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
You get into a gun fight and, while someone gets into a violent fight, stabbing another person and they are charged with aggravated assault. What’s the difference between the two?
There is often a fine line between aggravated assault and attempted murder, but both can yield very serious consequences. Here, we will go over the key traits of both aggravated assault and attempted murder crime so that you can better understand the charges and penalties in Pennsylvania.
Aggravated Assault Charges in PA
In Pennsylvania aggravated assault cases, an individual must attempt to “cause serious bodily injury to another” or causing injury intentionally, knowingly or recklessly under “circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life.” (According to Pennsylvania law 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. section 2702(a)(1)). In order to be classified as aggravated assault versus simple assault, it must be proven that the person acted knowingly and recklessly classified, while also considering the use of a deadly weapon. However, if the act of violence is used against certain public officials or employees, the crime may be charged as aggravated assault even without a weapon involved.
Aggravated assault convictions in Pennsylvania are considered a first-degree or second-degree felony, depending on the circumstances of the case. These crimes will typically result in fines up to $25,000 and 10 years in prison if the assault did not involve great injury. However, you may be subject to up to 20 years in prison if the defendant caused serious bodily injury to the victim.
PA Attempted Murder Cases
The main difference between aggravated assault and attempted murder is that in an attempted murder charge, the prosecution must provide that the defendant specifically intended to kill the victim and took concrete steps toward doing so. You may be charged with attempted murder if you have:
- Injured someone with a deadly weapon (gun, knife, or even car)
- Intentionally and knowingly attempted to cause a death, whether or not successful
- Placed someone in a situation in which they are likely to be killed
Examples of actions that can result in an attempted murder charge include stalking or tracking down a victim looking for an opportunity to commit murder, breaking into and entering a home, trying to convince a victim to come to a specific place or taking actions to make it possible for a victim to be murdered, or paying/convincing someone to commit a murder for you.
An attempted murder conviction in Pennsylvania could lead to a maximum of 20 years in prison if no serious bodily harm occurred, or up to 40 years if serious bodily injury was caused.
Key Differences Between Aggravated Assault & Attempted Murder
Again, the main difference between aggravated assault and attempted murder is the presence of intent. Though neither crime results in a death, the charge will be attempted murder if you the defendant intended this outcome. Attempted murder is a premediated crime, while aggravated assault is not. However, aggravated assault can easily turn into a voluntary manslaughter charge if you acted in the moment with not only the intent to cause bodily injury, but also the intent to cause death.
If you have been charged with aggravated assault or attempted murder, our skilled team of criminal defense attorneys in Philadelphia can help. Contact us today to begin building the best possible defense for your case.Read More
In Pennsylvania, parole is a conditional release, meaning certain offenders are allowed to serve the remainder of their jail sentence out in the community if they abide by certain conditions. While anyone who has served the minimum of their sentence can get parole, it is considered a privilege and not a right. As a result, if parole conditions are violated at any time, you may face very serious consequences.
What Constitutes a Parole Violation?
There are two types of parole violations: convicted and technical. Convicted violators break their terms by committing a new crime, while a technical violator has violated any term of their parole without committing an additional offense. Examples of technical violations include, but are not limited to:
- Missing a court date
- Failing to report to one’s probation officer
- Drug possession or sales
- Violating travel restrictions imposed by one’s parole officer
- Failing to pay court costs
While the consequences of a convicted violation and a technical violation will differ, any type of parole violation can potentially lead to having to serve out the remainder of your sentence in jail.
I Violated My Probation – Now What?
You may receive a warning from your parole officer—this is the best case scenario. If the parole officer deems the violation too serious for a warning, they may require that you appear in court. In the court hearing, your parole officer will request a consequence, which may include jail time. If you are found guilty of violating your parole, sentencing will occur shortly after the hearing in which the court may decide to extend your probation, require you to serve brief jail time, or revoke your probation privileges all together.
Other consequences include, but are not limited to:
- Additional drug tests
- State-mandated rehabilitation completion
- Stricter curfews and travel/financial restrictions
- Community service
- Court fines and restitutions
These consequences will be affected by the severity of your violation, the frequency of your violations, and as well as various other factors pertaining to your criminal history (whether you’re a “first-time” or “repeat” offender, etc.).
