If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime in Monroe County, you may find that you are confused, worried, or scared. It can be overwhelming to think about what you might face. The good news is that an expert attorney can help make sure that you don't have to do any of it alone. They can break a complicated process down into something that is easy for you to understand. Joseph D. Lento and his team at the Lento Law Firm have years of experience defending criminal cases all over Pennsylvania, including in Monroe County.
What to Expect
The legal proceedings for criminal cases in Monroe County can be complex and lengthy. Here's a brief overview of some of the stages you can expect if you're facing charges. Understanding what it might look like can help alleviate your concerns. First, though, it's important to know that there are several types of crimes, and the process may vary, depending on the severity of the crime. The classes are defined in Title 18, Chapter 1, Section 106.
Three classes of offenses
Summary Offense: This type of case usually involves something less serious. You may hear it referred to as a non-traffic offense, however it could be broader, depending on the circumstances. Summary offenses will stay at the preliminary level, in most instances and can result in up to 90 days imprisonment. These cases are heard by Magisterial District Judges.
Misdemeanor: A misdemeanor is a more serious offense and will generally move on to the Court of Common Pleas once the preliminary hearing before the district judge takes place. Misdemeanors vary among first, second, and third degree, and can carry a sentence of between one year and five years.
Felony: A felony is the most serious class of offense and, like a misdemeanor, will move on to the Court of Common Pleas after the preliminary hearing. Felonies can result in sentences of between seven and sometimes more than ten years imprisonment, depending on whether the crime falls into the first, second, or third degree, with a first-degree felony being the most serious.
Before the Hearing
Unless it is a minor criminal offense, the case will begin with the accused being arrested by police and taken to the Central Booking facility located at the Monroe County Correctional Facility. If you have been arrested in Monroe County you will be housed there until your preliminary arraignment.
Your first appearance before a judge will be your preliminary arraignment. During a preliminary arraignment, you will appear before a Magisterial District Judge. While judges are normally available in person during normal weekday business hours of 8:30 am to 4:30 pm, there is typically an “on-call” judge available to conduct preliminary arraignments from 4:30 pm until 11:00 pm weekday evenings, and between 8:30 am and 11:00 pm on weekends and holidays. At times, depending on the situation, the Magisterial District Judge may conduct the preliminary arraignment remotely.
At your preliminary arraignment, the Magisterial District Judge will set your bail, if any. Because Pennsylvania has not made the changes that some other states have made to their bail laws that greatly reduce the types of crimes for which cash bail can be set, in many cases in Monroe County the accused may be required to post bail in order to get out of jail before trial. How much that bail will be depends on a number of things, such as the crime or crimes you're accused of having committed, whether you have a previous criminal record, whether the district judge believes you are a danger to the community if released, and whether the judge thinks you may be a flight risk and may not appear for your trial. It can be very helpful even at this early stage to have a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense attorney such as Joseph D. Lento working with you who can argue on your behalf for a lesser bail amount, or even no bail depending on the circumstances.
At the preliminary arraignment the district judge will also set the date for your preliminary hearing, and will give you (or your attorney) a copy of the criminal complaint in your case. Typically, in Monroe County the date for your preliminary hearing will be about eight weeks after your preliminary arraignment.
At the preliminary hearing you can choose to either have a formal hearing take place, or to waive the hearing and move forward to the next stage in the process, the formal arraignment.
This is a decision you and your attorney should make. If you waive the preliminary hearing, you don't waive any of your rights or admit to any of the charges. Whether or not to waive the preliminary hearing is something that you should discuss with your attorney, because there may be good reasons either to waive it or not to waive it, depending on your particular case. This is another reason why it makes sense to have the assistance of an experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney such as Joseph D. Lento to advise you at this and other stages of your case.
If you do not waive the preliminary hearing, the district judge will conduct the hearing and evaluate the evidence that the government has against you, and you will have a chance to introduce your own evidence to rebut their case. The judge will then determine whether the government has what is called a “prima facie” case against you – one where, if the government's evidence against you is believed, then it appears that the government has met the legal requirements for the crime or crimes with which you are charged.
If the district judge decides the government has met its burden, then your case will be forwarded to a higher court called the Monroe County Court of Common Pleas in Stroudsburg for more proceedings. If, however, the judge decided the government has failed to meet its burden, then your case will be dismissed.
In this case, you will no longer be appearing before the Magisterial District Judge, but instead will be before a judge of the Court of Common Pleas. This is because district judges typically do not try the more serious types of criminal cases. They also hear other cases such as small claims, landlord-tenant cases, traffic cases, and more minor crimes.
