Although misdemeanor crimes are less serious than felonies, they should still be taken seriously. The consequences of a misdemeanor conviction include costly fines, potential incarceration, and other legal penalties. A misdemeanor charge can contribute to the creation of a criminal record, which can severely limit future job prospects, inhibits eligibility for government aid, and other burdens.
This is why people facing these charges should seek the help of a skilled Chester County attorney. If you're in this predicament, this article will provide with insight as to what to expect when charged with a misdemeanor in this county, some of your options, and the vital role an attorney can play in ensuring you achieve a successful case outcome.
What To Expect With Misdemeanor Charges in Chester County
Based on the nature of a crime, a misdemeanor can carry a potential penalty of up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. A few examples of common misdemeanor crimes in Chester County include:
- Disorderly conduct
- Criminal trespass
- Driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol
- Drug possession
- Petty theft
- Simple assault
- Resisting arrest etc.
In the event that a person is arrested and charged with a misdemeanor crime, a record detailing the date of their arrest, the incident, the arresting officer, the charge etc. will be made. Generally, people charged with misdemeanor offenses are usually released from custody after all of this information is collected. However, when or if a person is released is also dependent on their conduct and their interactions with an arresting officer. If a person is immediately released, they will receive a summons in the mail to appear in court for what's known as a preliminary hearing.
A Chester County Preliminary Hearing kicks off the criminal prosecution process that all defendants will have to go through. It's typically scheduled within 10 days of the arrest, but dates may vary. This hearing essentially gives the prosecution (the Commonwealth) a chance to present evidence that is compelling enough to justify putting a defendant on trial. For the case to progress, the prosecution must present evidence that would make a reasonable person believe that a crime was committed and that this crime was committed by the defendant in question.
If a judge concludes that the prosecution has effectively made its case, a defendant will officially be charged with the misdemeanor crime and the case will progress to the Court of Common Pleas. If a judge decides that there isn't enough evidence, or that it isn't compelling enough to continue the process, the case will be dismissed.
Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) Program
Non-violent, first-time offenders may have an alternative option to going to trial in Chester County by applying for the county's ARD program. ARD is a diversionary pre-trial intervention program that focuses on the rehabilitation of defendants, rather than punishment. Each member is assigned conditions that they must fulfill in a year's time to successfully complete the program. If all the goals in this program are met, members will not be convicted, their case will be dismissed, and their record of the arrest will be completely expunged.
Defendants must meet certain qualifications to be accepted into this program. To see if you're eligible, you should seek the help of an experienced Chester County criminal defense attorney.
Chester County Criminal Defense Attorney
Attorney Joseph D. Lento has represented numerous clients who've acquired misdemeanor charges in Chester County. He understands the impact the conviction of a misdemeanor crime will have on your life and can weigh your options in your unique case. Contact Joseph D. Lento today online or give him a call at (215) 535-5353 at the earliest available opportunity for assistance.