Franklin County Criminal Defense

Facing Franklin County's criminal justice system will be one of the most intimidating moments of your life. You will have to defend yourself and your future before a judge or jury that may impose the maximum punishment under Pennsylvania law. In these high-risk situations, preparation is the key to defending your name, and fortunately, dedicated representation is only a phone call or click away. 

The LLF Law Firm Criminal Defense Team has a wealth of experience in Franklin County, safeguarding the rights of residents and helping navigate the complex criminal process. Our team has everything you need to handle the criminal justice system and can help you obtain the best outcome possible. Call the LLF Law Firm now at 888-535-3686 or visit us online

Franklin County Magisterial District Court Procedures  

Like other localities, Franklin County has two courts of law: the Magisterial District Courts and the Court of Common Pleas. Seven Magisterial Courts located throughout Franklin County handle the initial steps of the criminal process, like issuing warrants, setting a defendant's bail, scheduling and conducting preliminary arraignments and hearings, and dismissing or transferring cases to higher courts. 

The first step in the criminal process is preliminary arraignment. Before one of Franklin County's Magisterial District judges (in person or via videoconference), you will have bail set, depending on the information provided about the charges and your personal life, like the following: 

  • The motivations behind the offense (factors of aggravation or premeditation). 
  • Connections to Franklin County (job, family members, community responsibilities). 
  • Whether you have a criminal history. 
  • Whether the judge deems you a danger to the community or a flight risk. 

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania places crimes into three categories, determining how the court proceeds, including the maximum punishments available under the law. Below is an overview: 

  • Summary Offense: This is the lowest criminal charge, and the maximum punishment is 90 days incarceration. Nearly all summary offenses are tried and completed in Magisterial District Court. 
  • Misdemeanor: Crimes carry between one and five years of incarceration and a $2,500 to $10,000 fine, depending on the degree (first, second, or third). Although the Magisterial District Court completes some, the Court of Common Pleas hears many. 
  • Felony: Crimes carry between seven and 20 years of incarceration and a $15,000 to $25,000 fine. Regardless of the degree (first, second, or third), felony charges are completed by the Court of Common Pleas. 

At the preliminary arraignment, you will receive details related to the charge, such as police reports, complaints leading to the charge, and some initial evidence collected by law enforcement. The judge will then schedule a preliminary hearing for a later date located at the same Magisterial District Court. 

Preliminary Hearing  

Before the judge, the Commonwealth will attempt to establish a "prima facie" case against you. This means that the prosecution must prove that the charges are supported at "first glance" through initial evidence and testimony. You have the right to present evidence at the preliminary hearing, but it's uncommon. The judge only rules on the sufficiency of the evidence's support concerning the charges, not whether the evidence is credible. 

The judge may dismiss the parties if the prosecution fails to substantiate the case. If the judge decides the Commonwealth has supported the charges against you, the case will be transferred to the Court of Common Pleas. 

Franklin County Court of Common Pleas  

The Court of Common Pleas—located at the Franklin County Judicial Center at 14 North Main Street in Chambersburg—manages formal arraignment, jury selection, and sentencing. The first step is a formal arraignment, where you are formally presented with the charges brought against you by the Commonwealth. 

At formal arraignment, the judge will advise you of your pretrial rights, such as the following: 

  • Requesting evidence from the prosecution. 
  • Filing motions to dismiss evidence or witness testimony. 
  • The ability to enter into a plea agreement. 
  • Requests periods of continuance. 

You have the right to a jury trial if you are charged with a crime that carries more than six months of incarceration. The judge will schedule a jury selection date to determine the credibility of 12 Franklin County residents to sit on the jury. However, you have the right to waive a jury trial in favor of a single judge. Unless either party pursues a continuance, the judge will also schedule a trial date. 

Trial and Sentencing  

At the trial, all pertinent documentation—such as evidence exchanged between the parties, lists of witnesses, and the charges—is finalized. In criminal proceedings, the burden of proof rests with the Commonwealth. During the trial, both the defense and the prosecution are afforded the opportunity to present evidence and call witnesses to support their respective cases before either the judge or the jury. 

Depending on the complexity of the case, the trial may be adjourned to allow for further arguments. However, once both sides have delivered their closing statements, the judge will either deliver a verdict or instruct the jury to deliberate and reach a unanimous decision. In the event of a "not guilty" verdict, the trial concludes immediately, and you will be released. However, if you are found "guilty," the judge will arrange a sentencing hearing. 

In between the trial and sentencing hearing, the Franklin County Adult Probation and Parole Department will compile a pre-sentence investigation report. You will be interviewed to determine the particulars of incarceration, such as: 

  • Contribution to the community 
  • Employment and familial responsibilities 
  • Prior criminal record 
  • Likelihood of re-offense 
  • Medical history 

The defense may advocate for alternative forms of punishment, such as reduced incarceration time or for a different location closer to family. However, the judge may permit individuals associated with the victim to provide oral or written statements advocating for the maximum penalties allowed by law. 

Appealing Franklin County Criminal Convictions  

Those convicted and sentenced for crimes in Franklin County can seek redress by appealing the decision of either the judge or jury to the Pennsylvania Superior Court. Appeals, along with all accompanying documentation, must be lodged within 30 days of the sentencing date or following the resolution of post-sentencing motions. 

It's important to note that an appeal does not mean a new trial. The Superior Court will only examine specific issues that the defense alleges were incorrectly decided by the Court of Common Pleas, such as discerning bias or procedural irregularities, based solely on the trial transcript and evidence. In the event of an unsuccessful appeal, there's also the option to appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, although few petitions are granted a hearing. 

Experienced Franklin County Criminal Defense Team  

Confronting criminal charges can significantly disrupt your daily routine and future opportunities. Franklin County is persistent in prosecuting crimes, and you will need readiness and resolve to match them in your defense. Given that your future hangs in the balance, there is no greater asset than having a dedicated team of professionals supporting you every step of the way. 

The LLF Law Firm Team is prepared to begin building your strategic defense that maintains your rights. We will ensure you have the representation you need to press for the best outcome in Franklin County Court. Call us now at 888-535-3686 or schedule an online consultation

Contact Us Today!

The LLF Law Firm Team has decades of experience successfully resolving clients' criminal charges in Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania counties. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you or a loved one, contact the LLF Law Firm today! Our Criminal Defense Team will go above and beyond the needs of any client, and will fight until the final bell rings.

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