The American judicial system allows everyday citizens to determine the fates of their fellow peers standing on trial for civil or criminal offenses. Individuals chosen for such a responsibility serve on ruling entities known as juries.
William Brennan, a Philadelphia criminal lawyer, wants prospective clients and informed parties to realize jury selection is subject to a specific process.
Juries can be called upon to hear civil cases like slip and fall accidents, major criminal procedures involving individuals facing murder charges, and everything in between.
In criminal cases, these adjudicating entities usually have 12 members. However, in civil proceedings, jury membership can be as few as six and as large as 12.
To qualify as a juror, you must be at least 18, reside in the county for which you receive a summons, be literate, and not have been convicted of a crime punishable with incarceration for no less than one year.
If selected, your mandates will be to carefully listen to a case’s facts, review said information without prejudice, conduct no independent research or investigation, not be swayed by public opinion or media reporting, and ultimately render a ruling based upon your convictions.
The Selection Process
Courts obtain the names of potential jurors from sources such as motor vehicle records and voter registration databases.
If you are chosen for jury duty, the court in question will send you an official correspondence called a summons. This document contains pertinent information including the court’s address, your juror number, and the date and time when you are to either report in person or call a hotline to find out if your number is called.
An important aspect of selecting a jury is the identification of candidates who possess the capacity to be impartial and not be influenced by underlying beliefs. Those participating in trials like judges or attorneys might weed out those incapable of executing such duties in a process known as voir dire.
During this proceeding, you will be asked specific questions designed to measure your impartiality. Should you demonstrate any level of partiality, prejudice, or particularly strong views, you might be excluded from consideration.
If chosen, you will be assigned to a trial. Typically, both civil and criminal proceedings do not last longer than several days. However, more complex cases might necessitate more extended commitments.
Moreover, jurors serving on trials are usually allowed to return home following the completion of each day’s happenings. Sequestering does occur. However, this usually only occurs during high profile criminal trials.
If you have questions about the jury selection process and require the services of a criminal law defense attorney, please reach out to us. Additional information about our firm, the cases we handle, and the triumphs we have attained can be found by visiting https://www.philadelphiacriminallaw.com/.Read More
You might believe criminal activities are perpetrated by one or a handful of malfeasance. However, other subjects known as accomplices could also play a significant role in executing such acts.
William Brennan, a criminal defense attorney in Doylestown, PA, stresses that a legal concept known as accomplice liability is a major offense that could carry serious penalties.
The Definition Of An Accomplice
Pennsylvania law enforcement agencies might charge you as an accomplice if said organizations possess evidence suggesting that your actions enabled another party to commit a criminal act.
State law places accomplices into three categories, criminal solicitation, criminal facilitation, and criminal masterminding.
This act occurs when you solicit another party to commit some type of criminal offense.
You facilitate a crime by aiding the primary perpetrator’s aims. A solid example of a facilitator is the getaway driver for a bank robber. Said subject’s actions facilitate successful completion of this offensive behavior.
Masterminds might not participate in the actual act but play a discernible role in planning said endeavors.
What If You Are Charged With Accomplice Liability?
If you are charged with accomplice liability, you are firmly urged to consult with an experienced criminal justice lawyer. From the time you retain the services of said legal personality, they can serve as your advocate and shepherd you through this often confusing and complex process.
The first thing you and your attorney will need to learn is the reasons you were charged as an accomplice and the potential penalties you could face if convicted. From there, the defendant and attorney can review the facts and potentially formulate a suitable defense.
It is difficult to pinpoint specific punishments. Several factors will play into the specific punishment a ruling body may levy such as your criminal history, the nature of the crime if violence occurred or weapons were used, and how specifically complicit you were in executing the offense in question.
Regardless, however, said accusations are serious and could have significant potential freedom-inhibiting consequences.
Accomplice liability is not always a cut and dried matter. Astute criminal defense lawyers might employ any one of the following counterarguments:
In certain instances, an accomplice’s involvement might be instituted against their will. For example, while attempting to flee, an alleged perpetrator threatens you at gunpoint to drive them away from the crime scene.
Under these circumstances, your participation would have occurred under duress and you only compiled fearing physical harm or death if you refused.