One thing to remember is that you want to allow enough time to get to the courthouse for your hearing. If necessary, plot several routes or use a navigation app that can do it for you. The last thing you want is to arrive late for your hearing. Plan for parking, potential traffic issues, or anything else that might lead to arriving late.
The Monroe County Courthouse does have a parking garage, but it's possible the garage can reach capacity. You want to have time to meet with your attorney beforehand and review any important questions or strategies. This will ensure that you are as prepared as possible for the hearing. This is true for any instances where you need to appear at the courthouse.
The next stage of your criminal case isn't actually a court appearance, but it is an important step nonetheless. It's the preparation and service by the prosecution of what is called a “criminal information” against you. This is a document that lists in detail the charges the government is bringing against you. While it will not disclose all of the evidence or the testimony the government has against you, it will describe the relevant acts that the government claims you did, when and where the government says you committed them, and the specific laws that the government says you have violated as a result. This is an important document, because it tells you and the Court of Common Pleas exactly what the government is charging you with, and why. You or your attorney will receive this, and it will serve as a guide for future steps in the case against you.
You will next have a formal arraignment before a different judge than before, at the Court of Common Pleas. At the formal arraignment, you can elect to waive having the charges against you read out loud (though you don't waive any rights or admit to anything if you do so). The court will advise you and your attorney of your pretrial rights such as the right to request evidence, file pretrial motions, and enter a plea. In some cases, you may not have to appear if you have an attorney who can appear on your behalf. If you do attend the formal arraignment, in Monroe County it will be at the Monroe County Court of Common Pleas at 610 Monroe Street in Stroudsburg. Parking is available at the Monroe County Administration Building parking garage, with an entrance at 1 Quaker Plaza, on 6th Street between Sarah and Monroe Streets in Stroudsburg.
Here, as with the other stages of a criminal case, having an experienced lawyer such as Joseph P. Lento representing you can alleviate personal stress and ensure all information available will be used to support you as the defendant.
Pretrial Conferences and Call of the List
After your formal arraignment there may be one or more pretrial conferences. While some of these are for court “housekeeping purposes,” at some point you will be expected to enter a plea – such as guilty or not guilty. If you plead not guilty, you and your attorney can ask the court to set a trial date. If you and your attorney are still investigating the charges against you or are negotiating with the prosecution to resolve your case without a trial, you can ask the court to continue the case and set another pretrial conference date. An experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney such as Joseph D. Lento can help you investigate your case, negotiate with the prosecution, and if necessary decide at what point your case is ready to be heard.
Civil and Criminal Trials in Monroe County take place during the first two weeks of every month, beginning the first Tuesday in January, unless otherwise scheduled. Wednesdays of the month are reserved for Criminal Court, which will be scheduled at either 8:30 a.m. or 12:30 p.m. Although a trial date may be pre-set, negotiations can be made (and often are) between defense and prosecution to avoid a trial.
If you do choose to have a jury hear your case, jurors are usually impaneled on the first Tuesday of each month, and your jury will likely be selected on that day, though your trial will probably take place on another date. The judge will instruct the jurors (and you and your attorney) to return on the trial date. The trial will take place at the same location as the pretrial conferences and jury selection, namely the Monroe County Courts of Common Pleas located at 610 Monroe Street in Stroudsburg.
The jury will be made up of 12 citizens from Monroe County. They will hear the evidence in your case from both the prosecution and the defense (if you and your attorney choose to introduce any evidence). The attorneys on both sides will have arguments in favor of conviction (for the prosecution) and acquittal (for the defense). Then the judge will give the jury legal instructions about how to apply the law to the evidence in the case. The jury will deliberate and, in most cases, will render a verdict.
In some cases, a defendant will waive a jury trial and elect to have the judge hear the evidence and arguments and decide the case. This is a tactical decision that an experienced criminal defense attorney such as Joseph D. Lento can help you make.
If you are found guilty, whether by plea or trial, the Monroe County Probation Services will prepare a pre-sentence investigation report. You may be required as part of this process to meet with the Probation Officer assigned to prepare the report, and you will likely be questioned about your family history, work history, prior criminal record, and other factors relevant to sentencing.
You will not see the pre-sentence investigation report; it is for the judge's use. If you have an attorney, your attorney will be allowed to read it but not to copy it. This is another good reason to retain counsel to help you in these matters, as an experienced criminal defense attorney can help craft arguments in favor of a lower sentence.
At sentencing, the judge is likely to provide any victims with an opportunity to speak or to present written impact statements about the effect the crime had on their lives. The judge will then impose a sentence, which will usually begin immediately but sometimes may be delayed. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help even at this point, by providing the court with arguments and alternatives in favor of a more lenient sentence.
