Professionals draw on a specialized body of knowledge and expertise. They are smart, logical, and confident in their practices. A professional's expertise, though, doesn't necessarily translate from their own field to law and legal procedures. Professionals who suffer arrest in or around Philadelphia are often just as frightened and confused as others who lack a professional's skill, training, and education.
As a veteran of Philadelphia's courts, Joseph D. Lento of the Lento Law Firm wants the professional who suffers arrest in Philadelphia to have the knowledge, confidence, and representation to handle the charges like the professional who they are. Philadelphia criminal defense attorney Joseph Lento wants you to know your interests, know what you face, and know what he can do to enforce your legal rights for the best possible outcome. Read below for that outline. Follow the Lento Law Firm blog to see how committed Joseph Lento is that you know the law when facing criminal charges in Philadelphia.
Potential Effects of Criminal Charges Against a Professional
In this respect, Philadelphia is no different than other cities in Pennsylvania and around the nation: criminal charges here, if not handled properly for the best outcome, can severely affect, indeed derail and even ruin, a professional's practice. The penalties for a Pennsylvania felony conviction can certainly include years of imprisonment and fines of tens of thousands of dollars. Those penalties would apply equally to a professional or non-professional.
A professional, though, may face significantly greater career losses from a criminal charge of any kind, even a misdemeanor, than those whose work does not require the highest level of integrity. Criminal charge or conviction may require reporting to a professional licensing body to consider license suspension or revocation. Even if not, the federally authorized National Inventory of Collateral Consequences of Conviction lists these examples of potential statutory collateral consequences of a conviction under Pennsylvania law:
- loss of physician-assistant, respiratory-therapist, and athletic-trainer license under 63 P.S. 271.15;
- registration, publication, and notification of sex-offender registration under 42 Pa.C.S. 9799.26;
- civil fines, civil liability, and forfeiture of property rights under 37 Pa.C.S. 511;
- impeachment as a witness in subsequent proceedings under Pa.R.E. Rule 609;
- loss of recreational-vehicle and firearm license and rights under 75 Pa.C.S. 7711.2;
- limiting driver's license to occupational license under 75 Pa.C.S. 1553 and suspension of driver's license under 75 Pa.C.S. 1535;
- limiting business licenses and participation under 75 Pa.C.S. 229-A;
- ineligible for agricultural occupational and professional licensure under 7 Pa. Code 59a.4; and
- termination of residential tenancies under 68 P.S. 250.505-A.
Criminal charges can also affect a professional's work and career through the loss of reputation, and the loss of clients, patients, and professional networks that go with the loss of reputation, and through restrictions against international or out-of-area travel. And careers are not a professional's only concern. Criminal charges can affect a professional's marriage and family relationships, and social, religious, and recreational activities.
In short, professionals have a lot on the line when they face criminal charges, more on the line than they may at first appreciate. Professionals should not risk handling any criminal charge on their own. Don't let your professional status fool you into thinking you can handle unfamiliar court procedures. Contact Joseph D. Lento of the Lento Law Firm now by calling (888) 535-3686 or going online.
Procedures to Expect on Arrest
A professional's transactional training and analytic education can help prepare the professional to participate effectively in the professional's criminal-charge defense. Knowing what's happening and what's coming can be critical to a professional's effective defense, when working closely with expert counsel Joseph D. Lento. So, what should a professional facing a criminal charge in Philadelphia expect?
Investigation. Criminal procedures in Philadelphia, as elsewhere, begin with a police investigation after observation or report of potential crime. Detectives collect and study crime evidence, interview witnesses, and consult experts. The defense lawyer ensures that the professional relies on the privilege against self-incrimination while seeing that investigators receive exculpatory information.
Complaint. If the investigation establishes probable cause that the professional committed the crime, the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office, one of the nation's largest, files the criminal complaint for the one-hundred-one-judge Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas to hear or the twenty-seven-judge Municipal Court if a lesser offense. The defense lawyer ensures that the professional avoids self-incrimination, understands the process, and prepares for arrest.
