Being arrested and charged with a crime in Philadelphia will, by its nature, be a challenging ordeal. Having the right attorney in your corner will certainly make a difficult process easier to bear, but as importantly, understanding what to expect in a Philadelphia Municipal Court case will help make a challenging time more manageable. The following article explains important aspects of how a Philadelphia criminal court case will generally start, and also explains major steps in the process through the trial stage.
Pennsylvania Criminal Defense
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Knowledge is power, and this blog is dedicated to providing the most updated information on Pennsylvania Criminal Defense, related topics, and criminal law in general. It's our goal for you to use the information on this site, including the individual practice area pages, to help you understand your rights, obligations, and the best course of action for your Pennsylvania Criminal Defense case.
No defendant wants to face the prospect of being sentenced, and that is why everything that can be done must be done to defend against criminal charges. If the day comes, however, that a defendant will be sentenced by the court, understanding how sentencing in Pennsylvania works will make a difficult time for a defendant and their family easier to bear. The following article provides an overview of Pennsylvania sentencing concepts in general, and also specific sentencing considerations.
Field sobriety tests, also known as "FST's", are an important, albeit highly flawed, tool used by Pennsylvania police officers in trying to establish that a driver was driving drunk. Because of this reality, especially in light of the issues inherent in the use of FST's, an analysis of the potential problems with field sobriety tests themselves and how they are administered will be helpful in understanding if the police's use of the FST can be used against the prosecution itself in a DUI case.
Having a criminal record can have a major impact on a person's life, whether they reside in Pennsylvania or anywhere else in the country. Although Pennsylvania expungement law is not lenient, there are many circumstances where a person will be able to get their entire criminal record cleared, and if that is not possible, it may be of some benefit to have whatever charges that are otherwise eligible cleared. Understanding the major steps in the Pennsylvania expungement process, in addition to all of the many nuances, will help a person who is trying to expunge their record understand the path forward.
Per Pennsylvania law, if a person pleads guilty or is convicted of a felony or misdemeanor, he or she will be ineligible to have those charges expunged unless exceptional circumstances are met. If a person pleaded guilty or was convicted of an ungraded misdemeanor or a misdemeanor of the 2nd or 3rd degree, a person may be eligible for a record sealing if other specific conditions are met; including waiting ten years after the case is closed without incurring any new arrests or prosecutions. Because the law in Pennsylvania is not lenient when a person is trying to clear their record, the only option at times may be to seek a pardon. In such instances, it is critical to understand the Pennsylvania pardon process to maximize the chances of success.
If you or your loved one is charged with driving under the influence in Philadelphia, and regardless if the case involves general impairment, a high rate of alcohol, or a controlled substance, it is critical to make certain that all avenues of attack and defense are explored. There are many questions that need to be answered when faced with a DUI charge. Make certain that the most important questions are asked and answered.
A person with a criminal should always consider the option of seeking an engagement or record sealing first. If it is determined that a person is ineligible to seek such relief, seeking clemency may have to be considered. Pardons and commutations of sentences will generally be the most common form of clemency sought in Pennsylvania, but regardless of which specific relief is needed, an applicant and his or her family must attend to the clemency process in the most effective manner possible.
Although such an extreme act as an arrest would seem to be clear in all instances, this is not always the case. Because what happens after a person is arrested in Pennsylvania can be critical in a criminal case against the person when charged, an understanding of what constitutes an arrest and what does not will help make what can be gray area more black and white, and will help a person protect their rights when dealing with police and law enforcement.
Facing a violation of probation anywhere in Pennsylvania is challenging, but the potential concerns are compounded in Montgomery County because a person accused can sit in custody for a significant period of time before a hearing is even scheduled. A person charged with a probation violation and his or her family should make sure that their interests are protected. Understanding how a violation of probation is handled in Montgomery County is the first step in achieving the best outcome possible.
