Criminal convictions can have far reaching effects on a person's life, including incarceration, possible loss of employment, hefty fines and a permanent criminal record. Choosing the right attorney to represent you in court for your criminal case may be one of the most important decisions you may ever make. Local experience is by far the most important factor you should look for in a criminal defense attorney.Areas of Practice
- Driving Under the Influence (DUI)
- Experience in over 5,000 cases
- Traffic Violations
- Traffic tickets may add points to your license and/or license suspension.
- Call us before you pay the fine.
- Fee refunded if we are unable to reduce your points.
- Narcotics violations
- Experience in over 3,500 cases involving:
- Simple Possession (Misdemeanor)
- Possession with Intent to Deliver (Felony)
- Delivery of a Controlled Substance (Felony)
- Prescription Fraud/Forgery
- Possession of Marijuana
- Experience in over 3,500 cases involving:
- White Collar Crime
- Domestic Violence
- Traffic Offenses
- Probation violations
- Juvenile offenses
- All Felony and Misdemeanor cases
The first step in the process is the Preliminary Hearing. This occurs before the local township District Justice where the charges were filed. At the Preliminary Hearing the District Justice will determine whether the prosecution has enough evidence against you to send the case to the Court of Common Pleas. The District Justice will either hold the charges for court or dismiss the case if there is not enough evidence against you. Bail is typically set at the Preliminary Hearing, which could range from unsecured bail (released on recognizance) to cash bail which would be required to be posted immediately. The Preliminary Hearing typically is scheduled within 60 days after the complaint was filed in court and can be rescheduled by an attorney, if necessary. The standard of proof is known as a “Prima Facie” standard which is a very low standard of proof. The prosecution must present evidence to convince the District Justice only that a crime was committed and that you are likely the person who committed it. It is a very low standard of proof and is not “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt” as would be in a trial. This hearing is very important and you should retain an experienced local attorney to assist you at this hearing.Formal Arraignment
The second hearing is the Formal Arraignment in the County Courthouse and occurs approximately 30 – 60 days after the Preliminary Hearing. At this hearing, the judge automatically enters a plea of Not Guilty and you are given the formal charges and other paperwork. Depending on the county, your attorney may be permitted to file a “waiver” of your appearance which would excuse you from attending this hearing. In some counties, a plea agreement or entry into a first time offender program may occur at thus proceeding.For First Time Offenders: The ARD Hearing
If this is a first offense, you may be eligible for the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program, known as ARD. If ARD is approved by the District Attorney, the charges will eventually be dismissed after successful completion of community service, payment of fines and a period of arrest-free behavior (typically 6 months or 1 year). Once dismissed, the charges can be expunged resulting in all of the charges being officially removed from your record, including your "rap sheet", mug shot and fingerprints. The ARD hearing usually occurs approximately 2 – 6 months after the Preliminary Hearing, depending on the county.
ARD is a very beneficial program designed to keep people who are not criminals out of the criminal justice system. It gives first time offenders a chance to learn a lesson and earn their way out of having a criminal record affect them for the rest of their lives.
People who get ARD do not have to admit guilt, do not go to jail, and are never found guilty or convicted of a crime. Once the case is dropped by the District Attorney, an Expungement Motion can be filed to remove the charges from your official record.
As a former Senior Deputy District Attorney, I approved over 1,500 people for ARD, and now as a defense attorney for over 20 years, I have assisted over 2,500 clients gain admission into this beneficial program. Admission into the ARD program is determined solely by the District Attorney so your attorney's relationship with the DA is extremely important.Pretrial Conference / Trial Date
Depending on the county, a Pretrial Conference may be scheduled. At this hearing, the defense attorney, prosecutor, and the judge conference the case to determine if a case can be resolved with a guilty plea or plea bargain. If the case cannot be resolved, then a trial date is scheduled. If a county does not utilize Pretrial Conferences, a Trial date will be given instead. At the trial date, the case is either taken to trial before a judge or a jury, a plea of guilty is entered, or the individual is admitted into a first-time offender program. If convicted (found guilty or pled guilty), sentencing usually occurs immediately. At sentencing, you are able to present beneficial evidence to the judge, including character letters, proof of treatment and any other evidence to assist the judge in determining the proper sentence.Frequently Asked Questions Am I Going to Jail?
Punishment is typically up to the sentencing judge's discretion and is dependent upon two factors: the severity of the crime and prior criminal record. Sentences can range from fines and/or probation for minor misdemeanors to state prison time for serious felonies. Some charges, such as DUI and certain drug offenses, carry mandatory minimum sentences in which a judge has no discretion and is required to impose the length of incarceration that is determined by the law. Intermediate punishment such as House Arrest or Work Release 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 offense, you may be eligible for the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program, known as ARD. If ARD is approved by the District Attorney, you will NOT have to plead guilty, you will not have a conviction on your record, and the charges are eventually dismissed. Your record can be then be expunged, including your mug shot and fingerprints.I was not Read My Rights
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 an incriminating question by police. 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 would not be dismissed but your statements could not be used.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. A local attorney will be more familiar with special county programs such as First Time Offender Programs, House Arrest, Work Release or Drug Court, to name a few. 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 conviction from a criminal record is to receive either a governor's or presidential pardon which are difficult to obtain.