Bucks County Criminal Defense

Criminal charges in Bucks County will be held to the authority of the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas. The court will handle the extent of criminal cases from the arraignment through to any necessary sentencing and even any expungements or record sealing measures. The criminal justice process can be confusing and often unfriendly.

Criminal Defense in Bucks County

When a person faces criminal charges, Bucks County prosecutors will come at them with the full might of the law. While the court has public defenders available, a private attorney can provide a much higher degree of time and attention to a person's case, which will ultimately help the defendant feel more confident, as well as strengthen the case. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has an extensive background in criminal defense, with practice areas that include defending against crimes of:

  • DUI: Driving under the influence is a crime that a person may find themselves charged with when they are just trying to make it home from a night out. A defense attorney can help you navigate the complexities of these charges.
  • Traffic Offenses: While traffic offenses are rarely of great concern, several offenses can add up and seriously affect a person's life. An attorney at a traffic hearing can reduce the likelihood of this happening.
  • Drug Crimes: Crimes involving drug use and possession, including marijuana, are taken very seriously by the state. The circumstances that lead to these charges, however, are often riddled with errors in evidence procedure, and a defense attorney can help you spot them to strengthen your case.
  • Violent Crimes: Acts that endanger or cause a person to suffer bodily harm, with or without a weapon, are considered “violent crimes” and carry heavy sentencing.
  • Domestic Violence: Domestic violence is a complex area of the law, as it is entrenched in both criminal court and family court. An experienced attorney can help negotiate these charges.
  • Protection from Abuse Orders: Under Pennsylvania's Protection from Abuse Act, Bucks County courts can issue restraining orders that protect domestic violence and sexual assault victims. However, these orders can have lasting effects on your life, child custody, and your job. An experienced attorney can guide you through the process.
  • Sex Crimes: Sex crimes carry heavy sentencing and registration as a sex offender upon conviction. An experienced attorney will be able to put up a strong defense against these charges.
  • Property Crimes: Theft and vandalism are two common examples of property crimes. The crimes often involve sentencing for restoring or replacing what was lost.
  • White Collar Crime: Crimes that involve actions like embezzlement, fraud, and forgery are typically referred to as “white collar” crimes. These are often complex scenarios that require an experienced attorney's attention to bring about a proper defense.
  • Violation of Probation/Parole: If the court offers probation or parole as part of sentencing, the conditions may be difficult to work around. Violations will require hearings, as well, which an experienced attorney can assist with.
  • Juvenile Offenses: Committing a juvenile crime in Bucks County can have profound consequences for the young person and his or her family. An attorney experienced with Bucks County Juvenile Court can help during a difficult time in a family's life.
  • Expungement/Sealing Records: After enough time has passed from a conviction or arrest, an attorney can help ensure that the expungement and record sealing process go smoothly.

About the Court Process in Bucks County

If you're facing charges in Bucks County, it's important to know what to expect and when you'll need a criminal defense attorney. When you're arrested in Pennsylvania, it doesn'talways work as it does on TV. You may not be arrested and held until a judge determines bail. Instead, the police may arrest you and hold you until they obtain your information and arrest record. If your arrest is for a minor crime or a misdemeanor and you don't have a criminal record, or if you have an attorney, the authorities may release you and give you a date and time to appear at a police station and have your fingerprints taken. You then will receive paperwork from the district court in the mail telling you when to appear for a preliminary hearing or a summary trial.

For more serious matters, you'll typically have a preliminary arraignment within 72 hours after your arrest. At this appearance, you'll receive a copy of the charges against you, and the court will notify you of your rights. It's important to hire an attorney as soon as possible to protect your rights while in police custody.

  1. Preliminary or Summary Trial in District Court

The preliminary hearing is the first major step in the criminal justice process, and it must occur within ten days after your preliminary arraignment. You should hire an attorney well before this hearing to allow them time to prepare. At the preliminary hearing before the magistrate, the prosecution will need to show a “prima facie” case, meaning it's more likely than not that a crime was committed, and you committed the crime. If the Commonwealth meets this burden, the judge will hold you over for court.

If the court holds you over, the Bucks County District Attorney's Office will file “information,” which is a formal document outlining the charges against you. The District Attorney can also decline to move forward or to change the charges against you. The court will schedule you for a formal arraignment four weeks after the preliminary hearing.

  1. Formal Arraignment in the Court of Common Pleas

At the formal arraignment, you'll receive a copy of the information, the charges against you, and the court will again inform you of your rights. You will also have the right to file pretrial pleadings after the formal arraignment. An experienced Pennsylvania criminal attorney can file discovery motions, motions for suppression, motions for continuance, and other matters on your behalf. Your attorney must file pretrial pleadings within 30 days of the formal arraignment.

