Lancaster County Criminal Court
Court of Common Pleas. When a person is accused of committing a crime in Lancaster County, they will have to answer to the Lancaster County Court of Common Pleas located at 50 North Duke Street in Lancaster, PA. The Lancaster County Court of Common Pleas holds jurisdiction over criminal matters that occur within the county. The court is made up of several departments. The criminal department houses probation, parole, and the main criminal court. The court also has several treatment courts available for individuals who may be suffering from drug addiction or mental illness to explore options outside of standard criminal measures. For example, the court's Special Offenders Service Project supervises mentally ill persons who have been convicted of crimes. The Intermediate Punishment Program provides alternative house arrest and intensive supervision for certain non-violent offenders. The Lancaster County Court of Common Pleas currently has fourteen judges. The Court's general information telephone is (717) 299-8041, and the Court is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays to Fridays other than on major holidays.
Magisterial District Court. Lancaster County's Magisterial District Court aids the Court of Common Pleas in processing the County's many criminal cases. Your first court encounter on a criminal charge is likely to be with the Magisterial District Court, not its supervising Court of Common Pleas. While the Court of Common Pleas is in Lancaster, the County spreads the Magisterial District Courts throughout the County for convenient access. Lancaster County has nineteen magisterial district judges located in districts throughout the county. The magisterial district judges serve in Lancaster, Mount Joy, Willow Street, Columbia, Stevens, New Holland, Millersville, Elizabethtown, Quarryville, Ephrata, Intercourse, and Lititz. When appearing before a Magisterial District Court for preliminary arraignment or preliminary examination, or for any other matter, ensure with a confirming telephone call that you will appear at the correct location. The Magisterial District Courts are open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. or 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays to Fridays, other than major holidays.
Lancaster County Criminal Procedures
The Court Handling the Stage of Your Proceeding. Lancaster County, like other counties in Pennsylvania, divides the stages of criminal cases between the Court of Common Pleas and the Magisterial District Court that the Court of Common Pleas supervises. The Magisterial District Court reviews warrant requests and authorizes arrest warrants. After arrest, the Magisterial District Court conducts the preliminary arraignment at which the Magisterial District Court sets bail. The Magisterial District Court also conducts the preliminary examination to determine whether the prosecution has shown probable cause that the defendant committed the charged crime. If the Magisterial District Court does not dismiss the case for lack of evidence, and the case does not resolve by plea, then the Magisterial District Court binds the case over to the Court of Common Pleas for formal arraignment, discovery, status and pretrial conferences, pretrial motions, and trial. The Court of Common Pleas also sentences defendants who plead guilty or suffer conviction after a jury or bench trial.
ARD Program. Lancaster County participates in Pennsylvania's Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) Program. The ARD program allows some first-time offenders charged with certain non-violent offenses to admit responsibility for the offense but complete program terms and conditions in order to have the offense expunged. In the best case, ARD participation clears the defendant's record of the conviction, potentially preserving the defendant's education, license, job, and career. But ARD participation is not for everyone who could qualify. Not all ARD participants satisfy all terms. And the terms may be expensive and time-consuming. Consult an experienced Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney before pursuing ARD diversion. For ARD applications involving DUI offenses, Lancaster County assigns an ARD coordinator to screen cases for ARD participation, consult with the district attorney over questionable applications, determine whether the police and victim approve of ARD participation, and notify the defendant of the ARD hearing.
Local Rules. Lancaster County's Court of Common Pleas has adopted many local rules of criminal procedure to supplement the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure. Your criminal defense attorney needs to know Lancaster County's local criminal court rules. Here are a few of those rules:
- Photographs and Recordings. Lancaster County Crim. Rule 112 prohibits taking any photograph or making any recording “in a courtroom or hearing room or its environs during the progress of or in connection with any action, whether or not court is actually in session….”;
- Timing of ARD Diversion. Lancaster County Crim. Rule 311A requires the defendant seeking ARD diversion to submit that request to the District Attorney on the approved form within thirty days of the filing of the criminal complaint for DUI offenses and no later than the status conference for non-DUI offenses. The same rule authorizes the District Attorney to accept or reject the defendant's ARD application.
- Pretrial Conference. Lancaster County Crim. Rule 570B requires a pretrial conference within six weeks of the status conference for any case not dismissed, resolved by plea, or diverted into the ARD program. The same rule requires the District Attorney and defense counsel to submit a joint pretrial conference memorandum, ensuring that the District Attorney and defense counsel are conferring about the resolution of the charges or other issues.
- Certification for Trial. Lancaster County Crim. Rule 570C presumes that any case certified for trial at the pretrial conference is indeed ready for trial to eliminate delay. The assigned judge gives criminal cases certified for trial a listed priority so that everyone knows which cases go first.