Arrest. The arrest stage of a Philadelphia criminal proceeding involves police taking the professional's custody preparing for arraignment in Municipal Court. Officers search the defendant professional at the arrest and transport the defendant to the police station to book basic information and take mug shots. If the professional becomes aware of a pending charge and arrest warrant, then the defense lawyer may ensure that the professional submits promptly while minimizing embarrassment. Lesser offenses involve summons to appear in Municipal Court rather than an arrest.
Preliminary Arraignment. The preliminary arraignment in the Municipal Court is the next step. The timing of appearance in court for bail to be set determines how long the professional may remain in jail awaiting bail. The defendant's "appearance" will be via video with the defendant remaining at the applicable police district or police headquarters. The magistrate will preside over the matter in person at the Criminal Justice Center located at 1301 Filbert Street. The possibility of avoiding one or more overnights in jail is one of the potential benefits of having a defense lawyer assist with prompt submission for arrest.
Bail. Pennsylvania has not yet enacted significant bail reforms like other states, including New Jersey. Professionals typically have the financial means to post the security that bail requires to ensure that the defendant returns to court, but a defense lawyer can provide significant advocacy and assistance to ensure that the professional goes free on bail to go on living a relatively normal life while assisting in a defense to the charges. A private defense attorney can also help a professional understand the nuances of how bail works in Philadelphia.
If a "dollar amount" bail is set as opposed to a defendant being released on recognizance ("ROR") or unsecured bail being set (where no money would need to be posted), bail must be posted within approximately 1-2 hours otherwise the defendant will be transported to the jail complex on State Road in Northeast Philadelphia. Once transported, even if bail is posted in an otherwise timely manner, the defendant will remain in custody for a minimum of 24 hours. Any time in custody will obviously be to a professional's detriment, especially in light of work obligations that may have to be attended to, and a private defense attorney can work to minimize the potential burdens which can arise shortly after a professional's arrest and charging in Philadelphia.
In addition to bail being set, there will be brief recitation of the allegations at the preliminary arraignment.
Preliminary Hearing. For cases involving a felony charge (or cases involving felony charges and misdemeanor charges), a preliminary hearing will be scheduled which would generally take place within a few days or weeks of the preliminary arraignment The Municipal Court then hears the prosecution's witnesses to ensure that the prosecution can show probable cause that the professional may have committed the charged crime. The defense lawyer evaluates the prosecution's evidence and may advocate to the judge where the prosecution has failed to produce evidence on each element of the charged crime.
If any felony charges are held for court, the professional's case will proceed to the "formal arraignment". If all felony charges are dismissed and only misdemeanor charges remain, the professional's case will be "remanded" to Municipal Court for potential trial, diversion from traditional prosecution, and/or non-trial disposition. If all charges are dismissed for either "lack of evidence" or "lack of prosecution", the case is over.
Municipal Court Arraignment. For cases involving misdemeanor charges (and no felonies), the municipal court arraignment will generally take place several weeks after the preliminary arraignment. At the Municipal Court arraignment, the professional would enter a plea through his or her defense attorney, routinely not guilty. The professional's case will then be given a trial date or a "tracking" date for cases involving DUI charges for example as the District Attorney's Office continues to assess how the case will be prosecuted.
Formal arraignment. Formal arraignment is the stage after a preliminary hearing at which the defendant professional appears before a "trial commissioner", which is similar to a judge, to hear the charges and associated rights, the most significant right of which is to retain one's own lawyer. The skill, experience, and commitment of criminal-defense counsel can make a difference in the outcome of disputed charges. With their substantial career interests at stake, professionals should retain a skilled lawyer from the Lento Law Firm.
A formal arraignment will not take place for cases involving misdemeanor charges only just as a Municipal Court arraignment will not take place for cases involving felonies.
