CRIMINAL DEFENSE FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q: Do I actually need an attorney if I am accused of a crime?
A: It is always in your best interest to consult with an experienced a criminal defense attorney as early as possible even if you only suspect that you will be facing a criminal charge. Whether or not you are innocent or believe that you have been wrongfully accused, an attorney will fight for your legal and constitutional rights and ensure that all of the proceedings are conducted with legality and fairness. If you cannot afford to hire an attorney, you may be eligible for free legal counsel.
Q: What should I do if I am arrested?
A: If the police arrest you, you should immediately ask to speak to an attorney. Do not answer any questions the police may ask that could incriminate you, without an attorney present. Even if you are innocent and were in no way involved in the crime for which you have been arrested, always ask for an attorney. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you make a fully informed decision as to whether or not speaking to the police will be in your best interest.
Q: Are Summary Offenses that serious?
A: Absolutely. Even though summary offenses are the lowest level of graded offenses in Pennsylvania, you can still receive fines, and even jail time, if convicted. In fact, many summary offenses carry mandatory minimum jail sentences, maximum fines and/or loss of driving privileges upon conviction. If you are convicted of a summary offense and the conviction is neither appealed nor expunged, the conviction will remain on your record and will show up during routine background checks for things like loans, higher education, employment and any other check.
Q: What is the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor?
A: Felonies are more serious crimes than misdemeanors and are categorized by the sentences that can be enforced with the classification of the crime. In Pennsylvania, the basic classifications are:
Felony 1: Maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $25,000.00.
Felony 2:Maximum sentence of up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $25,000.00.
Felony 3: Maximum Sentence of up to 7 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $15,000.00.
Misdemeanor 1: Maximum sentence of up to 5 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.00.
Misdemeanor 2: Maximum sentence of up to 2 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000.00.
Misdemeanor 3: Maximum sentence of up to 1 year in prison and/or a fine of up to $2,500.00.
Certain felonies and misdemeanors are classified as ungraded and carry varying maximum sentences and/or fines. Many felonies and misdemeanors carry mandatory minimum sentences and/or sentence enhancements. An experienced criminal defense attorney can asses what, if any, mandatory minimum sentences may apply to your particular charges.
Q: What is the difference between probation and parole?
A: Both are sentences that a court may impose upon conviction of a crime. Probation is a type of sentence that allows a person to stay in the community rather than serve time in prison, as long as he or she complies with the terms and conditions ordered by the court, such as regularly reporting to a probation officer, refraining from alcohol and drugs, and not committing further crimes. Parole is the supervised release of a prisoner from incarceration into the community before the end of his or her maximum prison sentence. The court may then order terms and conditions of parole similar to those of probation. It is important to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney to weigh the consequences of probation or parole before agreeing to accept either sentence as part of any plea bargain or agreement.