criminal defense lawyer in PennsylvaniaUnder Pennsylvania law, members of law enforcement have broad powers in certain circumstances. Any police officer in uniform may detain an individual without a permit. An officer may make an arrest if they believe someone committed a felony, misdemeanor, simple assault, aggravated assault, or reckless endangerment, or if the officer witnessed the person violate Pennsylvania law. In addition, if an officer has voluntary permission from a property owner, they may search premises without a warrant.

The Skinner Law Firm in West Chester may be able to assist you if you have had an encounter with law enforcement, are guilty by default, or have outstanding warrants. We use our extensive experience and knowledge of the law to protect the rights of our clients, and fight for the best possible outcomes. If you need legal help, contact the Skinner Law Firm at (610) 436-1410 or online and schedule a free consultation.

The Fourth Amendment

To arrest or search a person, or his or her premises, a Pennsylvania law enforcement officer is required to submit a sworn affirmation that there was probable cause sufficient to set aside an individual’s Fourth Amendment rights:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Reasonable Suspicion vs. Probable Cause

Police may detain a suspect and conduct a limited search of a person if they have a reasonable suspicion that the individual has committed a crime. Reasonable suspicion is a lower level of belief than probable cause.

Probable cause is apparent facts discovered through logical inquiry that would lead a reasonably intelligent and prudent person to believe that an accused person has committed a crime, thereby warranting his or her prosecution, or that a cause of action has accrued, justifying a civil lawsuit.

An officer only needs to have reasonable suspicion to stop and frisk a person he or she believes was involved in criminal activity. However, an officer may not arrest a suspect until they have probable cause to believe the individual has committed a crime.

If there is a reasonable-based assumption that a crime has been committed, or there is evidence of a crime taking place in the location the officers want to view, courts often find that probable cause sufficient to arrest an individual or search the scene. However, the United States Supreme Court has acknowledged that probable cause is generally, “imprecise, fluid, and very dependent on context.”

Exigent Circumstances

Exigent circumstances are those that would cause a reasonable person to believe that entry (or other relevant prompt action) was necessary to prevent physical harm to the officers or other persons, the destruction of relevant evidence, the escape of the suspect, or some other consequence improperly frustrating legitimate law enforcement efforts.


Under Pennsylvania judges can issue bench warrants for:

To obtain an order, a member of Pennsylvania’s law enforcement must be present in court and declare before a judge that, to the best of his or her knowledge, the person in question is responsible for the crime. Once the judge or magistrate signs the warrant, the police can arrest and detain the offender anywhere and at any time. The authorization remains in place until the offender is brought to court. If police want to also search a suspect’s home, they must obtain a separate search warrant.

Skinner Law Firm

Criminal legal language, ideas, and procedures can be difficult to understand. The Skinner Law Firm in West Chester, Pennsylvania is a criminal defense firm and our legal team has handled almost every type of criminal case. We can help you figure out the complexities of your case.

Getting good legal advice early is essential to protect you and get the best possible outcomes for your case. If you have been charged with a criminal offense, or have a bench warrant because of an alleged crime, contact us as soon as possible and learn if we may be able to help. We pride ourselves on giving trustworthy support to our clients, while tirelessly advocating for them in the court system.

If you need legal help, contact the Skinner Law Firm at (610) 436-1410 or online and schedule a free consultation.

Article Author

Michael J. Skinner, the founder of Skinner Law Firm LLC, is a former prosecutor with the Chester County District Attorney’s Office.

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