Pretrial Diversion. Philadelphia's District Attorney's Office participates actively in pretrial diversions available under Pennsylvania law. Diversion, available only under certain charges to certain defendants, enables the defendant to follow out-of-court procedures that can result in a dismissal / withdrawal of the charges at the applicable time. Philadelphia criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento has experience in diversion programs and relationships with the diversion professionals to assist professional clients in qualifying for, completing, and documenting diversion.
Motion to Suppress. If the charge proceeds but depends on evidence that the police obtained illegally, then a skilled criminal defense attorney would file and win a motion to suppress the evidence. Suppression may require the prosecutor to abandon the case for lack of critical evidence. Philadelphia criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento wins motions to suppress using aggressive advocacy and the detailed knowledge of constitutional law that those motions require.
Pretrial Conference. The local rules for the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Criminal Division authorize pretrial conferences for felony cases bringing together the judge, district attorney, and defense lawyer to resolve important case issues. Pretrials, as lawyers call them, address evidence and other law issues and determine the material disputed issues of fact. They also serve as an opportunity for attorney Joseph D. Lento to advocate for a charge's dismissal or plea agreement on reduced charges.
Trial. A trial involves the presentation to a factfinder, typically a jury but sometimes the judge, of evidence and arguments on disputed fact issues. Twelve jurors hear, examine, and deliberate on the evidence on charges that proceed to trial, unless both the prosecutor and defendant waive a jury in favor of the trial judge deciding guilt. The choice of judge or jury is a critical decision on which a defendant needs experienced counsel. The trial involves opening statements, direct and cross-examination of witnesses, the introduction of exhibits, closing arguments, and instruction of the jury, all requiring skilled advocacy from experienced counsel.
Sentencing. Pennsylvania's complex sentencing guidelines leave the trial judge only limited discretion. Attorney Lento's representation of the defendant plays several important roles in sentencing. One is to ensure proper application of the sentencing guidelines. Another is to advocate skillfully for lenient terms where the judge has discretion. Sentencing, though, begins with a presentence report on which the sentencing judge relies for the decision, another opportunity for attorney Lento to get complete and accurate information in the report for sentence recommendation. The sentencing hearing itself requires skilled advocacy around factual and legal disputes over sentencing factors.
Appeal. An appeal from Philadelphia Municipal Court misdemeanor cases go to the next higher court which is the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. An appeal from a Court of Common Pleas conviction and sentence go to Pennsylvania's intermediate-level appellate Superior Court for review of the trial transcript for errors or irregularities that unfairly influenced the outcome. Appeals and motions for other post-conviction relief require the representation of a skilled defense lawyer to discern errors or irregularities justifying relief, including the admission of irrelevant or unduly prejudicial evidence, violations of evidentiary privileges, prejudicial prosecutor statements, errors in the judge's instructions to the jury, juror misconduct, witness or juror tampering, and sentencing errors.
Rights the Lento Law Firm Can Enforce in Your Defense
The U.S. Constitution guarantees a criminal-charge defendant due-process rights and certain other important rights, most of which the Pennsylvania Constitution also guarantees. The following sections address how expert criminal-defense attorney Joseph D. Lento of the Lento Law Firm enforces these rights.
Arrest. The Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments protect against unlawful arrest. The law permits warrantless arrest only in a public place and only on probable cause, which involves evidence that the suspect has committed a crime. Officers who enter places where the suspect has a reasonable expectation of privacy must ordinarily obtain a warrant except for exigent circumstances or when the suspect consents. Attorney Lento may have the grounds to challenge the validity of a defendant professional's arrest. If the challenge is successful, then the court may suppress the evidence gained, including such things as confessions, fingerprints, blood tests, and DNA.
Search. A defendant in a criminal proceeding also has a right against unreasonable government searches. The right ordinarily requires that the officer performing the search first obtain a warrant on a showing of probable cause that the location has crime evidence. An unlawful search without a warrant gives attorney Lento grounds to move to suppress. A successful motion invokes the exclusionary rule, requiring the court to bar the illegally obtained evidence unless one of several exceptions to the rule applies.
