Attacking the Prosecution's Case - Pre-Trial Motions in Philadelphia Municipal Court

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Jul 07, 2017 | 0 Comments

When a person is arrested and charged with a crime in Philadelphia in violation of Pennsylvania State law, the criminal case will start in Philadelphia Municipal Court.  If the case involves misdemeanor charges only, the case will remain in Philadelphia Municipal Court.  An effective attorney will pursue all available strategies in an effort to achieve the best possible outcome, and one such strategy involves pursuing aggressive pre-trial motions.  Criminal motion practice in Philadelphia can attack various aspects of the Philadelphia District Attorney's case against the defendant.  Understanding not only which pre-trial motions can be pursued on a defendant's behalf, but also which will be most effective, is critical to achieving success in the courtroom.

Pre-Trial Motions That Can Be Filed When a Person is Charged with a Crime in Philadelphia

On behalf of the defendant, an aggressive defense attorney should consider filing the following pre-trial motions, as applicable, in Philadelphia Municipal Court:

  • A motion to suppress physical evidence, identification evidence, or evidence of a confession or statement.
  • A motion in limine (Latin: "at the start", literally, "on the threshold") to disallow use of the Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) or blood test result in a Philadelphia DUI case due to failure to conform with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations regarding chemical testing of blood or breath, and/or the "Two Hour" Rule (which provides that a Breathalyzer has to be administered to a DUI defendant within two hours of his or her arrest).
  • A motion to dismiss for violation of Rule 1013 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure (the Philadelphia Municipal Court "Prompt Trial" Rule).
  • A motion to dismiss for "lack of prosecution" ("LOP") by the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office (which is known as the "Commonwealth" in court proceedings).
  • A motion to dismiss for failure to provide discovery as required by Philadelphia Local Rule 558 - Required Discovery in Municipal Court, and Rule 573 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure - Pretrial Discovery and Inspection.
  • A motion to dismiss the charged criminal offense(s) as a de minimis infraction (per Section 312 of the Pennsylvania Crimes Code).
  • A motion to dismiss the charged criminal offense(s) as a violation of Rule 502 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure (arrest for a misdemeanor not committed in the presence of a police officer and without an arrest warrant and not otherwise statutorily authorized).
  • A motion for a disposition under Section 17 of the Drug Act ("Probation without Verdict" - A resolution often reserved for Philadelphia first-time offenders applicable in drug possession cases and arguably other non-violent misdemeanors where the defendant is addicted to drugs.
  • A motion to dismiss for violation of the due process of law due to delay between the charged criminal act and arrest.  This principle was established in the case of Ross v. United States, 349 F.2d (1965) - "The defendant's] failure of memory and his inability to reconstruct what he did not remember virtually precluded his showing in what respects his defense might have been more successful if the delay had been shorter...In a very real sense, the extent to which he was prejudiced by the Government's delay is evidenced by the difficulty he encountered in establishing with particularity the elements of that prejudice."
  • A motion to dismiss for violation of a defendant's right not to face Double Jeopardy and/or the principles established by the Pennsylvania case of Commonwealth v. Campana, 452 Pa. 233 (1973) and/or Title 18 Section 110 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes (18 Pa.C.S. § 110 - When prosecution barred by former prosecution for different offense).
  • A motion to produce the police (confidential) informant ("C.I.") as an eyewitness to a drug transaction applicable in some Philadelphia Municipal Court sale of marijuana / possession (of marijuana) with intent to distribute (PWID) cases.   Principles related to when a confidential information must be produced by the prosecution have been established by the following court cases: Roviaro v. United States, 353 U.S. 1957; Commonwealth v. Carter, 233 A.2d 284, 288 (1967); Commonwealth v. Payne, 656 A.2d 77, 79 (1994); In the Interest of D.B., 820 A.2d 820 (Pa. Super 2004) (a case involving a juvenile defendant); and Commonwealth v. Pritchett, 225 Pa. Super. 401 (1973).
  • A motion to reveal the confidential surveillance location applicable in some Philadelphia Municipal Court sale of marijuana / possession (of marijuana) with intent to distribute (PWID) cases and on the questions of probable cause in some motions to suppress.  Principles related to when a confidential surveillance location must be produced by the prosecution have been established by the following court cases: Commonwealth v. Rodriguez, 543 A.2d 651, 674 A.2d 225 (1960) and Commonwealth v. Santiago, 631 A.2d 1323 (1993).
  • Motions for the "reweigh" of drugs in mandatory amount of marijuana cases where the alleged drug weight is slightly over the mandatory amounts (2 pounds, 10 pounds, or 50 pounds).  The Pennsylvania Superior Court case of Commonwealth v. Arenella, 306 Pa. Super 119, 452 A.2d 234 (1980), speaks to considerations involving possession with intent to deliver (PWID) or delivery of marijuana charges in violation of The Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act of April 14, 1972, P.L. 233, No. 64, § 13(a)(30).

Which pre-trial motions are best for your criminal case?

A Philadelphia defense attorney must be aggressive in the use of pre-trial motions, but must also be strategic to effectively attack the Philadelphia District Attorney's case against the person charged.  Deciding on which pre-trial motion(s) will be most effective will be understood by an experienced attorney who has fought "in the trenches" of the Philadelphia Criminal Courts. 

Utilizing the proper pre-trial motion can, for example, suppress critical prosecution evidence against the defendant, whether it is the results of a blood test when a person is charged with a DUI in Philadelphia, an incriminating statement made by the defendant after being arrested, and so forth.  In many instances, the prosecution's case against the person charged "lives and dies" on evidence that the prosecution seeks to use against the defendant (be it the results of a blood test or a defendant's incriminating statement for example).  If such evidence can be dismissed, for violations of the defendant's constitutional rights for example, the prosecution will often no longer have a case against the defendant. 

When pre-trial motions are used effectively in Philadelphia Municipal Court, these motions will often determine who wins and who loses.  Winning will often take place before a criminal case goes to trial because if  right pre-trial defense motion is successful, the likelihood of the criminal case being withdrawn by the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office or dismissed by the Court will all but be assured.

Philadelphia Attorney to Fight Criminal Case | Lawyer to Fight Philadelphia Criminal Charges

A defendant and his or her attorney must not only discuss the best strategies to defend against criminal charges, but must also discuss the best strategies to attack the prosecution's case through the use of effective pre-trial motions.  If you or a loved on is faced with criminal charges in Philadelphia, contact skilled attorney Joseph D. Lento today.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately fights for the futures of his clients in criminal courtrooms in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania as well as in New Jersey and nationwide. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. With unparalleled experience occupying several roles in the criminal justice system outside of being an attorney, Joseph D. Lento can give you valuable behind-the-scenes insight as to what is happening during all phases of the legal process. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings!


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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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