Bucks County Criminal Defense Lawyer
All criminal charges, no matter how minor or insignificant they may seem, should be taken seriously. Even small misdemeanor charges can have long-lasting consequences for the unwary defendant. Your criminal charges may range from the boring and mundane, like a traffic violation, to serious felonies that carry lengthy jail terms or costly fines. No matter what your circumstances may be, it is in your best interest to seek the assistance of an experienced criminal defense lawyer to make sure your rights are protected.
Every defendant has the right to an attorney in a criminal trial. No prosecutor, police officer, or judge can take that right away from you. Dealing with any legal issues, especially criminal matters, can be a daunting task. Trials may drag on for months at a time, and you may feel completely trapped in the criminal justice system. You need a qualified Bucks County criminal defense attorney who can help you navigate the justice system and fight for your best interests. Call The Law Offices of Lloyd Long at (215) 302-0171 to schedule a free legal consultation.
Being Arrested for a Crime in Bucks County
Being confronted by the police is a stressful experience no matter what the circumstances are. Being arrested by the police can be downright frightening. Arrests typically happen after the police obtain an arrest warrant. However, some circumstances allow the police to arrest you without a warrant to do so.
An arrest warrant must be based on sufficient probable cause. Probable cause is evidence that connects you to the crime and leads the police to believe you may be responsible. Probable cause is more than a mere hunch and must be based on specific and articulable evidence. A judge must sign off on the warrant authorizing your arrest. Once the police have the warrant, they can find you and arrest you.
Police can execute arrests without warrants under more limited circumstances. Generally, police may execute a warrantless arrest when they witness first-hand a crime in progress. First, police have probable cause to make the arrest because they saw you commit the crime. Second, the fact that the crime is happening now creates an emergency situation where police cannot wait for a warrant. Our Bucks County criminal defense lawyers can help you through your arrest and get you back to your regular life.
Hiring an Attorney After Being Arrested in Bucks County
Once you have been arrested, it is critical that you hire an attorney as soon as possible. In many cases, you will be questioned by the police after you have been arrested and booked. Being questioned by the police while in police custody requires being advised of your Miranda rights. Because you are in custody, you may not leave because you do not wish to face questioning. However, you have specific rights that the police must respect, including your right to an attorney.
Your Miranda rights provide you with the right to an attorney while being interrogated by the police. The police will inform you that you can waive these rights, but it is in your best interest to invoke them. Having an attorney by your side during questioning by the police will prevent you from providing incriminating information to law enforcement. They can also begin working on your case sooner instead of having to play catch-up later on. If the police have arrested you or a loved one, call our Bucks County criminal defense lawyers immediately.
Types of Criminal Charges in Bucks County
Bucks County follows the Pennsylvania Criminal Code, which classifies crimes into three categories: felony, misdemeanor, or summary offense. Felonies tend to be more severe crimes and come with long prison terms and higher fines. Misdemeanors are less stringent than felonies and come with shorter prison terms and less costly fines. Finally, summary offenses are only minor infractions, tend to have minor to moderate fines, and generally do not carry prison terms. Murder, perhaps the most serious crime, is treated separately from felonies under the criminal code.
Felonies are some of the most serious types of criminal offenses in the Pennsylvania criminal code. Felonies are broken down into three subcategories. These categories are, from least to most serious, felonies of the third-degree, second-degree, and -first-degree. Each subcategory comes with a different range of sentences. Third-degree felonies carry prison terms of no more than 7 years. Second-degree felonies have prison terms of no more than 10 years. First-degree felonies may carry prison terms of longer than 10 years, potentially up to life. Not all felony offenses are the same, and you need an experienced Bucks County criminal defense attorney to help you determine what charges you have and the consequences you face.
Misdemeanors, just like felonies, are broken down into three subcategories based on how serious they are. From least to most serious, these subcategories are misdemeanors of the third, second, and first-degree. Misdemeanors generally carry much shorter prison terms than even the least serious felony charge. A defendant convicted of a third-degree misdemeanor faces a prison term of 1 year at the most. A second-degree misdemeanor conviction comes with a prison term of no more than 2 years. Finally, a first-degree misdemeanor conviction could place you behind bars for up to 5 years.
Minor Infractions and Summary Offenses
Some crimes are so minuscule that they fall into neither category of felony nor misdemeanor. However, these crimes should not be brushed off or disregarded by the defendant. Offenses that may be punished by a maximum of 90 days in jail are known as summary offenses. Many summary offenses do not even come with possible jail time but instead, come with fines.
Block Illegal Evidence in Bucks County Criminal Cases
Not all evidence is good evidence. The prosecutor on your case cannot use evidence that was unlawfully obtained by the police. To do so would violate your rights as a criminal defendant. If law enforcement does illegally obtain evidence, there are ways of preventing that evidence from being introduced at trial.
There are multiple ways in which evidence could be obtained illegally. For example, police must have a proper search warrant to enter your home and search for evidence. If police conduct such a search without a warrant, or the warrant they have is invalid or faulty, any evidence they obtain may be tainted. Similarly, evidence obtained as a result of an invalid arrest will be unlawful.