Self-Incrimination. The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, as the Supreme Court's decision in Miranda v Arizona interprets them, guarantee a privilege against self-incrimination. The privilege requires authorities to tell arrestees their so-called Miranda rights before custodial interrogation. In the absence of that reading of rights, attorney Lento may move to suppress the evidence that the interrogation obtained. The court ordinarily excludes statements gained in violation of these rights.
Lineups. A defendant's due-process rights require police to conduct lineups in ways not unduly suggestive. If the police tip off the eyewitness to the defendant's identity in an unduly suggestive manner, then that violation of due process gives attorney Lento grounds to move to exclude the eyewitness's in-court identification unless the eyewitness's identification has an independent source outside of the lineup procedure. The defendant also has a right to counsel at a lineup so that defense counsel can monitor the procedure for undue suggestion.
Right to Counsel. The defendant also has the right to counsel under the Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments. That right to counsel includes felony proceedings, misdemeanor proceedings that may result in incarceration, and juvenile-delinquency proceedings. Violations of the right to counsel may result in dismissal of the charge or other sanction crippling the prosecution's case.
Fair Trial. The defendant has a Sixth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment right to a fair trial, speedy trial, and public trial. Charges carrying a potential term of imprisonment for more than six months require an impartial jury from the district of the alleged crime. The court may dismiss the charge for this right's violation. The Sixth Amendment's confrontation clause grants the defendant the right to confront and cross-examine prosecution witnesses, a critical moment in the trial that calls for the premier skills of attorney Lento. The defendant also has the right to present the defendant's own testimony, rarely exercised in a criminal case, and the defendant's own witnesses.
Jury Trial. Due process also guarantees the defendant professional a trial before an impartial jury if incarceration is a potential punishment. Parties challenge, and the court removes, biased jurors. Peremptory challenges permit attorney Lento to remove a juror without showing any cause if the juror's background or voir-dire answers suggest a bias against the defendant. Law prohibits the prosecution from using peremptory challenges to exclude jurors based on race or sex. Violations of these rights can require dismissal of the charge or a new trial.
Double Jeopardy. The Constitution's double-jeopardy clause prohibits the prosecution from trying an accused twice on the same charge or a lesser-included charge. The clause applies after either a conviction or an acquittal, meaning that the prosecution generally gets only one chance to convict. The court must also not impose multiple punishments for the same offense. Violations give attorney Lento grounds to seek reversal of the conviction and dismissal of the charge.
Burdens of Proof and Persuasion. Above all, due process requires the prosecution to prove every element of the charged crime beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the highest proof burden the law imposes. The prosecution's failure to prove any single element of the charge beyond a reasonable doubt means that the jury must acquit or the court dismiss notwithstanding the verdict. Attorney Lento has the trial skills to advocate these instructions to the jury in compelling closing arguments.
Achieving a Professional's Best Outcome
You can now see how critical the legal representation of skilled criminal-defense attorney Joseph D. Lento can be in defeating or reducing charges against a professional in Philadelphia. Every stage of a criminal prosecution provides opportunities for Joseph Lento to make a significant difference in the outcome. The expert law services that the Lento Law Firm affords, like drafting, filing, and advocating motions to suppress or negotiating plea agreements, win cases. They also speak to the enduring value of the professional relationship with Philadelphia criminal-defense attorney Joseph D. Lento. A professional needs premier criminal-defense attorney Joseph D. Lento's skilled advocacy just as much as others who face criminal charges in Philadelphia. Indeed, with all that a professional has on the line, the professional may need the skilled advocacy even more.
Get Help Now
Attorney Joseph D. Lento has helped many professionals charged in Philadelphia with a criminal offense get the charge reduced or dismissed, saving professional practices, licenses, and careers, and saving family, social, and network relationships. For a professional charged with a crime, a delay is your enemy. The best thing to do is to promptly retain and consult with experienced Philadelphia criminal-defense attorney Joseph D. Lento. Receive your case evaluation now from the Lento Law Firm by calling (888) 535-3686 or going online.