The Pennsylvania Crime Code categorizes criminal offenses into three classifications: summary offenses, misdemeanors, and felonies. When measuring the seriousness of crimes, summary offenses are least serious, misdemeanors are moderately serious, and felonies are most serious. Being charged with any crime in Chester County involves you with the complex and overwhelming criminal justice system. It's easy for defendants to get confused because misdemeanors and felonies are handled differently.
Knowing what to expect when facing any kind of criminal charge in Chester County can relieve stress, and give you an advantage in your case. In this article we'll address what you should anticipate in the impending time you'll spend involved in the system and the apparent differences between acquiring a misdemeanor charge and a felony charge. For more information, or if you have questions about your specific case, contact skilled criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento today.
Misdemeanor charges are less serious charges then felonies. Depending on the crime, they can result in up to a five-year prison sentence and a $10,000 fine. Some common examples of misdemeanor crimes in Chester County include:
- Resisting arrest
- Driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol
- Petty theft
- Disorderly conduct
- Criminal trespass
- Drug possession
- Simple assault etc.
When you are charged with a misdemeanor crime, you'll likely receive a summons in the mail to appear in court for a preliminary hearing. This Chester County Preliminary Hearing is one of the most important phases of the criminal prosecution process.
In Chester County, your preliminary hearing will be scheduled within 10 days of the initial arrest, but dates may vary. It will occur in the municipality in which the alleged crime was committed. There are 17 district courts located within this county. Factors like where you were apprehended and the police department that made the arrest will dictate where you will attend this hearing.
At this hearing, the prosecution (the Commonwealth) will have the burden of proving evidence that is sufficient enough to put a defendant on trial. If the prosecution's evidence meets this burden of proof, a defendant will officially be charged, and the case will progress to the Court of Common Pleas. If a judge concludes that there isn't enough evidence, the case will be dismissed.
For first time offenders with non-violent misdemeanors, alternative options like the Chester County ARD Program may be available. If this program is completed, a defendant can get their charges dismissed, their arrest expunged, and maintain a clean criminal record. For entrance into this program, and for a successful outcome in a preliminary hearing, the help of an experienced attorney is highly recommended.
There is little leniency in the handling of felony cases in Chester County. Felony charges may lead to a warrant put out for one's arrest instead of a summon. A person may be taken into custody and held there before they attend a hearing. People with felonies are also likely to have really high bail amounts, are likely to be issued a detainer, and other additional penalties before being put on trial.
A defendant should seek the help of an attorney immediately after their felony charges are filed. The sooner an attorney gets involved, the better the chances of a favorable preliminary hearing or trial outcome.
Chester County Criminal Defense Attorney
Attorney Joseph D. Lento has represented numerous clients who've acquired both misdemeanor and felony charges. He understands that every case calls for planning, strategizing, and attention to detail. If you've been charged with a crime and are uncertain about what to do next, contact Joseph D. Lento today online or give him a call at (215) 535-5353 at the earliest available opportunity for assistance.