Below are some frequently asked questions that clients have after they are arrested for a criminal offense in Pennsylvania:
Am I going to go to Jail?
It depends. Punishment is typically up to the sentencing judge’s discretion and is dependent on two things: the severity of the crime and prior criminal record. Sentences can range from a fine and/or probation for simple misdemeanors to state prison time for serious felonies. Some charges carry mandatory sentences in which a judge has no discretion and is be required to impose incarceration that is set by the law. Intermediate punishment such as Work Release or House Arrest is determined by the sentencing judge.
I have never been arrested before – what is going to happen to me?
If this is a first offense, and the crime is a non-violent misdemeanor, an individual may be eligible for the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program, known as ARD. If ARD is approved by the District Attorney, the individual does not have to plead guilty, is not convicted of a crime, and the charges are eventually dismissed after payment of fines and successful completion of a probationary period. Admission into the ARD program is determined solely by the District Attorney and if approved, your arrest record can be expunged once the program is completed.
I was not read my rights (Miranda warnings)
Contrary to popular belief, Miranda warnings are not required when someone is arrested. Miranda warnings are needed when an individual is in custody (not free to leave) and is asked a question by police, to which the answer could incriminate the individual. If you answered incriminating questions and Miranda warnings were not given, you could file a Motion to Suppress Evidence to have your statements thrown out of court. The case will not be dismissed for lack of Miranda warnings, but any incriminating statements could be suppressed.
The police did not have a reason to stop me/search me
If the police did not have probable cause to stop and/or search you, a Motion to Suppress Evidence should be filed in the Court of Common Pleas. At this hearing, the police must prove to a Judge that the stop or search was valid. If the judge rules that the stop or search was unconstitutional, then all of the evidence of the case is suppressed and the case is dismissed.
Do I really need a lawyer?
Criminal convictions can have far-reaching effects on your life which could include your freedom and your employment. It is always best to go to court with an experienced local attorney, who has a good relationship with the prosecution, to fight for your rights. If you are found guilty of a criminal offense you could be faced with jail time, probation or parole, substantial fines and a lifelong criminal record, so the attorney that you choose to represent you is extremely important.
If I am convicted, can my record be expunged?
In Pennsylvania, the law states that a conviction cannot be expunged by a Judge until the individual turns 70 years of age. The only way to remove a criminal record is to receive either a governor’s or presidential pardon.
It is important to retain an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible after an arrest.
How do I choose the right Attorney to represent me?
Choosing the right local traffic lawyer to represent you in court for your criminal case may be one of the most important decisions you may ever make. Experience is by far the most important factor you should look for in a criminal defense attorney. Consider not only how long this attorney has been practicing, but consider where he/she practices as it is very important that you obtain one who is familiar with the local court procedures. While the law is the same law throughout Pennsylvania, each county has different programs, such as house arrest, work release, first time offender programs, etc., of which local lawyers are most familiar. There is simply no substitute for experience.
It also extremely important that your lawyer have an excellent reputation with the prosecution because it is up to the police officer and the District Attorney to decide which cases the state is going to prosecute. If your lawyer has a good relationship with the police and DA, the chances are greater that your case can be resolved to your satisfaction. It is also important that your attorney specialize in Criminal Defense as the laws are complex and are constantly changing.
Whichever criminal defense attorney you choose to represent you, do your homework. Ask questions and then ask more questions. Read reviews online on sites like Avvo.com. Get second opinions. You must be comfortable with your attorney and certain that he has the experience to properly represent your interests in court. If you are in need of a traffic lawyer or personal injury lawyer, click the button below to get started.