If you’ve violated your parole conditions, having experienced, knowledgeable representation is very important in fighting to minimize your consequences. Your counsel is allowed to aid you throughout all court processes and hearings you may undergo while facing a parole violation. To speak with our parole violation lawyers in Philadelphia and make sure your rights are protected, contact us today.Read More
A gun charge is a serious crime in Pennsylvania. It will raise the stakes in any criminal case, and even a first-time offense can lead to significant jail time. There are a number of defenses the Bill Brennan team has successfully used in cases involving weapons and firearms, but it is important to understand your rights to help you avoid a criminal record and the serious consequences that follow a gun charge. Here are a few of the most common questions related to firearms and gun charges in PA.
Do I need a license to carry a firearm in PA?
Under the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, every citizen is guaranteed the right “to bear arms in defense of themselves and the State.” And while the state does not require people to register their firearms, anyone who wants to carry a firearm must have a valid Pennsylvania license to do so. The only exceptions are:
- The firearm does not leave your home
- The firearm does not leave your fixed place of business
How do I obtain a license to carry in PA?
In order to obtain a license, you will have to go through an application process with your county sheriff’s office, involving the Pennsylvania Instant Check System (PICS), which is managed by the Pennsylvania State Police and provides gun suppliers with relevant background checks of those who wish to purchase to determine if you are eligible.
Are there certain people who cannot carry a gun?
There are some cases where you will not be permitted to carry a gun – open or concealed – in the state of PA. These situations include an individual who:
- Has a reputation to likely act in a manner dangerous to public safety
- Has been adjudicated delinquent during a ten year period prior to carrying
- Is a convicted felon; primarily violent felonies such as murder, rape, robbery, etc.
- Has been convicted of certain domestic violence crimes
- Has been dishonorably discharged from any branch of the U.S. armed forces
- Is a fugitive from justice
- Has been convicted of certain drug or controlled substance crimes, or are addicted to, or have been convicted of unlawfully using illegal drugs
- Has been judged as mentally incompetent or has ever been involuntarily committed to a mental institution
- Has been convicted of a DUI/DWI on three or more separate occasions within a five year period of the time they are caught carrying
- Is not a U.S. citizen and is in the U.S. illegally
If you are also prohibited from carrying a weapon or firearm, it is a second-degree felony, which could result in up to 10 years in prison and $25,000 in fines.
What are the consequences for carrying a firearm without a license?
It is a third-degree felony to carry a firearm without a valid license or specific permit – with the exceptions mentioned above. If you are caught, you could face up to 7 years in prison and a $15,000 fine. If you have a clean record and would have been eligible for a license, it is still punishable as a first-degree misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
What is the Concealment of a weapon, and what are the consequences?
Pennsylvania is considered a relatively pro-gun state with limited restrictions on ownership and possession; however, any individual carrying a firearm concealed or in their vehicle can be charged with a serious offense – whether you have a license or not.
Pennsylvania law defines concealment of a firearm or weapon as “any person who carries a firearm in any vehicle, or any person who carries a firearm concealed on or about his person; except in his place of abode (residence) or fixed place of business, without a valid and lawfully issued license, commits a felony of the third degree.” A third-degree felony can carry a prison sentence of up to 7 years and/or fines of up to $15,000.
What are other charges related to gun and firearm possession?
Any individual in possession of a weapon with an altered, removed, or obliterated manufacturer’s serial number is a serious federal offense and punishable of up to 10 years of jail time, in addition to large fines.
The theft or sale of a stolen gun is also a serious crime in PA and is punishable as a felony of the second degree.
If there is proven intent to use the firearm during criminal activity, it is a first-degree misdemeanor, in which you could face up to 5 years in prison and 10,000 fine. Even if the gun is not loaded or you never actually used the weapon, these penalties still apply.
Minors, or anyone under the age of 18, is prohibited from possessing a gun, but there are a few exceptions to this law in Pennsylvania.
