serious crimes like robbery, kidnapping rape and murder punishable by up to a year or more in prison
- Misdemeanor – less serious crime like petty theft, simple assault, public intoxication, trespass and indecent exposure, misdemeanors are punishable by fines, up to one year in prison and community service
- Regulatory crime or Infractions– least serious crimes, violation of an administrative regulation, examples are exceeding the speed limit and hunting with an expired hunters license, usually not punishable by incarceration, typically punishable by fine only
In a criminal case the prosecutor, a government lawyer also called district or state Criminal Attorney, initiates a criminal case in the hopes of bringing an offender to justice. The victim of the crime has no say in whether the prosecutor brings a case against the alleged criminal. However in almost all criminal cases the alleged criminal has the right to be tried before a jury and the prosecutor must prove the criminal is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Understanding the phases of a criminal case with the help of our Lancaster, Pennsylvania criminal defense lawyers:
- Arrest – a criminal case begins when a police officer places a person under arrest this can occur from the officer witnessing a crime, having probable cause that a crime has been committed or from an officer obtaining an arrest warrant to bring a person into custody. During an arrest the suspect is read his or her Miranda rights, searched and driven to jail for booking.
- Booking or Processing – during booking typically an officer takes down the suspects personal information, photographs and fingerprints the suspect, removes all personal effects from the suspect and writes down a detailed report of the alleged crime. The suspect is then placed in a holding cell. During the booking process the criminal is allowed one phone call.
- Bail – after booking the suspect may be granted bail. Bail is a payment of money that facilitates the suspects release from custody in exchange for a promise to appear for all court proceedings. A suspect may also be released on his or her “own recognizance” meaning that they need not post bail but must promise in writing to appear for all court appearances.
- Arraignment – the arraignment is the suspect’s first appearance before a criminal judge. Typically the judge will read the charges filed against the suspect as presented in the criminal complaint and the suspect will plead “guilty,” “not guilty” or “no contest” to those charges. The defendant’s bail will be reviewed by the judge and further court proceedings will be determined.
- Preliminary hearing – shortly after the arraignment the defendant appears for a preliminary hearing. During this hearing the prosecution and the defense present evidence about the crime to the judge and the judge determines if there is sufficient evidence for the case to proceed to trail. In some states a preliminary hearing is held only if the defendant is accused of committing a felony. In some states the defendant does not appear for a preliminary hearing rather the defendant appears before a grand jury, which is a jury of citizens that decides whether, based on the prosecution’s evidence, the case should proceed to trial.
- Pretrial motions – used by the prosecution and the defense to determine what evidence and testimony will be presented at trial.
- Trial – in a criminal trial the prosecution bears the responsibility of proving the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The jury or judge decides if the defendant is guilty or not guilty after listening to the prosecution and the defense argue their case.
- Sentencing – after a defendant is convicted of a crime the court will determine the appropriate punishment for the crime. In determining a just punishment the court will evaluate the severity of the crime, the remorse of the defendant and the criminal history of the defendant.
- Appeal – If the defendant feels that the court has erred in the conviction or sentencing of the defendant, they can request that their case be reviewed by a higher court.
Common Defenses Against PA Criminal Charges
In order to convict you of a criminal charge, the prosecutor must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a pretty lofty standard, and during any trial the defendant may present a defense in order to raise such a reasonable doubt. Most defenses break down into one of two categories: (1) I didn’t do it or (2) I did it, but I shouldn’t be held responsible.
1. I Didn’t Do It
The most basic defense to any criminal charge is to simply prove that you didn’t do it.
Innocent Until Proven Guilty
One of the hallmarks of the American legal system is the presumption that you are innocent until proven guilty. This isn’t just an ideal, it’s an actual legal presumption, which means the judge and jury must assume you’re innocent until they are shown otherwise. This is why a defendant can “plead the fifth,” remain silent, and not offer a shred of evidence to support his or her claim of innocence and still prevail. It is the prosecutor’s job to prove a defendant is guilty, not a defendant’s job to prove that he or she is innocent. So what does a prosecutor have to show?
Beyond a Reasonable Doubt
The prosecutor must demonstrate to the judge or jury that there is no reasonable doubt of your guilt. If any reasonable doubt can be shown, any at all, then the prosecutor has failed and you should be found innocent. Because this standard is so high, most defendants concentrate on raising some reasonable doubt to the prosecutor’s allegations.
