Last month a Northumberland County Judge denied a motion for dismissal of gun charges against a witness in a 2017 homicide.
Defendent Robert Villari, who has been jailed since September 2017 on an unrelated matter, was witness to the murder of Sean Maschal back in 2017. Villari told police that killer, Brian Heffner, fired the gun that killed Sean Maschal. Maschal's body was discovered the next day.
Villari himself is charged with two felony counts of owning a firearm. His Defence Attorney argued that his client should be released or his charges dismissed based on Rule 600 of the Pennsylvania Criminal Code. Rule 600 is the statute governing prompt trials. Under Rule 600, the commonwealth must bring a criminal defendant to trial within 365 days of when charges are filed.
According to the Pennsylvania Criminal Code, when a defendant has not been brought to trial within the set time periods, they may file a written motion requesting that the charges be dismissed with prejudice. When a case is dismissed ‘with prejudice, it means that it is dismissed permanently and cannot be brought back to court.
In this instance, however, the judge declined to drop the charges. The Daily Item reported that Northumberland County President Judge Charles Saylor had criticized Villari for missing multiple chances, when released on bail, to attend court proceedings he had been ordered to attend. The judge was reported saying that “at some point enough is enough.”
How Are Criminal Charges Dropped in Pennsylvania?
There can be various reasons why criminal charges against an accused defendant might be dropped: procedural violations, lost evidence, or uncooperative victims, to name just a few.
Only the prosecutor who brought the charges, typically known as the state or district attorney, can make the decision about whether to actually press criminal charges or not. This is because a criminal offense is considered to be a crime committed, not against a victim, but against society as a whole. Whether or not a case proceeds is at the prosecutor's discretion.
An experienced defense attorney might be able to persuade the district attorney that brought the charges to change their mind by demonstrating that the case against their client is weak. Alternatively, they could move the court for a dismissal of the case.
If the charges are dropped, the defendant is free from all accusations, and if they choose, they can take steps to try and expunge the record of their charges.
Could You Get Your Charges Dropped?
If you are facing criminal charges in Pennsylvania, you will want someone familiar with Pennsylvania law.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento has extensive experience representing defendants in criminal courtrooms in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania. From working with the prosecution to have them dismiss charges outright to defending you in court, he has the experience you need to secure your best possible outcome. Contact attorney Joseph D. Lento as soon as possible at 888-535-3686 to discuss your options.