Lawrence County Criminal Defense

Whether your alleged offense seems minor or severe, facing criminal charges in court in Lawrence County, PA, is no laughing matter. Prosecutors generally want to seek the highest penalties allowed by state law, and without skilled legal representation in your corner, the chances of being convicted and receiving a more severe sentence go up considerably. Only with the help of an experienced Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney can you improve your chances of leniency, acquittal, or having the charges dismissed.

The LLF Law Firm's Criminal Defense Team has a proven track record of protecting the rights of those accused and charged with crimes in Lawrence County. We will navigate the judicial process skillfully and offer strong courtroom representation to achieve the best possible outcome. Contact the LLF Law Firm now at 888-535-3686 or use our online form.

Lawrence County Criminal Procedures

Lawrence County divides responsibilities between the Magisterial District Courts and the Court of Common Pleas for handling criminal cases.

There are four Magisterial District Courts serving Lawrence County. These courts handle the issuance of warrants, setting bail, preliminary arraignments and hearings, and dismissing or transferring cases to higher courts.

The Court of Common Pleas for Lawrence County is in the county seat of New Castle, PA, at 430 Court Street. This court oversees legal actions such as formal arraignment, judge or jury trials, pre- and post-trial motions, and sentencing.

Lawrence County Magisterial District Court Procedures

When you're charged with a crime in Lawrence County, your preliminary arraignment will occur before the Magisterial District Judge for your district, either in person or via videoconference, to review the charges, schedule your preliminary hearing, and decide how much bail (if any) is appropriate. If bail is set by the judge, the amount will depend on the specifics of the case, including:

  • The motivations behind the offense (aggravating factors or premeditation).
  • Your ties to Lawrence County (work, family, community involvement).
  • Previous convictions or other court orders against you
  • Whether the judge believes you may pose a danger to the community.

The type of offense significantly influences how the judge determines the case's progression. In Pennsylvania, crimes are categorized into three types:

Summary Offenses: Offenses with a maximum sentence of 90 days in jail, are generally adjudicated in Magisterial Court.

Misdemeanors: Some of these lesser offenses are processed directly in Magisterial Court, but most will be transferred to the Court of Common Pleas.

  • First-degree misdemeanors carry up to five years of incarceration and fines up to $10,000.
  • Second-degree misdemeanors carry up to two years of incarceration and fines up to $5,000.
  • Third-degree misdemeanors carry up to one year of incarceration and fines up to $2,500.

Felony: These more serious crimes are always handled by the Court of Common Pleas.

  • First-degree felonies carry up to 20 years in prison and fines up to $25,000.
  • Second-degree felonies carry up to 10 years in prison and fines up to $25,000.
  • Third-degree felonies carry up to seven years in prison and fines up to $15,000.

Preliminary Hearing

At the preliminary hearing in the Magisterial District Court, the Commonwealth is responsible for establishing a "prima facie" case against the defendant. Both the defense and the prosecution have the opportunity to present evidence at the preliminary hearing; however, the objective here is not to prove your guilt or innocence but simply to determine whether there is enough evidence to warrant a trial. The burden of proof is on the prosecution to show the judge that the case should be tried. If the prosecution fails to present adequate evidence, the Magisterial District Court judge may dismiss the case. Otherwise, the case will be referred to the Court of Common Pleas.

Lawrence County Court of Common Pleas

The first step for the accused at the Court of Common Pleas is the formal arraignment, where the charges are officially presented. This stage also includes advising the defendant of their pretrial rights, such as:

  • Requesting evidence
  • Filing motions to dismiss evidence
  • Entering into plea agreements
  • Filing motions for discovery
  • Requesting continuances

For all felonies, as well as misdemeanor offenses carrying more than six months in jail, the defendant has the right to a jury trial; however, the defendant may waive the right to a jury trial and opt for a bench trial where the judge will adjudicate the case.

Trial and Sentencing

During the trial at the Court of Common Pleas, both the defense and the prosecution present evidence and witness testimony to support their cases. In criminal cases, the prosecution must prove the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

After closing statements from both sides, the judge will render a verdict (in a bench trial) or instruct the jury to deliberate and reach a collective decision. If the verdict is "not guilty," the trial concludes immediately, and the defendant is released. If found "guilty," a sentencing hearing is scheduled.

The Lawrence County Adult Probation & Parole Department will prepare a pre-sentence investigation report for the sentencing hearing. Factors that may influence the sentence include:

  • Responsibility to the community
  • Work and family obligations
  • Prior criminal convictions
  • Risk of re-offense
  • Medical conditions

At the sentencing hearing, the defense may argue for specific sentencing conditions, such as reduced incarceration time or alternative imprisonment locations. Additionally, the judge may permit victim impact statements advocating for maximum penalties. The judge will then issue the sentence.

Appealing Lawrence County Criminal Convictions

Individuals convicted and/or sentenced for crimes in Lawrence County can appeal the judge or jury's decision to the Pennsylvania Superior Court. Appeals, along with all supporting documentation, must be filed within 30 days of the sentencing date or after post-sentencing motions are resolved.

An appeal is not a new trial. The Superior Court will examine specific issues that the defense believes the Court of Common Pleas decided incorrectly, such as bias or procedural inconsistencies, based solely on the trial transcript and evidence. If the appeal is unsuccessful, you may petition the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, though few petitions are granted.

Experienced Lawrence County Criminal Defense Team

If you're facing criminal charges in Lawrence County, the outcome of your case can have a profound impact on your life, your family, and your freedom. You need an aggressive strategy for defending your case that matches or exceeds the level of determination the prosecution has for convicting you. The LLF Law Firm's Criminal Defense Team has many years of experience with Pennsylvania criminal cases, and we will work tirelessly to protect your rights while helping you obtain the best possible outcome. Call us now at 888-535-3686 or tell us about your case using our online form.

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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