No Crime Was Committed
An actual crime must have occurred for you to be charged with accomplice liability.
Attempted Crime Prevention Or Warning
The law might look favorably on you if you either attempt to prevent a crime from occurring or give adequate warning to law enforcement officials that such acts are scheduled to take place.
Contacting The Brennan Law Offices
If you reside in the Philadelphia suburbs and have been formally charged with accomplice liability, your first call should be to us.
Bill Brennan and his staff have extensive experience handling such cases. We can review your circumstances and might be able to draft a favorable argument. To learn more about us, please visit our website.Read More
When you’re facing an arrest, understandably, you want to have the charges lessened or dropped. This can be used against you, however, and police may use that to cause you to act out of desperation. If they’re trying to make a bargain of some kind, never take their words at face value.
Cops are not legally obligated to tell the truth. The nature of their job incentivizes them to make an arrest, not find the guilty party on the first try. In other words, they can offer a deal to drop charges if you give them information, only to later use it against you. It’s a form of self-incrimination they can indirectly encourage.
Technically speaking, police officers aren’t the ones who make or drop charges. The district attorney, attorney general, or local government office are responsible for this. If police want to arrest you for a specific charge but say they won’t unless you cooperate, after which you do, you may have given them reason to genuinely pursue charges and have something to back it up. And even if the police did have the authority to make or drop charges, a higher office like a district attorney or the attorney general could override that if they felt it necessary. The same is true of the prosecution; even if the arresting officer would agree to the charges being dropped the prosecuting party must agree for it to happen.
Now you may be wondering when and how charges are dropped. Sometimes the victim will ask the charges to be dropped but the prosecution is not obligated to honor that request. If it can be proven that the defendant’s rights are violated at any time, such as an unlawful search and seizure or failure to adhere to the strict criminal procedures during the arrest or pretrial activities, the prosecution can be convinced to drop the case. You will need a skilled criminal attorney in Philadelphia on your side if you are hoping to have this happen. If you are willing to cooperate with the arresting officer the prosecution can consider this, and they may work out a deal with your attorney to lessen or completely drop charges, but this is never a guarantee and it shouldn’t be an incentive to cooperate with the police.
Hire a Defense Attorney
The only way you can hope to have your charges dropped is by hiring a competent defense attorney in Philadelphia. At Brennan Law Offices we will work to ensure that you are charged as fairly as possible. If you’ve been charged with a crime contact our office today. We’re on your side from beginning to end.Read More
As you’re preparing to go to trial there are many unknowns and uncertainties you may be wondering about. One of those things is probably who will be called to testify against you. There are three main categories of witnesses, and understanding what they are and what purpose their testimony serves can give you a better idea of what to expect in court.
A lay witness, also often called an ‘eyewitness’, is the most common type of witness in a trial. If there are multiple witnesses to an event, lawyers will look for consistent elements in their accounts. These consistencies are used to put together a more complete picture of the events that took place. The testimony of a lay witness is sometimes unreliable, though it is generally assumed to be better than circumstantial evidence. Circumstantial evidence is evidence that doesn’t prove a key fact, but the fact it does prove can be used to infer information about a key fact.
An expert witness is someone who specializes in a certain field or area of knowledge, and their expertise is needed in a case. We often think of forensic experts explaining blood splatters and medical practitioners when talking about an expert witness, but expert witnesses can be used in just about any legal dispute or court case. When items malfunction and cause harm, engineers can be called in as an expert witness to describe problems with the manufacturing, and accountants can be used in divorce cases to determine if spouses were hiding assets.
A character witness is someone that knows either the victim, the defendant, or other people directly involved in the case. As the name implies they aren’t witnesses to any event but rather the ‘character’ of the victim or defendant, and a character witness testimony is used to better understand their personality and habits. This can include neighbors, friends, family members, and clergy members. The state of Pennsylvania acknowledges spousal privilege which means that the court can’t force spouses to testify against one another with a few exceptions, such as spouses involved in a tax evasion scheme together.