- Electronic Filing. Under Lancaster County Crim. Rule 576.1, parties file court papers electronically in the Lancaster County Court of Common Pleas “using the PacFile electronic filing system developed by the Administrative Office of the Pennsylvania Courts.”
- Decorum and Demeanor. The Lancaster County Court of Common Pleas also requires that your attorney maintain specific court decorum and demeanor. Judge Leonard G. Brown III maintains his own specific procedures for attorneys and unrepresented parties.
Criminal Defense in Lancaster County
Getting charged with a crime can feel like the end of the world. Even misdemeanors in Pennsylvania can stay on your record for years. In many cases, a simple and quick turn of events can result in a person facing criminal charges that can haunt them for years. Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately defends clients in Lancaster County and across Southeast Pennsylvania. Attorney Lento has successfully handled countless criminal cases. He and his expert team at the Lento Law Firm can help you if you are struggling with charges of:
- Domestic Violence: Domestic violence charges come about from a wide array of difficult circumstances. Not every situation is the same, and not every defendant's story is told unless represented by a dedicated attorney. Ensure that the prosecution and court hear your story by retaining attorney Lento.
- Protection from Abuse Orders: Pennsylvania's Protection from Abuse Act authorizes the Lancaster County Court of Common Pleas to issue a restraining order between family and household members to prevent repeated sexual assault, domestic violence, or stalking. Orders can save lives and prevent abuse, but they can also unreasonably interfere with child custody or parenting time and access to housing and personal effects.
- Drug Charges: Drugs charges are often much more complex than the Lancaster District Attorney's Office would have a defendant believe. An attorney with the skill and experience of Joseph D. Lento can help you negotiate through the court's rules of procedure to improve your situation.
- DUI: When a night out goes wrong, an experienced attorney can help fight your DUI charges. Don't let a DUI charge spoil your job, career, or other important interests.
- Expungements/Sealing Records: After the dust has settled from the outcome of a criminal case, the records will still exist in the courts of Lancaster County and also Pennsylvania. A skilled and experienced attorney like Joseph D. Lento can help with what is often a frustrating expungement process.
- Juvenile Offenses: Committing a juvenile crime in Lancaster County can have profound consequences for the young person and their family. An attorney experienced with Lancaster County Juvenile Court can help during a difficulty in a family's life. Don't let a rough start turn into a tough life with a bad ending. Let attorney Lento help get things back on the right path.
- Property Crimes: From burglary to vandalism, these crimes can carry serious consequences at both juvenile and adult levels. Consulting with an attorney can help in defending against such charges and in potentially negotiating a better resolution. Don't let a property crime lead to serious collateral consequences around education, job, and career.
- Sex Crimes: Sex crimes can carry very serious penalties for defendants facing such charges, in addition to the prospect of sex offender registration within Pennsylvania and possibly beyond. Take any sex crime charge most seriously.
- Traffic Offenses: Traffic tickets may be commonly thought of as a nuisance, but more serious violations can cause you to lose your license. An attorney can help your chances of success in court.
- Violation of Probation/Violation of Parole: When a person is convicted of a crime, they may be sentenced to a period of probation or parole. Failure to adhere to the terms of probation or parole can cause a person to be incarcerated or suffer further consequences. Violations have their own separate hearing processes, and an attorney can represent defendants in such proceedings.
- Violent Crimes: Violent crimes involve acts that endanger or inflict harm on a person and may have increased sentencing if any weapons are involved. These crimes are taken very seriously by the court, and having an experienced attorney on your side can greatly improve the outcome of your case.
- White-Collar Crime: Criminal acts such as embezzlement, fraud, or forgery typically fall under the umbrella of “white collar crime,” as they often result in large sums of money or finances being gained through these acts. Many times, these are complex scenarios that require the deft handling of an experienced attorney.
- Firearm/Weapon Charges: Firearm or other weapons charges can lead to loss of a job, loss of a security clearance, and a host of other complications. Get skilled attorney help to defend any such charges.
- Marijuana Charges: They may not seem like much in today's changing environment, but marijuana charges can still affect a job, career, or other important opportunities.
- Student Disciplinary Hearings: Charges of student misconduct can lead to suspension or expulsion, further leading to job loss and loss of career. Take any such charges most seriously. They may not seem like criminal charges but can have similar implications.
Lancaster County Criminal Defense Attorney | Criminal Defense Lawyer in Lancaster
Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately defends clients in Lancaster County against the above charges and more. Remember, when you are in the courtroom, and the stakes are high, experience matters. If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges in Lancaster County, contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today at 888-535-3686.