Misdemeanors may be less serious than felonies, but they can still carry some pretty severe punishments. For this reason, people who have acquired misdemeanor charges should seek the help of a seasoned Montgomery County criminal defense attorney. For the purposes of this article, we will address what to expect when charged with a misdemeanor in this county, and the significant role an attorney can play in helping you achieve a successful case outcome.
What To Expect With Misdemeanor Charges in Montgomery County
In Montgomery County, a misdemeanor crime can potentially carry penalties of up to five years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. A couple examples of misdemeanor crimes committed in this region include:
- Drug possession
- Resisting arrest
- 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, a record is created. This record details identifiable information about you, the date of the arrest, the incident, the arresting officer, the charge, and other relevant information. Usually, people charged with misdemeanor cases experience more leniency by law enforcement and judges, especially if this is the first offense. Therefore, they are usually released from custody shortly after an arrest, and are sent a summons in the mail to appear in court for what's known as a “preliminary hearing.”
A Montgomery County Preliminary Hearing initiates the lengthy criminal prosecution process all defendants will have to endure. It's usually scheduled within 10 days of an arrest, but dates may vary. In this hearing, the prosecution (the Commonwealth) will be given an opportunity to present evidence that justifies putting a defendant on trial.
In order for the prosecution to meet this burden of proof, they must present evidence sufficient enough that would make a reasonable person believe that it's possible that the defendant in question committed the crime. This is also known as probable cause. Probable cause is a very low standard of evidence in comparison to the evidentiary standards used in a trial. So, it's important to remember that success for the prosecution in this phase doesn't indicate whatsoever that you are guilty.
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 decides that there isn't enough evidence, or that it isn't compelling enough to proceed, the case will be dismissed.
Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) Program
First-time offenders with non-violent misdemeanors also have alternative options to trial. They may be eligible for the Montgomery County ARD Program. ARD is a pre-trial intervention program that takes a rehabilitative approach to criminal behavior. Rather than punishing defendants, they are given tasks to fulfill that will help remedy the issues that led them to commit a crime. For example, a person who was charged with drug trafficking because they sell drugs to get money to feed their addiction would likely attend rehab and drug treatment programs to complete this program. If the goals of this program are met, members will have successfully avoided a conviction, the creation of a criminal record, and harsh legal penalties. The help of an attorney is required for acceptance in this program.
Montgomery County Criminal Defense Attorney
Attorney Joseph D. Lento has represented numerous clients who've acquired misdemeanor charges in Montgomery 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.