Once a sentence is imposed by the judge, the defendant has 10 days to ask the judge to reconsider. There must be some grounds for such a request, for example that the judge made a mistake and considered something that should not have been considered, or refused to consider something that should have been taken into account when rendering the sentence. Or, if there is additional information that is relevant and did not make it into the pre-sentence investigation report, this might be brought to the judge's attention. It is unusual, however, for a judge to revise a sentence, and any request for the judge to do so should be discussed with experienced criminal defense counsel such as Joseph P. Lento before it is made.
If there was a trial, and the defendant has been found guilty, and the court imposes a sentence, the defendant may appeal the conviction to the Pennsylvania Superior Court. This must be done within 30 days of the date you are sentenced, or 30 days after the court has denied or resolved any post-sentencing motions. The appeals court does not re-try the case; instead it will examine specific issues the convicted defendant believes the Court of Common Pleas decided wrongly. The Superior Court will rule on the appeal based on the record at trial and the arguments presented by the defendant and the prosecution. The Superior Court has three locations: Philadelphia, Harrisburg, and Pittsburgh.
The Superior Court decision on appeal may be appealed further – to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The Supreme Court, however, grants only a very small number of the many petitions for allowance of appeal that are submitted to it by defendants each year.
Types of Criminal Offenses
There are a variety of criminal charges that an individual might encounter in Monroe County. When facing these charges, an experienced criminal defense attorney can ensure you receive fair treatment and your due process. Here are some of the criminal charges or circumstances you might need to navigate:
Expungement/Record Sealing: Typically, after a predetermined amount of time has expired, a request can be made to expunge criminal offenses from your record. This process can be expensive and extensive; however, an attorney can navigate the process to ensure the prompt removal of charges, convictions, and even arrests. Without removal, these records can negatively impact future job searches and background checks.
Violation of Parole/Probation: Probation violation can lead to far worse consequences and possibly include extended supervision, even without incarceration.
Juvenile Offenses: Committing a crime in Monroe County can have substantial consequences for a juvenile and their families. An attorney experienced with Monroe Juvenile Court can assist and offer some relief in a stressful time for the defendant and their family. As someone so young, you would have a bright future ahead, and it's critical not to risk this.
Property Crimes: Theft and vandalism are typical examples of property crimes. Charges such as these are characteristically complex to defend, and the accused should secure a capable attorney.
DUI: A simple return home from a night out could result in DUI charges. An expert attorney can challenge these charges and work on your behalf toward the best possible outcome. They'll know how to best investigate components such as body cams, breathalyzer tests, and more.
Traffic Offenses: Most traffic offenses do not result in criminal charges, yet several violations can compound over time and cause inflated insurance costs, license suspension, and eventually, much greater financial and personal costs.
White Collar Crime: If you've been charged with fraud, the situation could be incredibly complex. Such complexity requires an experienced attorney who understands how to best defend against these charges.
Violent Crimes: Violent crimes frequently involve some degree of bodily harm carried out upon another person and can occur with or without a weapon. These crimes are prosecuted severely and often result in harsher sentencing.
Drug Crimes: Possession of controlled substances can lead to criminal charges in Pennsylvania. Often, an improper means for obtaining evidence occurs during arrest, and a knowledgeable attorney will use the problematic actions toward your case.
Domestic Violence: Cases involving domestic violence can stem from a myriad of complicated dynamics between individuals. An experienced defense attorney can navigate these multifaceted scenarios to certify the defendant's case is presented fairly and accurately.
Sex Crimes: Sex crime offenses typically arise when sexual actions involving violence, lack of consent by one party, or engaging in a sexual act with someone who cannot legally consent take place. These crimes can result in not only lengthy incarceration but may require registration as a sex offender.
Protection From Abuse Orders: A Protection From Abuse (PFA) order is issued by a judge from the Court of Common Pleas. In most cases this is in response to a petition from an alleged victim of abuse. They can be very broad, preventing the alleged abuser from doing things such as having firearms, visiting children, or living in their own home. If you are the subject of a PFA hearing, you need the services of an attorney such as Joseph D. Lento who has substantial experience representing clients in hearings of this type all over Pennsylvania.
Your Monroe County Criminal Defense Attorney
Penalties resulting from a conviction in Monroe County can be long-lasting and severe. Facing these charges can feel overwhelming, but it doesn't have to be. A lawyer with many years of experience and expertise can fight by your side and work on your behalf. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm care passionately about their clients and getting the best result possible. They bring heart to every case they face. If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges in Monroe County, contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today at 888-535-3686 or reach out to us online.