Criminal Process in Lehigh County
The criminal process in Lehigh County can be confusing. Gail Marr, a Lehigh County criminal defense lawyer, will guide you through your case. Here is some basic information for you to know regarding the court procedure in Lehigh County:
- When a person finds him or her self confronted with the court system, he/she is initially intimidated. If this is you, you should first contact Gail Marr for representation.
- Lehigh County criminal cases are under the jurisdiction of the Court of Common Pleas located in Allentown, PA. The court consists of 10 full time and 2 senior judges. Each judge serves one or possibly more judicial court divisions and all are given criminal cases. At the local magisterial level there are 14 offices throughout the county each presided over by a locally elected district judge.
- Your Lehigh County criminal attorney’s ultimate goal is to have all crime charges dropped. If this is not possible, then the next best case scenario is a negotiated plea arrangement with the district attorney office or ARD in the case of a some first offenses. If your case goes to trial, obtaining an acquittal (not guilty ) is the goal. Your attorney should fight for the best possible outcome.
- Following being charged with a crime in Lehigh County, you will have a “preliminary hearing” before the local district judge. Beforehand, you will receive a copy of the charges, the Affidavit of Probable Cause, and the date and time of your expected appearance. At your preliminary hearing, you have the right with your attorney to cross examine witnesses, present evidence, and make argument as to why the Commonwealth, through the Lehigh County prosecutor’s office, failed to meet their burden or proof. If the district justice believes there is insufficient merit to your case, the charges are dismissed. Otherwise, your case proceeds to the Court of Common Pleas Criminal Division. The district justice will set bail and notify you of the date of the next step, which is arraignment.
Lehigh Procedure and Process
5. If your case is dismissed, you should talk to your attorney about having the charges “expunged”. This means that all evidence relating to the charges are destroyed so no one can look up that you have been charged.
6. If your case proceeds to arraignment in Lehigh County, there is a “first status conference” which is held the same time as the court arraignment. Your attorney may file a written “waiver of arraignment” but your attendance at the status conference cannot be waived. You will enter a plea of either guilty, not guilty or no contest, depending upon your attorney’s advice and counsel. You will be informed of your next mandated court trial date. Your defense attorney should also be positioning you to get the discovery on your case. This discovery will have the evidence the District Attorney intends to use at the trial. It should include (if applicable) police reports, statements, physical evidence/inventory, lab results, photographs, and videos. Again, if the discovery is incomplete, your Lehigh County criminal attorney will have to file supplemental motions for discovery.
7. A trial in the Lehigh County Court of Common Pleas must be held within 12 months after you are charged. If this does not occur, your Lehigh County criminal attorney should look to get the case dismissed for a speedy trial issue. In any event, at this point, you should have discussed with your attorney whether you have a negotiated plea or are proceeding with a trial. If it is a plea, your attorney should have you present mitigating factors regarding your history. These include your work history (i.e. paycheck stubs), character witnesses, and family members.
8. If your case goes to trial in Lehigh County, you will have a choice of having it heard before a judge or a jury. The jury usually consists of 12 members. Going before a judge is what is known as a “bench trial”. After these initial decisions and preparations, you will have your trial. If you are found not guilty, you will walk out of the courtroom with your attorney a free person. If you are found guilty (hopefully not) you may be immediately sentenced and sent to jail, depending on the crime(s) you are charged with. Sentencing is sometimes postponed to a later date in order to give the judge time to review a “pre sentence” report, which will contain any prior criminal history you may or may not have. If your attorney requests a sentencing delay, such request would need the judge’s approval. An attorney may request a delay in order to gather information about you that could possibly result in the judge’s granting a more lenient sentence. Prior to sentencing, your Lehigh attorney can orally ask for Motion for Extraordinary Relief, which is generally made if there was a wrong decision or new case law overturns the judge’s decision.
9. In the event you plead guilty or are found guilty and are sentenced, you have the opportunity to have your Lehigh County criminal lawyer file a “Motion for Reconsideration” so the judge may consider whether the sentence he or she gave was appropriate. You may also file an “appeal” after the judge issues the final order but any such appeal must be done within 30 days of the sentencing and must be done in writing.