Making matters worse, the processes used by Pennsylvania criminal courts can be confusing and even a seemingly inconsequential or informal court hearing can drastically change the course of your case. The outcome of any criminal case, no matter how minor, can have a lasting impact on your life. The more serious charges can carry major prison sentences while even misdemeanors will create a criminal record that can affect every portion of your future.
A Pennsylvania criminal lawyer could help to protect your rights and your freedom. They can work during every stage of the process from arrest, to arraignment, to pre-trial sessions, to a final trial. All the while they aim to meet your goals and to dispute the Commonwealth’s case.
Facing criminal charges is always a cause for concern. The police officers who make the arrest and the prosecutor in court are not your friends. While it may seem like they are trying to do you a favor by offering a reduced penalty for a confession or even dangling an acquittal if you provide evidence, the fact remains that their only goal is to obtain a conviction.
This starts at the arraignment where the court formally enters the charges and decides on any pre-trial release terms. While matters such as bail have no effect on a defendant’s guilt, they can make life extremely difficult or a defendant while they await trial.
It is not uncommon for the entire case to take a year or more, and if that defendant must spend that time in jail, statistics show that they are more likely to enter a guilty plea to simply get the matter over with.
A Pennsylvania criminal lawyer could argue for more favorable pre-trial release terms to relieve pressure while awaiting trial.
The court will also hold a number of pre-trial sessions. These are intended to answer key questions concerning evidence. While a defendant has the right to see all the evidence that a prosecutor intends to introduce at trial, whether or not that evidence is legal is another question entirely. A Pennsylvania criminal attorney may be able to exclude key pieces of a prosecutor’s case that can weaken it at trial.
It is only after the court resolves these issues that a case goes to trial. At trial, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant committed the offense. The defendant is never obligated to testify in court and has an absolute right to cross-examine every Commonwealth witness. A Pennsylvania criminal lawyer could help to prepare a defendant for trial and to present a defense to a jury designed to create reasonable doubt.
Pennsylvania law separates most criminal offenses into one of two categories. The most serious are felony offenses. Any felony conviction can result in a lengthy prison sentence, and the most serious versions carry a mandatory minimum sentence. Prominent examples include:
The less serious version of a criminal offense is a misdemeanor. Although these charges never require a jail sentence upon conviction, any misdemeanor conviction can carry a jail sentence. Examples of misdemeanors include:
A Pennsylvania criminal lawyer may be able to help you no matter how serious the criminal charges are that you face. They can work to explain the relevant laws, to understand your goals, and to fight for those goals in court.
It is imperative that you take any criminal case very seriously. Even a conviction for a summary offense could result in the payment of a fine, the creation of a criminal record, and even the imposition of a jail term. This could have serious consequences for your job, familial relations, and where you are able to live.
Every criminal case is unique. The facts that led to your arrest and your goals moving forward are specific to you, and a Pennsylvania criminal lawyer aims to work for you as an individual.
This includes offering an honest assessment of the case, developing a plan to help protect your rights in court, and aiming to come to a resolution that best fits your needs. Contact a Pennsylvania criminal lawyer today to schedule an appointment.