I Have an Alibi
One of the primary ways defendants prove that they didn’t do it is to demonstrate that they couldn’t have done it. Evidence proving that you were somewhere else when the crime occurred is called an alibi. An alibi shows that you were somewhere else, usually with someone else, and thus couldn’t have been the perpetrator. By demonstrating to a judge or jury that it is likely that you weren’t present at the crime scene, you are creating a reasonable doubt of your guilt.
2. I Did It, but Shouldn’t Be Held Responsible
Many defendants admit that they did the act, but claim for one reason or another, that they shouldn’t be held responsible. Here are a few examples of this type of defense:
This is a common defense when someone is charged with causing some form of physical violence (assault, battery, etc). The defendant flips the story, and demonstrates that rather than being the aggressor, he or she was actually the victim and was acting to protect themselves from harm.
Self-defense is an ancient defense that exists in most legal systems, and is predicated on the belief that people have a right to defend themselves from physical injury. Proving such a defense can be tricky since a defendant will generally have to demonstrate that self-defense was necessary, the belief of physical harm was reasonable, and that the response was reasonable. For example, responding to an assailant’s threat to punch you by shooting them is almost certainly an unreasonable response.
Although it makes for fascinating TV dramas, in real life defendants rarely plead insanity as a defense. Judges and jurors are very skeptical of these claims, and because of the abstract nature of this defense, it can be very difficult to actually prove.
The theory behind an insanity defense is the notion that in almost every criminal law, there is a “mental” or “intent” element. Often, the required mental state is that you must have intended to perform the criminal act. If a defendant is precluded from an understanding of what they’re doing because of mental illness, then they can’t possess the mental state that the criminal charge requires. From a policy standpoint, we also tend to think that it would be more appropriate to send someone who is truly insane to psychiatric care, not to prison. Thus, even if a defendant is successful in an insanity defense, they will be sent to a psychiatric institution, not set free.
So how do courts define “insane”? The most popular definition is the McNaughten test which defines insanity as “the inability to distinguish right from wrong”. To successfully win an insanity defense, a defendant will rely on testimony from a psychiatrist, and will undergo extensive psychiatric testing which can be painful and humiliating.
Under the Influence Defense
Related to the insanity defense, some defendants defend themselves by claiming that they were under the influence of drugs, and could not have had the mental state necessary to commit the crime. In other words, they were too high to really know what they were doing. Only a few states allow this defense, and even then, it is only a partial defense. At best, it will lower the crime you are convicted of to a lesser crime.
An entrapment defense is appropriate when an official induces you to commit a crime. Common examples of this are prostitution stings or drug sales. The theory is that the government shouldn’t be allowed to push you into committing a crime and then convicting you for it.
This defense won’t be successful if the judge or jury believes you were predisposed to committing the crime, however. So even if an undercover officer offered to sell you illegal drugs, if you have a history of drug use, then an entrapment defense isn’t likely to be successful.
Defending yourself against Pennsylvania criminal charges is a very complex task and should only be done by our Philadelphia, Pennsylvania criminal defense lawyers. No one individual can understand the full ramifications of every charge and every defense to a criminal case without a good criminal defense attorney. So if you’re being investigated or charged with a crime, you’d be wise to take advantage of a free consult with our Pittsburgh criminal attorneys as soon as possible.
Contact Our Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Lawyers
The Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania criminal defense lawyers on our team have been practicing criminal law in Pennsylvania for many years. Not many attorneys bring his level of experience and expertise to the table. As your legal counsel our Philadelphia, Pennsylvania criminal defense lawyers will call on their extensive experience to effectively defend your rights. Please contact our Harrisburg, Pennsylvania criminal defense lawyers now for a free no pressure consultation.
Our Pennsylvania criminal defense lawyers serve all of PA including: Allentown, Altoona, Bethlehem, Bethel Park, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Mount Carmel (Mt. Carmel) Media, Kennett Square, York, Easton, Bensalem, Cheltenham, Abington, Erie, State College, Lock Haven, Norristown, Doylestown, Reading, Harrisburg, Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, West Chester, Chester, Paoli, Wayne, Radnor, Ambler, Malvern, Lower Merion, Upper Merion, Blue Bell and New Hope, PA.