The Pennsylvania Crime Code categorizes criminal offenses into three categories: summary offenses, misdemeanors, and felonies. On the spectrum of serious offenses, summary offenses would be listed as less serious, misdemeanors as moderately serious, and felonies as very serious. Being charged with any crime in Delaware County casts you into the complex and overwhelming criminal justice system. It's easy for defendants to be unsure about their course of action because misdemeanors and felonies are handled vastly differently.
Anticipating what to expect when facing any kind of criminal charge in Delaware County can relieve stress, and give you an advantage in your case. For the purposes of this article, we'll examine the things you should expect while involved in the system, and the apparent differences in the experiences of acquiring a misdemeanor charge in comparison to a felony charge. If you have questions about your specific case or want more general information, contact experienced criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento today.
Misdemeanor charges are generally less serious than felonies. Depending on the crime, a misdemeanor can carry up to a five-year prison sentence, and a $10,000 fine. Some examples of common misdemeanor crimes committed in Delaware County include:
- Drug possession
- Resisting arrest
- Petty theft
- Driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol
- Criminal trespass
- Disorderly conduct
- Simple assault etc.
Once a person is charged with a misdemeanor crime, the records detailing their arrest will be released, and they will receive a summons in the mail to appear in court for a preliminary hearing. The Delaware County Preliminary Hearing begins the criminal prosecution process all defendants will have to go through.
A preliminary hearing in Delaware County is usually scheduled within 10 days of an initial arrest, but dates may vary. At this hearing, the prosecution (the Commonwealth) will have the burden of providing evidence that is sufficient enough to put a defendant on trial. If the prosecution meets this burden of proof, a defendant will officially be charged and the case will advance to the Court of Common Pleas. If a judge decides that there isn't enough evidence, the case will be dismissed.
First-time offenders with non-violent misdemeanors may be eligible for alternative options like the Delaware County ARD program. If successfully completed, a defendant can get their charges dismissed, their arrest expunged, and they can still maintain a clean criminal record. For both a preliminary hearing and entrance into the ARD program, the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney is required.
There is little to no leniency in the handling of felony cases in Delaware County. Felony charges could 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 relatively 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.
Delaware County Criminal Defense Attorney
Attorney Joseph D. Lento has represented numerous clients who've acquired both misdemeanor and felony charges in Delaware County. 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.