Build Your Case
These witnesses aren’t called just to make the defendant look as bad as possible, they’re called to get the truth. As some of the best criminal defense lawyers in Philadelphia, we understand the importance of having witnesses who will give the jury a better understanding of who you are, not the crime you are accused of committing. If you need criminal defense in Philadelphia then don’t hesitate, contact Brennan Law Offices today.Read More
The concept of ‘bail’ echoes our legal system’s premise that everyone is innocent until proven guilty. That is to say, no punishment can be given until a crime has been proven. The idea is to keep someone out of jail while awaiting their trial, as being confined in a cell for months can be construed as a form of punishment.
In Philadelphia, bail hearings are referred to as ‘preliminary arraignments’, which occur after charges are made and before the trial is held. They’re overseen by one of six magistrates who have been appointed by the president judge of Municipal Court. While a public defender and a representative from the District Attorney’s Office are present during the preliminary arraignments, the defendant is not. Rather they are videoconferenced in through one of the eight booking centers in the city, which is intended to expedite the process and prevent overcrowding as the Police Detention Unit.
Bail is guaranteed to the defendant by both the 8th Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 14 of the Pennsylvania Constitution. The only exceptions to eligibility for bail are charges of a capital offense or those facing a life sentence.
The outcome of a preliminary arraignment will have a significant impact on the outcome of the case. If someone is unable to afford bail they will still be held in jail before their trial, regardless of whether or not they’re innocent or guilty. As a result, there are many important factors that both the defense and the prosecution must examine in-depth. This includes things such as the nature of the offense, the defendant’s employment history, and financial status, how long the defendant has lived in the community, and the defendant’s prior criminal record (if any). The defendant must have the best criminal defense lawyer representing them.
However, the defendant does not meet with the attorney before the bail hearing. They’re able to speak to a bail advocate if they were processed at the Police Department Headquarters during business hours. However, a bail advocate is not an attorney and has limited availability.
Types of Bail
Bail is determined by the magistrate weighing whatever information is presented during the preliminary arraignment against a specific set of criteria. Bail is either secured or an unsecured bond; the former means a cash amount, whereas the latter means you promise to show up in court on the date of your trial. There are three types of unsecured bonds- own recognizance, meaning you sign a document promising you will be present; signature bond wherein you offer property as collateral; or personal recognizance where you sign a document as well as agree to attend therapy (depending on the nature of the offense). Whether bail is secured or an unsecured bond is determined by things such as the defendant’s financial resources, the chances that they will flee (known as a ‘flight risk’), and if they are a threat to the community.
As of the beginning of 2018, cash bail is no longer used in certain instances of nonviolent offenses.
The Best Defense in Philadelphia
Since you can’t meet with your attorney before a bail hearing it’s important you hire one that you can trust. If you need a criminal defense attorney in the Philadelphia PA area contact Brennan Law Offices today. As one of the top law firms in the area, we will fight tirelessly to ensure you receive a bail that is reasonable and affordable.
Probable cause must be established in order for police to arrest an individual. Detainments, however, only require reasonable suspicions. The difference between being arrested and being detained is that the former means you are being formally charged with something, while the latter means you are being held. It is a temporary measure, usually done so that an investigation can take place. When appropriate, police may conduct a frisk search for weapons or other contraband they believe you have on your person.
How To Know If You’re Being Detained
When being questioned by police it can be difficult to immediately determine if you are being detained or not. If you ask whether or not you’re free to leave and are told no, you’re being detained. If you are told yes and don’t leave the scene, or don’t ask the question at all, the detention is considered voluntary.
If You Are
First and foremost know that even if you aren’t being arrested you still have your Miranda Rights. These rights are not always read to you when there is no formal charge or during an investigation, but this doesn’t mean that they do not apply. This is especially important to remember because if an arrest is later made, anything you said during detainment can be used against you The ‘right to remain silent’ doesn’t mean it’s in your best interest to say nothing at all. Rather, it means that it’s best to say nothing other than ‘I have the right to remain silent’ or ‘I won’t answer any questions without my lawyer present’.
How Long Will You Be Detained
The time will vary by the situation. Some things can impact the process such as whether or not you presented your ID. While you aren’t legally required to show ID during detainment, not doing so means they will need to take time to identify you. The maximum amount of time you can be in police custody without charges is 48 hours not including weekends or legal holidays; technically it can be up to 72 hours because of this.
