Mercer County Criminal Defense

Few things can be more unnerving than to face criminal charges in court. If you have been charged with a crime under Mercer County's criminal justice system, you have the undesirable task of defending yourself and your future before a judge or jury that has the authority to impose the maximum penalty under Pennsylvania law. The stakes are too high to enter these proceedings unprepared or without skilled legal representation. Fortunately, help is just a phone call or click away.

The LLF Law Firm's Criminal Defense Team has extensive experience defending clients in Mercer County courts and guiding them through the intricate criminal process. Our team has all the necessary experience and knowledge to navigate the PA criminal justice system and can assist you in achieving the best possible outcome. Contact the LLF Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 or use our online form to get in touch.

Mercer County Magisterial District Courts

The Mercer County court system operates two levels of courts: the Magisterial District Courts and the Court of Common Pleas. Five Magisterial District Courts are dispersed throughout Mercer County to handle the initial stages of the criminal process, including issuing warrants, setting bail, scheduling and conducting preliminary arraignments and hearings, and either dismissing cases or transferring them to higher courts.

The initial step in the criminal process is the preliminary arraignment. Before one of Mercer County's Magisterial District judges (either in person or via videoconference), bail will be set based on the details of the charges and personal information about you, such as:

  • The motivations behind the offense (aggravating factors or premeditation)
  • Your connections to Mercer County (employment, family, community responsibilities)
  • Whether you have a prior criminal history
  • Whether the judge considers you a danger to the community or a flight risk

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania classifies crimes into three categories, which dictate how the court proceeds and the maximum punishments available under the law:

  • Summary Offense: This is the least severe criminal charge, with a maximum punishment of 90 days in jail. Most summary offenses are tried and concluded in Magisterial District Court.
  • Misdemeanor: These crimes carry penalties from one to five years in jail and fines between $2,500 and $10,000, depending on the degree (first, second, or third). Some misdemeanors are handled by the Magisterial District Court, but most are heard by the Court of Common Pleas.
  • Felony: These serious crimes carry penalties from seven to 20 years of incarceration and fines between $15,000 and $25,000. Felony charges are always tried 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 at a later date at the same Magisterial District Court.

Preliminary Hearing

During the preliminary hearing, prosecutors will endeavor to establish a "prima facie" case against you. This means they must demonstrate that the charges are supported "at first glance" through initial evidence and testimony. The judge's role is to determine whether the evidence sufficiently supports the charges, not to assess the credibility of the evidence itself.

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

Mercer County Court of Common Pleas

The Court of Common Pleas for Mercer County is located in Mercer, PA, at 125 S. Diamond Street. This court handles formal arraignment, jury selection, and sentencing for most misdemeanors and all felonies in the county. The judicial process begins with a formal arraignment, where you are officially presented with the charges brought against you by the Commonwealth.

At the formal arraignment, the judge will inform you of your pretrial rights, including:

  • Requesting evidence from the prosecution
  • Filing motions to suppress evidence or witness testimony
  • Entering into a plea agreement
  • Requesting continuances

If you are charged with a crime carrying a penalty of more than six months in jail, you have the right to a jury trial. You also have the option to waive a jury trial in favor of being judged by a single judge. Unless either party requests a continuance, the judge will then set a trial date.

Trial and Sentencing

At the trial, the prosecution will present evidence and witnesses. Your defense lawyer will cross-examine them, introduce evidence for you, and argue in your defense. The jury or judge will then deliberate and render a verdict. In jury trials, the judge will instruct the jury to reach a unanimous decision. If the verdict is "not guilty," the trial ends, and you're released. If "guilty," the judge will schedule a sentencing hearing.

Between the trial and the sentencing hearing, the Mercer County Parole Office will compile a pre-sentence investigation report. You will be interviewed to determine the specifics of your incarceration, such as:

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

Your defense attorney may argue for alternative forms of punishment, such as reduced incarceration time or a location closer to family. However, the judge may allow individuals associated with the victim to provide oral or written statements advocating for the maximum penalties permitted by law.

Appealing Mercer County Criminal Convictions

Individuals convicted and/or sentenced for crimes in Mercer County can appeal the judge or jury's decision to the Pennsylvania Superior Court. Appeals and supporting documents must be filed within 30 days of sentencing or post-sentencing motions.

An appeal isn't a new trial. The Superior Court will review issues the defense claims were wrongly decided by the Court of Common Pleas, such as bias or procedural errors, based on the trial transcript and evidence. If unsuccessful, there's also the option to appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, though few of these petitions are granted a hearing.

Experienced Mercer County Criminal Defense Team

Facing criminal charges can disrupt your life and future. Mercer County is diligent in prosecuting crimes, and you must be equally prepared in your defense. With your future at stake, having a dedicated team of professionals supporting you is invaluable.

The LLF Law Firm Team will work to construct a strategic defense that protects your rights. We will ensure you receive the representation necessary to pursue the best possible outcome in Mercer County Court. Contact us now at 888-535-3686 or use 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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