When someone is arrested for a criminal offense, the DA may overcharge the case. That is, the act may amount to a misdemeanor but the actor may be charged with a felony. A criminal lawyer will assure that the person is properly charged as there is a wide range of consequences between a misdemeanor and a felony conviction.
The Pennsylvania Crimes Code defines the classes of criminal offenses as either a murder, a felony, a misdemeanor, or a summary offense. Each class of criminal offense is further defined by degree of punishment.
A conviction for a felony of the first degree carries a maximum term of imprisonment of more than ten years. A conviction for a felony of the second degree carries a maximum term of imprisonment of not more than ten years. A conviction for a felony of the third degree carries a maximum term of imprisonment of not more than seven years.
Similarly, a conviction for a misdemeanor of the first degree carries a maximum term of imprisonment of not more than five years. A conviction for a misdemeanor of the second degree carries a maximum term of imprisonment of not more than two years. A conviction for a misdemeanor of the third degree carries a maximum term of imprisonment of not more than one year.
Finally, a conviction for a summary offense carries a maximum term of imprisonment of not more than ninety days.
Generally, in Pennsylvania a person is not guilty of a crime unless that guilt is based on a voluntary act. Possession, whether of drugs or an instrument of crime, is a voluntary act if the person knowingly procured or received the item possessed. Also, in PA, a juvenile is not found guilty of a crime. Rather, a juvenile is adjudicated delinquent. For example, someone under 21 years old would be adjudicated delinquent for the offense of underage drinking.
In order to find someone culpable of an offense, that person must have acted intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or negligently as to each material element of the offense charged. However, culpability is not required to convict someone of a summary offense.
When sentencing someone for a criminal offense, judges consider the public safety, the impact the offense had on the victim and the community, and the potential to rehabilitate the defendant. For example, the penalties for a DUI or DWI conviction takes into consideration public safety (suspended driver’s license or ignition interlock), the impact the offense had on the community (increased penalties for a second or more offense), and the potential to rehabilitate the defendant (alcohol highway safety school).
In an attempt to prevent widely divergent criminal sentences for similar acts, Pennsylvania judges consider the sentencing guidelines promulgated by the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing. Also, an expungement of certain criminal convictions is possible if certain conditions are met.
Other Practice Areas
- Delaware County Workers Compensation Lawyer
- Delaware County Social Security Disability Attorney
- Delaware County Auto Accident Attorney
- Delaware County Bankruptcy Lawyer