You are entitled to legal advice and proper representation if you believe your detainment wasn’t handled in accordance with state and federal laws. Contact our criminal attorney in Philadelphia, Pa today and we’ll provide you with the best criminal defense attorney in Pa.Read More
Encounters with law enforcements are rarely pleasant. Even when there are no other charges or accusations are brought against you, it’s still possible to be charged with resisting arrest. This extends to charges that are baseless; you can still be charged for resisting arrest even when you’ve done nothing wrong.
Attitude and Behavior
The quickest way to end up with a charge for resisting arrest is belligerent behavior. Sometimes law enforcement agents will berate or antagonize people to the point where they become hostile towards officers, making them easy targets for an arrest regardless of the charges against them. Regardless of the situation it’s never advised to do or say anything that could be used as justification for police to use force or other extreme measures.
It is possible to face these charges for behavior that isn’t hostile. For example, refusing to move can be used as grounds for charges of resisting arrest. While there are questions which you’re not legally obligated to answer, absolute silence is also seen as a form of resistance because it is impeding on the officer’s ability to get information and determine if any criminal activity took place.
Intent Versus Impact
Pleading ignorance is easy to do but it’s difficult to prove. However if you knowingly intervene in an attempted arrest that is immediate justification for being charged with resisting arrest. Even if you don’t try to intervene with the arrest itself, creating a hostile or dangerous environment can be interpreted as an attempt to do so. This also justifies being charged with resisting arrest.
Don’t Do It
The easiest way to avoid a charge for resisting arrest is to not try and resist. The charges may be baseless. The law enforcement agents may be abusing their power. There may be a reasonable and rational explanation that created the situation in which police were contacted. But police officers uphold the law, they don’t interpret it. The police aren’t there to bargain. Negotiations, explanations, and conversations are best had with a legal expert after the fact, not during the arrest itself.
We’re Here to Help
If you have been charged for resisting arrest whether it was for an accused DUI or not and believe the charges violated your rights, you are encouraged to seek out more information to learn what to do next. Contact our office today to speak with a criminal attorney in the Philadelphia, PA area. Our office also offers services such as DUI attorney in Philadelphia to help as well!Read More
There’s no such thing as a friendly interrogation by the police. If you’ve been accused of a crime or your name has come up in an investigation, you have the responsibility to make sure that you don’t incriminate yourself. Below are a handful of ways to avoid doing so when speaking with the police.
Don’t Volunteer Information
The best way to avoid incriminating yourself is to stick to the questions that you are asked by the police. Don’t go out of your way to volunteer more information about your situation, even when you think that doing so will make you look better to the police. Instead, stick solely to those topics about which you are asked.
Stay Off of Social Media
Your next step is to make sure that there’s as little to use against you as possible. If you know that you are going to go in to talk to the police, it’s time to let your social media accounts go quiet. Even an innocuous post can lead to further investigations, so shut everything down for the course of the investigation. If you absolutely must use social media, refrain from talking about anything related to the incidents about which you are being questioned.
It’s vital that you don’t lie when you are being questioned. This doesn’t mean that you have to voluntarily offer up every piece of information that you have, but rather that you should never make up a story. Even those who are innocent can fall afoul of the law when the police find out that they’ve made something up during questioning. If you don’t know an answer, say that. If you don’t want to answer a question, tell the police.
Don’t Speak Without a Lawyer
If you are questioned by the police, contact a lawyer as soon as possible. You have a right to an attorney any time you are questioned, but you have to invoke that right. While it may take time to get a lawyer to you and the police may act like they just want to help, the truth is that a good lawyer will always be your best defense. Remember, a lawyer knows your rights better than either you or the police.
It’s always best to be careful when you’re being questioned. Regardless of your innocence, it is up to you to proactively protect your rights in situations that could lead to your arrest or conviction. Make sure that you don’t volunteer information, that you refrain from posting on social media, that you avoid making stories up, and that you work with a criminal defense attorney in PA. Doing so may mean the difference between freedom and jail time.Read More
Being charged with a crime is never a positive life experience, but the level of the charge can make a major difference in the total impact a conviction may bring. One of the primary differences in criminal charges is the government level of filing. Anyone facing serious criminal charges on either side is fighting an uphill battle, but many defendants fare better in state cases than federal cases for the most part. In addition, many charges can be both state and federal, leaving the agencies to determine which would be the best level to prosecute. Regardless of the government agency filing the charges, it is always vital to have an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Philadelphia representing the case for a reasonable outcome.
