Criminal Law in Pennsylvania
If you or a loved one have been questioned in or arrested for a Pennsylvania crime, you are likely scared, stressed, and worried about your future – all with good reason. After all, your future, finances, and freedom are all at stake.
In addition, you may feel overwhelmed and unsure how to move forward. If this sounds like what you are feeling, this article was written for you.
In this article (which is based upon Pennsylvania criminal law), we’ll discuss:
- Pennsylvania specific criminal laws;
- What you need to know about criminal defense in Pennsylvania; and
- How to find an attorney and how to prepare to work with your Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney.
Pennsylvania Criminal Laws
Criminal law seeks to protect individuals and the general public from perceived injury. Laws are written and, in theory, applied equally to provide notice of what constitutes a crime and to serve both as a deterrent and as a punishment.
Pennsylvania criminal laws are found in title 18 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes. There are hundreds of crimes listed in the Pennsylvania Crimes Code, including desecration of the American flag, drunk driving, drug possession, selling drugs in a school zone, burglary, domestic abuse, stalking, and shoplifting.
Statute of Limitations
Criminal charges must be brought within a certain period of time or be forever barred.
For example, in Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations for:
- Any misdemeanor is 2 years
- Murder – none
- Major sexual offenses is 12 years
Punishment such as community service, fines, restitution, jail, and capital punishment are used to deter future criminal behavior, provide restitution, and protect society.
Although judges often have discretion, Pennsylvania has sentencing guidelines (204 Pa. Code В§ 303), which provide standard punishments. Judges take into consideration previous criminal history and aggravated circumstances. The goal of the guidelines is to apply the law uniformly.
For example, in Pennsylvania, sentencing guidelines call for:
- 2 years jail time for selling drugs in a school zone;
- A maximum of 5 years jail time and a $10,000 fine for a 1st degree misdemeanor;
- A maximum of 20 years and a $25,000 fine for a 1st degree felony.
What You Need to Know About Criminal Defense
If you are being questioned about or have been arrested for a crime in Pennsylvania, your life, liberty, and money may be at risk.
- You need a qualified Pennsylvania criminal defense lawyer, immediately. The sooner, the better.
- You need to be completely honest and open with your attorney. Even if you think something will make you look bad, disclose it.
- Do not make a statement to police, other than to ask for an attorney.
How to Work with a Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Lawyer
- Once you make the hiring decision, have confidence in your attorney and take his or her advice. Legal advice is what you’re paying for. Take it. Always.
- Tell your defense attorney exactly what happened. You need to be completely honest and open with your attorney. Even if you think something will make you look bad, disclose it.
- Return all correspondence or phone calls promptly.
- Provide all requested information in a timely manner.
- Stay in contact with your attorney. Make sure the criminal defense office always has your current address and phone number.
- Know that it is in your best interest for your attorney to question you; perhaps even challenge you.
- Know that it is in your best interest for your attorney to be polite and cooperative with police officers, investigators, and the district attorney (or other prosecutor).
Bottom Line: If you have been questioned in or arrested for a crime in Pennsylvania, get good legal help, immediately. You need individualized advice and aggressive representation.
Qualified criminal defense attorneys know the law, understand the charges against you, and understand how to best put forward appropriate defenses. Your attorney will also be able to advise your family as to how to post bail and best support you.