When facing criminal charges, a defendant and his or her family will often have many questions. For a person in trouble with the law for the first time, a major question will be, "How will the charges affect me and my future?" Because making an unfortunate or honest mistake, or being at the wrong place at the wrong time in Philadelphia can produce unwelcome consequences both in the short and long-term, a person charged with a crime must make certain that they respond to the circumstances as effectively as possible. One potential path forward that can help a person avoid a criminal record is the prospect of resolving their charges through Philadelphia's ARD program.
How Long Does Take for a Violation of Probation / Parole (VOP) Hearing to be Held in Pennsylvania? Reasonable and Unreasonable Delay
When a person receives a period of probation as part of their sentence, or is granted county parole in lieu of spending additional time incarcerated, there are obvious benefits. Issues can arise, however. Because a person on probation or parole will often be held in custody on a detainer while revocation proceedings take place, the question of when a violation of probation / parole hearing take place will often weigh heavily on the minds of the person accused and their families. Understanding what constitutes reasonable and unreasonable delay in when a VOP hearing will be scheduled will help defendants and their families know what to expect in such an unfortunate situation arises.
The importance of a preliminary hearing in Philadelphia and how it will factor into the ultimate outcome of a criminal case cannot be emphasized enough. Major strategic decisions have to be made both prior to and at the preliminary hearing itself to give the person charge the best chance of achieving a favorable outcome. The following overview provides an understanding as to what takes place at a Philadelphia preliminary hearing and will help ease the burden of fighting the criminal charges.
When a defendant faces the prospect of a state prison sentence in Pennsylvania, it can be difficult to accept. As burdensome as a county jail sentence can be for a person facing the prospect of incarceration, a state prison sentence, by its general nature, will generally involve a longer period of time in custody, and the prison sentence will often be served much further from home. Time away from family, work, school, and life in general will always be burdensome. For some defendants in Pennsylvania who struggle with drug and/or alcohol dependency issues, the burden of a state prison sentence can be mitigated by acceptance into the State Intermediate Punishment program.
The stakes are high when a person is accused of violating his or her probation or parole in Pennsylvania. Understanding that such proceedings generally take place in a hostile forum, an effective attorney will understand that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, represented by the probation officer and the prosecutor, may try to take liberties with an accused's rights. Understanding what kind of evidence is allowed at a violation of probation hearing or a parole revocation hearing, and by extension, what kind of evidence is not allowed, can give the person accused of violating probation or parole a fighting chance of a favorable outcome.
When a defendant is placed on probation or parole in Pennsylvania, this will be better than the standard alternative of incarceration. The issue that arises is when a person is accused of violating his or her probation or parole. When this happens, the defendant can actually find him or herself in a more tenuous position than when initially sentenced. The reason being that the defendant's "back judge" (the judge who sentenced the defendant) can regard a violation of probation or parole as the defendant's inability to appreciate the "opportunity" that was given to him or her by avoiding time in custody altogether, or by serving less time in custody because of the probation or parole that was granted as part of the initial sentence. Accordingly, it is critical to understand how probation and parole violations in Pennsylvania are addressed, and what rights a person has who is facing probation or parole revocation proceedings.
When a first-time offender gets into trouble with the law, the consequences can be more severe than a person who has a criminal record. There is an obvious benefit to keeping one's record clear, and this will be the case whether one is a college student either attending school in Philadelphia or visiting Philadelphia, a professional who makes a regrettable decision, or the average person trying to make their way in life without additional obstacles. Fortunately, the Philadelphia court system and the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office have created "diversion" programs to, as the name implies, divert a criminal case from the path towards trial to a potential resolution that will be more favorable to the person charged. One such program is the Philadelphia "Summary Diversion" Program, and an explanation of the program follows.
When a person is on probation or parole in Pennsylvania and is faced with a revocation hearing, because so much is at stake, including a person's employment, future prospects, and not to mention his or her freedom, there will be many questions that need to be answered. In addition, the revocation process itself can be difficult to understand for a person facing such a challenge and also his or her family. With that concern in mind, the following article provides information to allow a better understanding of the path forward.
