Lebanon County: Criminal Defense

If you've been charged with a crime in Lebanon County, you likely have lots of questions. You'll find answers to many of those questions here. Keep in mind, however, that the very best resource for navigating the Pennsylvania justice system is a qualified attorney.

The Lebanon County Court System

The court system in Lebanon County is divided into two parts.

Court of Common Pleas: The Court of Common Pleas holds jurisdiction over all criminal matters in Lebanon County. In simplest terms, this means if you're accused of a crime, your case will play out here. In addition to criminal and civil courts, the Lebanon Court of Common Pleas houses an Orphan's Court division and a DUI Court division. In total, the court has four full-time judges and one senior judge.

Other administrative departments deal with court-related matters such as bail, probation, and expungements.

All of the court's various programs are housed at 400 South Eighth Street in Lebanon. For more information, you can call 717-227-4440, Monday through Friday, between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

Magisterial District Court: The Lebanon County Magisterial District Court is set up to help the Court of Common Pleas process the many criminal cases that show up in the county each year. As a result, most cases begin here. For example, the Magisterial District Court issues arrest warrants. It also conducts preliminary arraignments where defendants are advised of charges and bail is set. In fact, some cases are dismissed or resolved here and never make it to the Common Court of Pleas at all.

The Magisterial District Court is actually made up of six Courts located throughout Lebanon County at:

  • 502 State Drive in Lebanon
  • 728 Walnut Street in Lebanon
  • 1720 State Route 72 N in Lebanon
  • 138 W Walnut Street in Cleona
  • 325 S Railroad Street in Palmyra

One of your first responsibilities as a defendant, then, is to make sure that when you are called to court, you show up at the right place and at the right time.

Court Procedures

Being arrested or indicted isn't quite as scary as most television shows make it seem. If you don't have a criminal history, you'll probably be fingerprinted and released. That doesn't mean the process isn't upsetting. You could find yourself in handcuffs. You'll be dealing with law enforcement officers who ultimately want to prove you're guilty.

The first thing you need is someone to help you manage the situation, someone who has your best interests at heart. A qualified, experienced attorney can help you answer questions and begin preparing to defend yourself.

  1. Preliminary hearing: Following your preliminary arraignment, if charged with felonies or misdemeanors, you face a preliminary hearing at which a magisterial court judge will determine whether the prosecution has enough evidence to bind you over for trial. Keep in mind that the district attorney only needs to make a “prima facie” case here. That means they don't have to prove you're guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt,” only that they have enough evidence to win the case if you offered no defense.
  2. Formal arraignment in the Court of Common Pleas: If you are held over for court, you next appear at a formal arraignment in the Court of Common Pleas. The judge will inform you of your rights as well as the specific charges against you.
  3. Pretrial filings: Following the arraignment, your attorney files motions and pleadings on your behalf. The prosecution will have time to respond to each of these.
  4. Pretrial conference: Before a trial, both sides of the case meet to discuss any outstanding issues, potential pleas, and whether they are ready for trial. Pleas can include:
    • Not guilty
    • Negotiated plea with the prosecutor (“plea bargain”)
    • Open plea of guilty without a negotiated settlement
    • Plea of “No contest,” where you make no representation of your guilt or innocence.
  5. Bench or jury trial: Assuming you plead not guilty, you next face a trial. In all criminal matters, you have the right to a trial by jury. However, you can also elect to have your case heard by a judge. Trails typically follow a set procedure:
    • Voir dire to select jurors if it is to be a jury trial
    • Opening arguments from both sides during which attorneys introduce their cases
    • Prosecution's case, during which they submit evidence and witness testimony
    • Defense opportunity to cross-examine prosecution witnesses
    • Defense's case, during which your attorney submits evidence and witness testimony
    • Prosecution opportunity to cross-examine defense witnesses
    • Closing arguments from both sides during which attorneys summarize their cases
    • Deliberations, during which the jury or judge will consider the case and rule on your guilt or innocence
  6. Sentencing: If you are convicted, or “found guilty,” the final piece of your case is a sentencing hearing. At this hearing, the judge considers a pre-sentencing investigative report as well as several other facts about you, including:
    • The seriousness of your offense
    • Any aggravating factors to your offense
    • Any mitigating factors to your offense
    • Your criminal history

Taking all this into consideration, the judge assigns you a specific penalty.

