Have you or a loved one recently been charged with a criminal offense in Pennsylvania? If so, this article is intended to explain what you may generally expect moving forward.
The initial shock of a criminal charge is equal parts humiliating and scary. Will my picture be on social media? Will this be in the local newspaper? Will my boss find out? Will I lose my job? Will I go to jail or will I get probation? Will I lose my license?
The short answer to all of the above is: it depends. There is no universal rule or answer to any of the above questions. In order to reduce this uncertainty, I recommend immediately consulting with an experienced criminal defense attorney, who will explain what you are charged with, are you looking at probation or jail and what your defenses might be. In explaining what happened, you should share with your attorney all facts and circumstances surrounding your legal situation. Remember, your communications are protected by the attorney-client privilege.
Next, depending on how serious the offense you should discuss with an attorney whether you need to contact a bail bondsman. Your bail may be unsecured (you pay nothing), ROR (released on your own recognizance) or cash bail. If it is cash bail, a bail bondsman will charge a percentage (3%-8%) of the total bond issued - the amount you pay the the bondsman is non-refundable.
Next, you will have a preliminary hearing in front of a district magistrate within a few weeks after being charged. At this hearing, your lawyer and the prosecutor will begin discussing terms of a plea offer or other potential resolutions to your case. Your lawyer may also request a hearing, in order to challenge the probable cause for your charge. If there is not sufficient probable cause, your charge(s) may be dismissed. A preliminary hearing is a crucial step in the process and you certainly want an experienced criminal attorney with you.
If the case moves to "big court" you will have a few court hearings where your personal attendance may be required, but the majority of those court hearings are only attended by the attorneys. After your arraignment, your attorney will receive all the evidence the prosecutor intends to use against you at trial (ie. Police reports, photographs, statements, identifications, forensics, etc). Your lawyer will review this with you as you decide what you want to do: take the deal offered by the prosecutor or go to trial.
An experienced defense attorney will review your options with you so that you make an informed decision about what direction you want to take. A criminal case can take (ordinarily) anywhere from 6-12 months.
Call our office today for a free consultation to review your rights.