How Pennsylvania Lawyers Use Motions to Defend Criminal Charges

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There’s a lot more to a criminal trial than what you may see on TV or in the movies, which may focus first on the arrest of a character and then on the trial. The truth is that criminal defense attorneys are quite busy in the interim, reviewing case law, examining discovery materials, and using pretrial motions to defend the interests of their clients. Through successful pretrial motion practice, it may be possible to gain access to certain witnesses or documents – or even have criminal charges dismissed entirely because of procedural issues. Pretrial proceedings are critical in a Pennsylvania criminal case, and a skilled defense lawyer is essential to fight the charges against you.


Pretrial Motion Practice in Pennsylvania Criminal Cases

After your arrest, arraignment, and preliminary hearing, your case is set for trial. The time period leading up to that date is the pretrial phase. Prosecutors and your criminal defense attorney may use this time to file motions, which are applications to the court requesting that a judge makes a decision on an issue before the official trial begins. A motion may address issues of procedure, evidence, or testimony. Pretrial motion rules require a party to submit the request in writing, and the other side has time to respond in a written answer.


Types of Pretrial Motions

Criminal defense lawyers may use one or more different types of motions to defend your case:


  • Motion to Compel: This is a proceeding wherein your lawyer asks the court to force the prosecution to do something, such as turn over evidence. If the state has documents, pictures, police reports, witness testimony, or other evidence that’s that you don’t have – but which is important to your case – your attorney may also use a motion to compel to obtain it.
  • Motion to Suppress: This type of motion is essentially the opposite of a motion to compel; instead of trying to obtain information for trial, you’re requesting to keep it out of your trial. Probable cause issues are often involved with motions to suppress because any information police get in violation of your civil rights should not be admitted in court.
  • Motion to Dismiss: If there is not enough admissible evidence to support a conviction, your attorney may file a motion to dismiss to discharge and end the case. Essentially, the motion admits the facts but alleges that they do not amount to a crime.


Discuss Your Case with a Knowledgeable Criminal Defense Attorney in West Chester, Pennsylvania

No matter what crime you’ve been charged with under Pennsylvania law, you do have basic civil rights, including the right to due process under the law. Through the use of pretrial motions, an attorney will protect your interests and attack any weaknesses in the prosecution’s case against you. Unless you have a legal background, you may not be able to properly defend yourself and present motions to support your case. The experienced lawyers at the Skinner Law Firm have the detailed knowledge of state and federal law to fight for your rights. Please contact our West Chester, Pennsylvania, office with questions or to schedule a consultation.

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Woman Faces Fines, Jail for Retail Theft

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Theft Defense Lawyers in Pennsylvania

An Exton, Pennsylvania, woman who took $15 worth of food items from Wegmans Food Markets without paying for them has been charged with retail theft by local police. Chester County’s Daily Local News reported that on March 10, 2017, she was observed placing items into a bag as she roamed through the store. Retail theft is one of several types of theft crimes under Pennsylvania law, and it can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony depending on the circumstances. A criminal defense attorney can explain more about the details of theft crimes and grading system as well as the potential penalties if you’re convicted. Still, some general information may help you understand the severity of the crime and why it’s important to retain an experienced lawyer.

General Definition of Theft

The umbrella definition of theft is an unlawful taking or disposition of property belonging to another person, with the intent to deprive the owner of using or enjoying it. To deprive is to withhold the property permanently or for such a time that it has lost significant value, or to dispose of an item in such a way that the owner won’t be able to recover it. Property may be movable, such as a car or personal belongings, or immovable; an example of immovable property may be a bank account.

Retail Theft Specifically

This theft crime occurs when a person takes possession of merchandise that’s offered for sale at a store or retail establishment, without paying for it. The definition includes altering an item’s label or tag in such a way that the offender doesn’t pay full retail value, as well as moving merchandise into a different container so that the tag reflects a lower price. A person may also be charged with retail theft for destroying or deactivating security devices with the intent to take possession of property belonging to the store.

Grading of Retail Theft Offenses in Pennsylvania

Retail theft is a low-level crime if it’s a first offense and the property taken is worth less than $150. However, the offense and penalties increase:

  • A Second-Degree Misdemeanor charge applies if it’s the person’s second retail theft offense and the value is $150 or less.
  • It’s a First-Degree Misdemeanor to steal merchandise valued at $150 or more regardless of past offenses.
  • A person may be charged with a Third-Degree Felony for a third or subsequent offense regardless of the item’s value.
  • It’s a Third-Degree Felony if the property value exceeds $1,000, or is a gun or car – regardless of past criminal history.
No matter what type of theft crime you’re facing, your chances of a favorable outcome greatly increase if you have an experienced criminal defense lawyer to fight the charges. The penalties for a conviction can be severe, including fines and prison time, so you need a lawyer to represent your interests in court. A skilled defense attorney knows the elements a prosecutor needs to prove and can identify weaknesses in the state’s case against you. If you’re currently facing theft crime charges in Pennsylvania, please contact the Skinner Law Firm to set up a consultation at our West Chester, Pennsylvania, office. We’re happy to answer your questions and advise you on your options in a retail theft case.
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