Pennsylvania is home to a number of magisterial district courts that handle the initial tier of Pennsylvania's Unified Judicial system. Each county within the state can contain as many as 30 district courts if not more, each presided over by a Magisterial District Judge. It is not a requirement that magisterial judges be attorneys; they are, however, required to complete a certification course. Such courts have jurisdiction over criminal preliminary hearings, arraignments, traffic offenses, summary offenses, landlord-tenant disputes, municipal code violations, and civil claims for which the damages don't exceed $12,000. Their jurisdiction is limited in scope and divided by geographic location.
When you are summoned to a district magisterial district court, it is in your best interest to retain an attorney to represent you. Stepping foot into court without a plan of action and an attorney by your side is an easy way to become confused about the process, what is expected of you, what penalties you face, and what your exact rights are. If you go in blindly, you are doing yourself an enormous disservice. The court may be an entirely foreign environment for you personally, but a seasoned attorney is familiar with the procedures, expectations, and outcomes. It will be an enormous credit to your case, and dramatically increase your chances of a positive outcome, if you are proactive in calling and consulting with an experienced attorney who is qualified to handle your charges.
In using common sense alone, it is evident that you stand a far greater chance of seeing your charges dismissed if you hire an aggressive, knowledgeable attorney who has taken on countless cases of a similar nature. A skilled attorney knows how to exploit the weaknesses and vulnerabilities in the process to your benefit, while attentively ensuring that none of your rights are violated. As mentioned, magisterial courts handle the least serious, least imposing charges within the criminal justice system--this means it could be that much easier to get your charges dismissed when you have an attorney equipped to do so. You are not confronting lofty felony charges with prison sentences and massive fines; although you may be inclined to bow your head to the charges and take the penalties laying down, you should absolutely know that you do not have to. Criminal defense attorney Joseph Lento genuinely cares about the outcome of his clients' cases. He does not want to see you walk away with a conviction that could have been avoided, had you only fought a bit harder and retained an attorney.
More than likely, your contact with this court will be your first touch-point with the Pennsylvania Judicial System. They have been characterized as the first level of judicial authority in the Commonwealth. Magisterial courts deal with the least serious rung of offenses: shoplifting charges, disorderly conduct, traffic violations, and other offenses of this nature. However, this is not the only type of offense they handle. Misdemeanor and felony cases also begin at the Magisterial District Court.
If you are faced with a charge in any of the Magisterial District Courts in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, or Montgomery counties, immediately contact Joseph D. Lento for a consultation of your charges by calling (215) 535-5353.