Evidence may be suppressed before the trial even begins through a pre-trial motion. A motion to suppress is designed to keep unlawful evidence out of the courtroom. Making the motion involves demonstrating the unlawful nature of the evidence to the judge and explaining how admitting it into the trial would be unjust. If we are successful, a jury will never hear nor see the unlawful evidence. If you believe evidence may have been obtained illegally in your case, call our Bucks County criminal defense attorney for guidance.
Defenses to Criminal Charges in Bucks County
Anyone charged with a crime will, of course, be wondering how they can begin to defend themselves in court. All criminal defendants are entitled to defend themselves in a court of law and all defendants are entitled to a competent attorney to help them. There are many ways to defend yourself besides simply claiming you did not commit the crime in question. It is entirely possible that you committed the crime you have been accused of, but you cannot be held criminally responsible due to particular circumstances. A few of these defenses are discussed below. To determine the best defense for you, contact our Bucks County criminal defense lawyers.
There could be no crime if the alleged victim consented to the criminal actions of the defendant. If the victim’s consent negates an element of the crime, the defendant cannot be charged. For example, if you take your neighbor’s car for a joyride, they may report you for stealing their car. However, if your neighbor agreed to let you take their car for a joyride, then there is no crime. Similarly, specific actions that cause bodily harm, like hitting or pushing someone, may not be considered assault or battery if consent is present. If you were to tackle your neighbor to the ground, you might face assault charges. If you tackle your neighbor to the ground while you are both playing a game of football, there is no crime because tackling is an inherent part of the game, and your neighbor consented to play. The consent must be valid to make a successful defense, meaning the person who agreed knew what they were doing and had the mental capacity to consent.
A justification defense means that you admit to the alleged crime, but you believe you had a good reason for committing the crime and should not be held responsible. Generally, justification defenses arise when the defendant committed the crime to avoid some other harm, either to themselves or to another. Self-defense is a kind of justification defense. Under Pennsylvania law, a justification defense is valid only if the harm avoided was greater than the harm inflicted by the defendant’s actions. For example, you cannot be criminally responsible for breaking your neighbor’s window if you only did so to escape a fire in your neighbor’s home. If you feel your actions were justified, speak with our Bucks County criminal defense attorney.
Insanity defenses can be complicated and they vary from state to state. In Bucks County, a defendant may claim a defense of insanity if, at the time of the crime, they had a mental disease, disorder, or impairment that prevented them from understanding the criminality of their actions, or they did not know their actions were wrong. This defense is not easy to make and often requires the defendant to undergo psychological tests to prove that they were mentally ill when they committed the crime. However, it is not uncommon for criminal defendants to suffer from mental illness, making this defense a viable option. Our Bucks County criminal defense lawyers can help you through this process.
Appealing Your Criminal Case in Bucks County
If you are convicted at trial, there is still hope for your case. Criminal defendants generally have a right to file an appeal. A direct appeal must be filed within 30 days of your conviction. While most defendants will have the right to file such an appeal, it is a bit tricky for defendants who accepted a plea bargain or otherwise entered a guilty plea.
An appeal is when a higher court will review your case’s record and look for legal errors. An appeal is not a new trial and no new evidence or arguments will be heard. Instead, the appellate court will look for errors or mistakes of law that may have caused an unjust outcome. The errors the court looks for will depend on what you claim in your petition.
You must preserve a legal issue to argue it on appeal. Preserving an issue for appeal can be as simple as raising objections at trial. It can also be done when you make an unsuccessful motion or somehow inform the court you have an issue with one of its decisions. You can bring any of these issues on appeal. This means virtually anything you objected to at trial can be grounds for an appeal. This is also why defendants who entered a guilty plea may have a difficult time filing an appeal. There is not much to appeal if there was no trial.
Appealing Under Pennsylvania’s Post-Conviction Relief Act in Bucks County
If your direct appeal was unsuccessful, or you were unable to file for a direct appeal, you may still seek an appeal under the Post-Conviction Relief Act (PCRA). The PCRA allows defendants to take a different type of appeal. You do not have to preserve any issues at trial, but the grounds for relief under the PCRA are more limited and specific.
The PCRA spells out several issues that a defendant may claim as grounds for relief. These are often issues beyond the control of the defendant at the time of trial or were previously unknown to the defendant. For example, you could claim ineffective assistance of counsel under the PCRA. This claim comes into play when your attorney at your trial is so incompetent that it is like you have no attorney at all. Alternatively, you could claim new evidence. The evidence must have been undiscoverable at the time of your trial and significant enough to possibly make a difference in the outcome.
There are multiple other grounds for relief under the PCRA. Speak with our Bucks County criminal defense lawyer for more information about the PCRA and if you can claim relief.
Call Our Bucks County Criminal Defense Lawyers for a Free Legal Consultation
If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, you should contact an experienced attorney to represent your case. Contact a skilled Bucks County and Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer by calling The Law Offices of Lloyd Long at (215) 302-0171 to schedule a free legal consultation. Let us defend your rights and protect your best interests in court.