How can I protect my rights in a gun charge conviction?
There are exceptions to who can conceal and carry a gun in Pennsylvania, and a number of defenses that could help preserve your rights. Our gun charge attorneys have handled many of these violations by reviewing the evidence against the defendant and challenging the prosecution under reasonable suspicion, probable cause, and more. Don’t risk a criminal record by choosing anyone but the best gun charge attorneys in Philadelphia to represent you. Contact us to discuss your case.Read More
As one of the most disruptive events someone can experience, domestic violence often causes overwhelming feelings of uncertainty and fear. As the term “domestic” implies, your home, your relationships, and those closest to you are all affected, and without taking the proper steps after an arrest, the consequences can drastically change your life forever. If you or someone you know has been arrested for domestic violence, here is what you need to know about what happens next.
Although not a separate violation from other crimes of violence under Pennsylvania law, domestic abuse does make these charges more complicated. The person who makes the call to the police is automatically in a stronger position, since the police do not need to witness an act of violence in order to make an arrest. They will simply need to see the injury or other evidence of the victim’s claim.
And once the charges are filed, the alleged victim can not make the decision to have them dropped. If you are arrested for domestic violence, you will not be released until you go before a judge, as they will determine whether or not you present a danger to the alleged victims or others.
It’s also extremely important to remember that everything you say during an arrest can be held against you in court, so it is crucial that during this emotional time, you invoke your right to remain silent until you have an experienced criminal defense attorney by your side.
What Happens Next?
In all domestic violence cases, you will be required to attend a First Appearance, or Advisory Hearing, shortly after your arrest. To avoid making mistakes or implicating yourself of harsher penalties, you will want an attorney present with you during this hearing so do not delay in calling our offices after our arrest.
Before the hearing the prosecutor will conduct an investigation of your criminal history and other charges in your past to present before the judge. Reversely, your defense attorneys will review how the arrest took place and the injury or evidence in which the arrest occurred to then argue that the police lacked probable cause and ask the court to release your or that the judge set a bond.
The next step is an arraignment in where you will be required to enter an informal ‘not guilty’ plea. In many cases, your attorney will be present to do this on your behalf. A pre-trial conference will then occur, discussing the details of the claims to establish pre-trial offers by the government to resolve the case.
Our experienced domestic violence attorneys are often able to resolve the case before going to trial, but in some cases, you will have the right to elect to be tried by a judge and jury. Based on the outcome of this trial, there are options to pursue post-trial appeals through the Superior supreme courts in PA. At Bill Brennan law offices, our team will not stop fighting to protect your rights until you receive the outcome you deserve.
Protection From Abuse Order
An alleged victim may also apply for a Protection from Abuse (PFA) order in which there are various degrees of restrictions placed on the accused, such as entering the home of the victim or going places where the victim may be – similar to a restraining order. If there is a threat of immediate danger felt by the victim, they could pursue a temporary PFA, which would be granted at a hearing without the defendant present until another hearing with the defendant will occur.
The other option is a PFA with a hearing within 10 days of the filing of a petition in which the accused is welcome to attend and present a defense. If unsuccessful, the judge may grant a final protection from abuse order that could last up to three years.
Why Should You Fight a Domestic Violence Charge?
1. Your Freedom – you may be facing possible jail time if convicted of a felony charge
2. Your Relationships – you may lose the ability to have a relationship with your children, including loss of custody or limited visitation rights
3. Job & Housing Opportunities – many employers and landlords will conduct background checks and deny you the ability to work or live where you want
4. Employment Security – you could lose your existing job if you are in a field that involves the caretaking of others or the possession of firearms
5. Your Second Amendment Rights – likewise, your right to legally purchase firearms or ammunition in PA could be invalidated for life
6. Costs – fines and penalties can be very expensive and if the victim gets a PFA, you may also be responsible for losses they claim occurred from the abuse
If you or a loved one has been arrested for domestic violence, do not jeopardize your freedom, relationships or reputation by waiting to get the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney in Philadelphia. Our legal team will help you build a strong defense to fight for your rights. Contact us today.Read More