State and federal charges both follow the same format in general. They begin with arraignment followed by a hearing to discuss the nature of the charges and evidence discovery. Rules regarding evidence acquisition with respect to search and seizure and standard of proof are the same, but the procedures are not always consistent. Jury selection for a trial is also very similar when a defendant wants to use their full rights to criminal defense. Each case is unique in some way, but the basic prosecution methods are set by constitutional standard on both levels.
The primary difference in the level of charges is how conviction and punishment are handled. Sentencing guidelines differ for state and federal courts, with states having the authority to implement probation and parole policy independently. Punishment schedules are also much more stringent in federal cases, and actual incarceration is served in a federal facility instead of being housed in the state system. Federal cases will commonly require interstate activity for both levels, and the seriousness of the activity can determine if the defendant is prosecuted federally or within the state jurisdiction. Many laws overlap according to the codes, and double jeopardy could be a problem for prosecutors if they do not work together ensuring the case is valid and evidence is admissible.
A major difference in federal cases is that the federal parole board handles all activity regarding prisoner release. States have the authority to handle their own parole and probation status for each defendant, and many times it is much easier to receive probation within the state system. Federal prisoners must typically serve more time before being considered for parole, then being evaluated every 18-24 months. Probation could be available, but only based on the seriousness of the crime. Given that federal charges are almost always more serious than state charges, receiving a probationary sentence is rare in the federal court system although it can happen.
Another major difference in the two levels of government is that all attorneys are licensed in the state in which they practice, but defendants must have a federally authorized attorney when defending federal charges. Federal defendants in Pennsylvania should always contact the legal professionals at Brennan Law Offices for comprehensive criminal defense in Philadelphia.Read More
There is no offense more serious than a criminal homicide. This crime involves taking another human’s life, and so it involves the most serious penalties under Pennsylvania law. There are three main categories of homicide: murder, manslaughter, and justifiable homicide. We will help you to better understand the various types of charges you may face if you have been involved in a criminal homicide in Pennsylvania.
If the death of a victim was intentional or the byproduct of another crime, you will likely be charged with murder. However, murder charges fall under various degrees:
- First-degree Murder occurs when it is proven that a murder was premeditated, and that the offender had every intention to commit a homicide from the beginning of the crime’s conception. First-degree murder is the most serious of all homicide charges and often results in life in prison or death by lethal injection.
- Second-degree Murder is committed when the murder someone occurs while in the process of committing a separate crime. These other crimes often include robbery, kidnapping, and rape. Often, a second-degree murder was foreseeable before the homicide occurred, but not fully premeditated. This type of murder can also lead to life in prison.
- Third-degree Murder is a category that covers all other types of murder that cannot be classified as first or second degree. These murders can result in various lengthy prison sentences, depending on the crime.
The key difference between murder and manslaughter is that manslaughter lacks intent and/or premeditation. There are two types of manslaughter, voluntary and involuntary.
- Voluntary Manslaughter occurs if you commit a homicide in a fit of rage. You did not plan to murder anyone, but you were provoked or overly passionate in the moment of the crime, causing someone’s death. Voluntary manslaughter charges can lead to a maximum of 20 years in jail.
- Involuntary Manslaughter is constituted if you acted recklessly, and your careless actions led to the death of another person. In other words, the death was accidental, but you caused the accident. In Pennsylvania, involuntary manslaughter can be sentenced with up to 5 years in prison.
A justifiable homicide is a classification reserved for a homicide committed out of necessity, such as self-defense. In these cases, an individual is using the defense that violent action was necessary in order to protect yourself or someone else from imminent bodily harm. A justifiable homicide is often not classified as an actual crime, and you will not be held criminally liable.
The Best Defense for Criminal Homicide
If you have been charged with a criminal homicide, getting the best criminal defense attorney in PA is the key to defending yourself and protecting your freedoms in the most serious of criminal homicide cases. Do not wait another minute to contact us to discuss your criminal homicide charges today.Read More