What Kind of Evidence Can Be Considered When Facing a 1543 Driving While Suspended Charge in Pennsylvania?
A "1543" traffic offense in Pennsylvania is one of the most serious offenses that a driver in the Keystone State may face. A Pennsylvania driver who is charged with a 1543 offense will generally face such a situation because his or her license is suspended due to a non-DUI-related suspension, which is known as a 1543(a) charge, or due to a DUI-related suspension, which is known as a 1543(b) charge. When a driver in Pennsylvania is cited for driving with a suspended license, whether non-DUI or DUI-related, the frustration of getting caught will often become concern for what lies ahead. Because the potential consequences for driving with a suspended license in Pennsylvania can be severe, it is critical to understand how the prosecution may proceed with its case against the person charged.
The Potential Consequences of Driving Under a Suspended License in Pennsylvania - 1543(a) and 1543(b)
Facing a 1543 charge in Pennsylvania can be difficult; this will the case whether the 1543 charge involves a DUI-suspended driver's license or a driver's license that is suspended for other reasons. Whether a person has to drive to and from work or school, or has personal or family obligations that require a valid driver's license, being convicted of a 1543 charge can have severe consequences. In addition to the prospect of an additional period of license suspension, the prospect of jail time is an unfortunate reality. It is critical to make sure that all possible steps are taken to defend against a 1543 charge because depending on a person's circumstances, there can be hope for a better resolution than what is otherwise mandated by Pennsylvania law.
First-time offenders in Philadelphia, whether professionals, college students, or anyone else who makes a mistake can benefit by resolving their criminal charges through Philadelphias Accelerated Rehabilitaitve Dispersion program, also known as ARD. Because facing criminal charges and navigat...
Because the stakes are so high for repeat DUI offenders in Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Municipal Court, in partnership with the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office, created DUI Treatment Court to allow repeat DUI offenders another chance to turn their lives around through dedicated alcohol and/or drug treatment and reduced jail / prison time.
People make mistakes. Some mistakes will have limited consequences, and some mistakes can unfortunately have profound consequences. Being arrested and charged with a crime can be a mistake that has limited consequences, or it can be a mistake that has profound consequences; the severity of such consequences will depend on a number of considerations involved. When a first-time offender is arrested and charged with a criminal offense in Philadelphia, depending on the nature of the crime and the charges, a person may be eligible to resolve his or her case through Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition; a pre-trial diversion program which can allow a person to put a mistake behind him or her without suffering profound consequences that can affect a person for the rest of their life.
When a person is wanted for committing a crime, or for some other alleged violation, and has fled to another state, they are referred to as a "fugitive from justice," and as such, will be charged with 42 § 9134 - Arrest Prior to Requisition under Pennsylvania (an "FOJ" charge). In order to return the person to the state where they are being charged, a process known as "extradition" must take place. Pennsylvania is one of the states in the country that have entered into the "Uniform Criminal Extradition Act," which streamlines the process of extradition which is explained in the following article.
When a person is placed on probation, it can be both an arguable "blessing" (compared to the alternative of incarceration) and "curse." For defendants and their families, it is important to understand what probation is in a general sense, what kinds of criminal cases are more likely to be resolved with a sentence of probation rather than jail or prison, and what principles guide how a defendant's probation will be supervised.
Facing the prospect of a probation or parole violation can be difficult. There are major considerations regarding whether a person will be subject to the jurisdiction of the Court of Common Pleas where the case was prosecuted, or whether the Pennsylvania Parole Board will have jurisdiction over the matter. A person's case will proceed upon a certain prospective path if his or her probation or parole is a county sentence, and will proceed upon a certain prospective path if he or she received a state sentence. Understanding what can happen when probation or parole is revoked can help a person understand the prospective path ahead.