Although misdemeanor charges are less serious than penalties, they still can carry pretty severe penalties. This is why people who have acquired misdemeanor charges should seek the help of a skilled Delaware County criminal defense attorney.
In this article, we will address what to expect when charged with a misdemeanor in the county, and the significant role of an attorney when it comes to achieving a favorable case outcome.
What To Expect With Misdemeanor Charges in Delaware County
In Delaware County, a misdemeanor crime has the potential to carry penalties of up to five years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. A few examples of misdemeanor crimes committed in Delaware County include:
- Simple assault
- Drug possession
- Simple assault
- Petty theft
- Driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol
- Criminal trespass
- Disorderly conduct etc.
Once a person is arrested and charged with a misdemeanor crime, a record - that is accessible to the public - is created. This record details identifiable information about you, the incident, the date of the arrest, the arresting officer, the charge, and other relevant information. People facing misdemeanor charges usually experience more leniency by law enforcement and judges, especially if it's the first offense. This is why people in this predicament are typically released from custody shortly after an arrest and sent a summons to appear in court at a later date. The first court date will entail what's known as a “preliminary hearing.”
A Delaware County Preliminary Hearing kicks off the lengthy and arduous criminal prosecution process that all defendants must go through. It's usually scheduled within 10 days of an arrest, but dates may vary. In this hearing, the prosecution (the Commonwealth) will be tasked with the burden of proving that the defendant in question should be put on trial.
In order for the prosecution to succeed, they must prevent evidence sufficient enough to make a reasonable person believe that it's possible that the law was broken, and the defendant is the one who broke it. This is known as probable cause. Probable cause is a relatively low standard of evidence in comparison to evidentiary standards upheld for actual trials. So, it's important to remember that a win for the prosecution for this phase isn't uncommon, nor does it indicate that you are guilty whatsoever.
If a judge concludes, based on the evidence, that the prosecution has met the burden of proof, a defendant will be officially charged and the case will progress to the Court of Common Pleas. If, however, a judge rules that there isn't enough evidence, or that the evidence provided isn't compelling enough to put a defendant on trial, the case will be dismissed.
Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) Program
First-time offenders accused of non-violent misdemeanor have another alternative to trial. They may be eligible for the Delaware County ARD Program. ARD is a diversionary, pre-trial intervention program that takes a rehabilitative approach to crime. Rather than punishing defendants for criminal acts, members of this program are given tasks to complete that will remedy the issues that led them to commit a crime. If the goals in this program are met, members will have successfully avoided conviction, the creation of a criminal record, and legal penalties. The help of an attorney is required for entry into this program in Delaware County.
Delaware County Criminal Defense Attorney
Attorney Joseph D. Lento has represented numerous clients who've acquired misdemeanor charges in Delaware 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.