Misdemeanors & Felonies

After being charged with a criminal offense, time is not on your side. You need to act fast to preserve your constitutional rights. Failure to act quickly could result in costly fines, illegally seized evidence being used against you, a drivers’ license suspension, and incarceration. Hiring a Reading, PA criminal defense attorney can ensure that you get represented fairly in court.

Dutko Law, LLC is committed to defending every client, and to providing personalized services to obtain the best possible result in every case.

Charles Dutko has represented clients in the following types of cases:

  • Assault and Domestic Cases
  • Drug Crimes
  • Firearms and weapons charges
  • Theft and Fraud Cases
  • Sex Crimes
  • Arson
  • Property Crimes.

Why Hire Dutko Law, LLC?

A criminal defense attorney should look out for your rights, and have the ability to protect his or her client from making critical errors during the initial stages of the criminal justice process. Having a criminal justice attorney in Reading, Allentown, Easton, and outlying Pennsylvania areas to consider the Commonwealth’s evidence enables the client to make an informed decision whether to plead guilty or to go to trial. A lawyer with good negotiation skills should be able to work with the Commonwealth and negotiate a deal that is in the best interest of their client. However, negotiation skills are not the only trait to look for in choosing a criminal defense attorney; you need to consider the manner and tone the attorney takes in dealing with you and the Commonwealth. A good trial lawyer has the ability to reach and convince people of their position. You need a lawyer with a combination of skills that enables you to enter a plea with confidence, and one qualified to represent you at trial should your case require it.

How It Works

The first step in the Pennsylvania criminal justice system is Pre-Arraignment. Pennsylvania requires that criminal defendants be brought before a Magisterial District Judge within 72 hours of their arrest. The judge reads the charges against the defendant, informs the defendant of certain rights, and then sets an amount for bail. The amount of bail is determined by several factors, such as whether the defendant is a danger to the community, the defendant’s prior criminal history, the defendant’s ties to the community and whether the judge believes the defendant will appear at subsequent proceedings. Bail can be considered an ROR or released on own recognizance. This means bail can be an unsecured, nominal, or a dollar amount. Bail is not meant to punish a defendant, rather it is designed to ensure the defendant appears for all future court proceedings.

Preliminary Hearing

The next step is the Preliminary Hearing. At a preliminary hearing, the Commonwealth (the court) has the burden of proving a prima facie case. Prima facie simply means that a crime has been committed and the defendant most likely committed the crime.

If the court is able to meet their burden, the case will proceed to the Court of Common Pleas for disposition. Often, the preliminary hearing is the first opportunity to negotiate with the prosecutor. In some circumstances, charges can be dismissed where an agreement has been reached with the Commonwealth. Otherwise, the defendant can waive his or her right to have the hearing. A waiver is often done in anticipation of a negotiated plea arrangement made between the Commonwealth and the defendant. If negotiations are unsuccessful or the defendant wants to fight the charges, a hearing is held. During the hearing, the Commonwealth must present sufficient evidence to meet the prima facie burden. The defendant need not raise a defense or call witnesses on his or her behalf. Typically, a defense attorney will take the opportunity to cross-examine the Commonwealth’s witnesses to establish a later defense or in an effort to show that the Commonwealth was unable to meet the prima facie burden.

Formal Arraignment

If the defendant waived the preliminary hearing, or the Commonwealth successfully met their burden, a formal arraignment will occur. The formal arraignment is where the District Attorney presents the information or charging document, and the defendant enters a plea. This stage is mostly procedural and starts the clock for the defendant to file certain motions.

Pre-Trial Conference

This is the next stage after the formal arraignment. If a plea agreement has been reached, the defendant can enter the plea and conclude to sentencing. Sentencing occurs after the defendant enters a plea or after the defendant is convicted at trial.

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Sentencing

Pennsylvania divides, or grades, crimes based on their severity. Misdemeanors and felonies are graded as being of the first, second or third degree. Pennsylvania Sentencing Guidelines provide for a standard range of sentence. The standard range is based on two factors: the offense gravity score (OGS) and the defendant’s prior record score (PRS).

The OGS is an arbitrary number given based on the severity of the current offense. For instance, being charged with burglary is more severe, and therefore is given a higher number than being charged with harassment.

Next, your prior record score is calculated. A prior record score is based on previous charges for which you have been convicted or plead guilty. Prior Record Score can be numerical (five being the highest), REVOC (two or more prior convictions of four points or higher, and the current charge has an OGS of nine or higher). The OGS and the PRS are put into a sentencing matrix, which provides the standard range of a sentence. Sentences can range from probation to months of incarceration. The standard range in the sentencing matrix is the minimum sentence which can be imposed. For instance, a person has a PRS of 2 and the OGS of 3, then their standard range is a RS-9. That means the defendant could be sentenced to probation, three to six months in county jail, or nine to 18 months in county jail.

If you require a DUI, theft,  drug, or criminal attorney in Reading, Allentown, Easton, or any of the surrounding Pennsylvania areas, give the office of Dutko Law LLC. Contact us today!