  1. Pretrial Conference

At the pretrial conference, you, your attorney, and the prosecutor will meet with the judge to discuss your case, finalize any outstanding pretrial motions, and determine whether the parties can resolve the charges without a trial. If you decide to take a plea, your options may include:

  • A negotiated plea with the prosecutor
  • A not guilty plea
  • An open plea, where you plead guilty with no promise from the prosecutor on what sentence they'll recommend
  • A nolo contendere plea, otherwise known as a “no contest” plea, where you make no admission of guilt or innocence
  1. Trial

You are entitled to a jury trial in a criminal trial, but you can also choose to have a bench trial where the judge acts as the jury. The District Attorney will try to prove the charges against you on behalf of the Commonwealth, and an attorney can represent you as the defendant. The judge will oversee the trial and ensure that it complies with the court's rules and the rules of evidence.

In a criminal trial with a jury, you will have 12 jurors selected from voter registration lists, tax rolls, and driver's licenses. The role of the jury is to hear the evidence and arguments made by both sides. The trial will typically proceed through:

  • Opening arguments: Both the prosecutor and the defense attorney will introduce the case and summarize what they hope the jurors will hear during the trial.
  • Prosecution's case: The prosecutor presents the Commonwealth's case against you through witness testimony and evidence. Your attorney will have the opportunity to cross-examine each witness presented by the state.
  • Defense: Your attorney will present your defense through witness testimony and evidence. The prosecutor will have the chance to cross-examine each of your witnesses and rebut your case.
  • Closing arguments: Each side will have the chance to summarize their arguments and the evidence presented at trial.

Once closing arguments conclude, the jury will privately deliberate and come to a verdict. You will only be found guilty if the jury unanimously finds that you committed the crime “beyond a reasonable doubt.” If the jurors can't agree unanimously, the judge may declare a mistrial and hold another trial after selecting new jurors.

If either the jury or the judge in a bench trial acquits you, you will be free to leave. The prosecution doesn't have the right to appeal an acquittal, and the U.S. Constitution protects you from double jeopardy, meaning the state can't force you to stand trial for the same offense again. The state won't get a second bite at the apple.

If the judge or jury finds you guilty, the judge will later sentence you based on a presentencing investigation from the criminal division. The judge will typically set a date for sentencing after the verdict.

  1. Sentencing

Probation officers from the court's criminal division will conduct a presentence investigation and recommend your sentencing in a report. The presentence investigation allows the judge to weigh your criminal record and life circumstances with how severe your crime was and the possible sentence you may incur. The recommendations in the report are helpful, but they don't bind the judge to a particular sentence. Rather, the judge will take into account the report information, victim statements, your criminal history, your financial situation, and your family background.

Before sentencing you, the judge will consider the presentencing investigation report, recommendations, and findings, as well as:

  • The harm you did to the victims and their families,
  • Any factors that may explain your crime,
  • Your current or past circumstances,
  • Aggravating factors related to the crime, and
  • Your criminal record.

Your criminal record will be one of the main considerations the judge takes into account when determining your sentence. Your criminal history is believed to indicate whether you may commit future crimes or to be rehabilitated. The judge will have some leeway in determining your sentence, but they must also follow Pennsylvania's criminal code limitations. If you entered into a plea deal with the prosecution, the judge will have less discretion, largely other than accepting or declining the plea. Moreover, some aggravated crimes have mandatory sentencing terms under the law that require a minimum sentence.

If you or a loved one is currently facing criminal charges in Bucks County, contact attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686.

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Attorney Joseph D. Lento has more than a decade of experience successfully resolving clients' criminal charges in Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania counties. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you or a loved one, contact the Lento Law Firm today! Criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento will go above and beyond the needs of any client, and will fight until the final bell rings.

This website was created only for general information purposes. It is not intended to be construed as legal advice for any situation. Only a direct consultation with a licensed Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York attorney can provide you with formal legal counsel based on the unique details surrounding your situation. The pages on this website may contain links and contact information for third party organizations - the Lento Law Firm does not necessarily endorse these organizations nor the materials contained on their website. In Pennsylvania, Attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout Pennsylvania's 67 counties, including, but not limited to Philadelphia, Allegheny, Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Chester, Dauphin, Delaware, Lancaster, Lehigh, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Schuylkill, and York County. In New Jersey, attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout New Jersey's 21 counties: Atlantic, Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Salem, Somerset, Sussex, Union, and Warren County, In New York, Attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout New York's 62 counties. Outside of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, unless attorney Joseph D. Lento is admitted pro hac vice if needed, his assistance may not constitute legal advice or the practice of law. The decision to hire an attorney in Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania counties, New Jersey, New York, or nationwide should not be made solely on the strength of an advertisement. We invite you to contact the Lento Law Firm directly to inquire about our specific qualifications and experience. Communicating with the Lento Law Firm by email, phone, or fax does not create an attorney-client relationship. The Lento Law Firm will serve as your official legal counsel upon a formal agreement from both parties. Any information sent to the Lento Law Firm before an attorney-client relationship is made is done on a non-confidential basis.