For someone in the unfortunate position of dealing with a criminal charge in Pennsylvania, the confusion and anxiety about going through the process and doing things correctly can make the entire situation much more difficult. Like many things in life, once you understand the basic process of whatever you are focusing on, everything from that point forward will be a little easier to handle.
No matter what you or a loved one are going through, West Chester criminal defense attorney Michael J. Skinner can assist you. With considerable experience as a defense attorney and time spent on the other side of criminal law issues as a Chester County prosecutor, attorney Skinner knows how to successfully navigate the obstacles that get in most people’s way. Sometimes a clear explanation, honest advice, and skilled execution can be the difference in putting you in a favorable position with regard to a criminal law issue.
If you need assistance with a criminal matter in West Chester, Exton, Phoenixville, Kennett Square, Oxford, Coatesville, Downingtown, or anywhere in Chester County, call the Skinner Law Firm at (610) 436-1410 or contact us online. We offer free, initial consultations where attorney Skinner will personally review your situation and needs.
We regularly assist people in Southeastern Pennsylvania dealing with:
Expungement is the legal term for having something removed from your record or sealed from public view. Pennsylvania offers several options to expunge or seal prior criminal charges and convictions, depending on the circumstance. This usually requires petitioning the court and meeting certain requirements, but with a lawyer’s help, you may be able to wipe your slate clean.
Extradition is the process of transferring a person arrested in one state to another. Determining proper jurisdiction can be challenging, but a lawyer can facilitate a smooth process and negotiate a favorable resolution.
The most serious criminal classification in Pennsylvania, felony offenses usually come with extremely harsh punishments and sentencing for those who have been convicted of a crime. A first-degree felony will come with a presumptive sentence of up to 20 years in prison, while even a third-degree felony may include up to a 7-year prison sentence.
Although a misdemeanor offense is not as serious as a felony offense, the state of Pennsylvania still has strict penalties when a person is convicted of a misdemeanor offense.
When someone receives probation instead of time in jail for an offense, it is usually a far better outcome. However, probation has its own challenges and usually strict guidelines. Violating these guidelines can return you to custody, so if you or a loved one are accused of violating probation, reach out to a lawyer today.
This is an agreement among the 50 states, District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands that governs how and when states can transfer probation and parole supervision. If you meet the necessary guidelines, an attorney can assist with transferring your supervision to a new jurisdiction.
Discovering that an active warrant has been issued for your arrest is terrifying. Sometimes these warrants are years or even decades old, which makes resolving the matter a bureaucratic mess. Whether you a dealing with a bench warrant, an extradition warrant, or a warrant for violating probation, we can work to have it rescinded or arrange a positive resolution.
In many cases, law enforcement will conduct investigations and prior to filing formal charges and making an arrest. This usually involved questioning those involved and compiling evidence to substantiate a criminal charge. By having a capable lawyer during the investigation, you can prevent evidence from being illegally obtained, protect yourself against making incriminating statements, and may be able to have the in investigation closed out without formal charges being filed.
The police do not have unlimited power to arrest people and hold them in custody. Unfortunately, innocent people are often forced to spend time behind bars for crimes they did not commit. If you or someone you love was wrongfully imprisoned, a lawyer may be able to help secure their release and pursue damages for the harm committed against them.
No matter how big or small the charge may be, a criminal conviction can potentially have debilitating short-term and long-term consequences to your life. Both misdemeanor and felony charges can follow you for years, or possibly the rest of your life if you do not take the correct steps. This is why a capable and experienced legal counsel is so important in helping you deal with pending charges. A qualified lawyer will have the knowledge and understanding to give you a chance at reducing your charges or possibly getting them dismissed.
Additionally, by being well versed in how your case will move through the criminal system will allow you to focus on moving on with your life rather than worrying you are not doing what you need to do. Although understanding the process is paramount in fighting an alleged charge, it is just as important to retain legal counsel that can competently handle your case.
A criminal complaint is the first formal aspect of the criminal process after the initial investigation. This is where the law enforcement officer initiates the criminal process and files a complaint with the district justice. The complaint will focus on identifying the defendant and listing the crimes charged, along with a brief factual summary upon which the charges are based.
If the police decline to file a complaint, a private person is permitted to file a private complaint. In this situation, an Assistant District Attorney must first approve the private complaint before it can proceed. Once approved, the process will be the same as if the complaint had been filed by a police officer.
If a warrant of arrest is issued, or if the process was initiated by a warrantless arrest, the defendant must appear before the district justice for a preliminary arraignment. At this time the defendant will be provided with a copy of the complaint and advised of his or her rights. In addition to this, a preliminary hearing will also be scheduled, which according to Pennsylvania law, needs to be scheduled “not less than three days but not more than ten days.” Hence, this means that the preliminary hearing will be scheduled 3 to 10 days from the time of arraignment.
Bail is set after you have been formally charged and the police officers are ready to release you from custody. By paying bail, you are agreeing to appear in court at a specific date and time. It is also possible that you’ll have to wait to post bail until after a judge has heard your case. Depending on the severity of the charges, you might remain in jail until a formal hearing or arraignment. At that time, a judge might decide to set or deny bail.
The preliminary hearing will be heard before a district justice and will focus on the Commonwealth, or state, showing evidence (prima facie case) that a crime has been committed and that the defendant is probably the perpetrator of that crime. A police officer or an assistant district attorney will be at the preliminary hearing to present the case. If a prima facie case is presented, the case will be held for court. If a prima facie case is not presented, the defendant will most likely be discharged.
After the preliminary stage of the charge is taken care of, the next step is a formal arraignment. This may or may not be in front of a judge. The defendant will be provided with a copy of the formal charging document (Information) and advised of his or her rights, which includes the defendant’s ability to file various pretrial pleadings. In most cases, the district attorney will not be represented at a formal arraignment, but it is the obligation of the DA’s office to respond to any of the defendant’s pleadings.
After the formal arraignment, you are able to file pretrial motions, some of which include:
Any of these pretrial motions need to be filed within thirty days of the formal arraignment.
A defendant entering a plea of not guilty may choose to be tried by a jury of twelve citizens or by the judge alone.
At trial, the case for the state is presented by an assistant district attorney who must establish the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The defendant is under no obligation to present evidence or testimony but may do so if he wishes.
If the defendant is tried by a jury, the jury must return a unanimous verdict. If the defendant is tried without a jury, the judge must be the one to decide the verdict. If the defendant is found not guilty, he or she will be immediately discharged.
If found guilty, the defendant may be sentenced immediately, or sentencing may be deferred pending a pre-sentence investigation into the background of the defendant.
If sentencing is deferred, the defendant is subsequently returned to court and sentenced; at any sentencing hearing, an assistant district attorney will appear and present the Commonwealth’s position.
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As you can see, the process for dealing with Pennsylvania’s criminal system is extensive, complicated and time-consuming. These are all reasons why you should take the time to retain qualified legal counsel to represent you. A capable attorney will be able to guide you through the process while making sure your rights are protected. Attorney Michael J. Skinner of the Skinner Law Firm has been helping alleged criminal offenders effectively navigate the system for years, so they can move on with their life.
Call (610) 436-1410 to schedule a free consultation to discuss the details of your case. The Skinner Law Firm has been proudly representing individuals across Chester County and the surrounding cities of Southeastern Pennsylvania for years and they will do everything in their power to fight for you.