ARD Program

Lebanon County offers another path for first-time offenders who have been charged with certain non-violent crimes, such as drug possession, shoplifting, and check fraud. Through the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) Program, you do not admit responsibility for your crime, but you will be required to complete a list of assigned terms and conditions, and thereafter you may have your record expunged. Some defendants choose this route because, in the best-case scenarios, it can help you maintain your career, education, or license.

However, not everyone is eligible to participate in ARD. You must go through an application and screening process, and the district attorney, police, and any victims must agree to the terms. In addition, these terms can sometimes be time-consuming and/ or expensive to complete.

Lebanon County Criminal Defense

No matter what type of criminal charge you're facing, a trained, experienced attorney can help.

DUI: Just because you've been charged with Driving Under the Influence (DUI) doesn't mean you'll be convicted. Often, the evidence in these cases is shaky at best, with law enforcement officers prone to making mistakes when they collect it. A DUI defense can be complex, but a qualified attorney can reduce the charges or get them thrown out entirely.

Traffic Violations: If you're like Pennsylvanians, you don't think traffic violations amount to much. Pay a fine and move on. Think again. These offenses can add up. You can lose your license or wind up with high insurance premiums. A good attorney can negotiate charges down and help protect your driving record.

Drug Offenses: Whether you're facing a charge of possession or distribution, an experienced attorney knows how to pick out the weaknesses in a prosecutor's case and get you the case outcome you deserve.

Violent Crime: You don't have to use a weapon to be charged with a violent crime. If you do someone bodily harm, the authorities may come after you. You want someone in your corner who will fight just as hard as the prosecutor will.

Sex Crimes: Sex crimes often come with the harshest punishments. The courts take a particularly dim view of these offenses. Defending yourself requires a seasoned attorney who knows the law.

Domestic Violence: In the Me Too era, judges and juries sometimes take it for granted that defendants are guilty. A lawyer can help you prove that relationships are always more complicated than they appear.

Protection from Abuse Orders: Pennsylvania's Protection from Abuse Act is meant to prevent stalking, domestic violence, and sexual assault. However, they can also cause problems for tax-paying citizens looking to get housing or protect their personal effects. They can interfere with child custody and court-ordered parenting rights. The right lawyer will know how to explain these conflicts in ways a court can understand.

Property Crimes: Whether the charge involves trespassing, vandalism, or simple theft, a strong lawyer knows how to find the weak points in the prosecution's case and exploit them.

Juvenile Offenses: Juvenile offenses must be handled carefully. For one thing, the rules can be quite different in these cases. At the same time, everything about a person's future is at stake. The best attorneys will recognize these challenges.

White-Collar Crime: Fraud, embezzlement, and forgery may be “white collar” crimes that don't cause physical harm, but they can garner prison sentences just like burglary or assault. Lawyers in these cases need to be especially well-versed in issues of finance.

Expungements/Record Sealing: Pennsylvania has taken steps in the last several years to make it easier to expunge your record. However, you'll need an experienced lawyer to help guide you through the often complex process.

Violation of Probation: Even if you're planning to plead guilty to a crime, you need an attorney to help you negotiate the absolute best settlement you can get.

Attorney Joseph D. Lento Can Handle Your Criminal Defense

Whatever charges you may be facing in Lebanon County, attorney Joseph D. Lento can handle it. The Lento Law Firm has unparalleled experience defending clients from all types of criminal charges. They are passionate about the law and about protecting their clients from unfair prosecution and unreasonable penalties. Put attorney Joseph D. Lento to work for you today. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-555-3686 or use our automated online form.

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Attorney Joseph D. Lento has more than a decade of experience successfully resolving clients' criminal charges in Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania counties. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you or a loved one, contact the Lento Law Firm today! Criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento will go above and beyond the needs of any client, and will fight until the final bell rings.

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