The Pennsylvania Crime Code classifies criminal offenses into three categories: summary offenses, misdemeanors, and felonies. On the totem pole of serious offenses, summary offenses would be on the bottom because they are the least serious than other crimes, misdemeanors would be in the middle due to their moderate seriousness, and felonies would be on the top, as they are very serious. Ultimately, being charged with any crime in Montgomery County warrants legal penalties and hurls you into the very complex and unpredictable criminal justice system. It's easy for defendants to get misguided because misdemeanors and felonies are handled very differently in this county.
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 skilled criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento today.
Misdemeanor offenses are less serious than felony crimes. Depending on the circumstances of a crime and arrest, they can result in legal penalties of up to a five-year prison sentence and a $10,000 fine. Some common examples of misdemeanor crimes Montgomery County include:
- Resisting arrest
- Disorderly conduct
- Criminal trespass
- Drug possession
- Petty theft
- Simple assault
- Driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol etc.
Once charged with a misdemeanor crime, a person will receive a summons in the mail to attend court for what's called a preliminary hearing. The Montgomery County Preliminary Hearing will jumpstart the criminal prosecution process and solidifies a person's label as a defendant.
In Montgomery County, a preliminary hearing is typically scheduled within 10 days of the initial arrest, but days may vary. Where this hearing will be held depends on the municipality in which the alleged crime was committed, and the police department that made your arrest. Montgomery County is a large region with multiple district courts, so finding out this information is crucial so you don't miss your court date.
At this hearing, the prosecution (the Commonwealth) will attempt to provide sufficient evidence to justify putting a defendant on trial. To successfully do so, the prosecution's evidence must establish probable cause. Probable cause exists when, based on the evidence, a reasonable person can believe that the defendant committed a crime. If a Magisterial judge concludes that there isn't enough evidence or it isn't convincing enough to substantiate probable cause, the case will be dismissed. If, however, the prosecution's evidence meets the burden of proof, a defendant will be officially be charged, and the case will progress to the Court of Common Pleas.
For first time offenders with non-violent misdemeanors, alternative options like the Montgomery County ARD Program may be available. Upon the completion of this program, a defendant will get their charges dismissed, their arrest expunged, and will keep their criminal record untainted. To be approved for this program, and for a successful outcome in a preliminary hearing, the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney is highly recommended.
Felony charges are not handled leniently in Montgomery County. They may lead to a warrant put out for one's arrest rather than a summon. A person may also be taken into custody and held there before attending a hearing. People will felonies are also likely to have large bail amounts, be issued a detainer, and other additional penalties before actually being put on trial.
Montgomery County Criminal Defense Attorney
Attorney Joseph D. Lento has represented numerous clients who've acquired both misdemeanor and felony charges in Montgomery 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.