Our Violent Crime Defense Attorneys Represent Defendants in Allentown, Bethlehem & Easton and throughout the Greater Lehigh Valley
In the Lehigh Valley, any crime that injures another person can be considered a violent crime. In today’s world, even actions that produce a risk of injury or frighten another can be considered a violent crime despite there being no injured victim. Our Violent Crime Defense Attorneys have taken cases ranging from simple assault to homicide & murder to trial in Lehigh and Northampton County.
In Violent Crime cases, actions happen in an instant and eyewitness testimony is often at issue. What wittness alleges to have observed often last mere seconds. Yet, the government will produce them a year later, after their memory has faded, and try to convince a jury of our peers that a defendant should be found guilty based upon mere seconds of observation colored through the lens of a year’s lapse of time. Such witnesses rarely have the capacity to remember those events in the detail our law requires for a conviction.
The government may often overlook digital evidence and other suspects once they have honed in on a target. If you, or a loved one, is the target of a Violent Crime case in Allentown, Bethlehem or Easton, contact our Easton Office today.
When at all possible we want to be involved in a Lehigh or Northampton County Violent Crime case as early as possible. As time passes, memories fade or distort and witnesses may become harder and harder to track down. Security camera footage in Allentown, Bethlehem or Easton may be overwritten and cell phone records may be destroyed. Our attorneys are experienced with the digital evidence and records used in many of today’s trials.
Lehigh Valley Violent Crimes are about people and our Criminal Defense Attorneys understand that. Our Attorneys can explore the motivation of witnesses to lie, whether it be due to a grudge or “deal” offered by the District Attorney which they “can’t refuse.” Our Defense Attorneys understand that witness credibility, or the lack of it, is what wins and losses trials. Our experience in homicide cases, where the stakes our the highest, allows us to create the reasonable doubt needed for victory.
A criminal case begins with the filing of the charging paperwork in the District Court. The District Court serves as the gatekeeper for the Court or Common Pleas and generally does not decide guilt or innocence nor does it impose sentences in Misdemeanor and Felony cases.
If the charges are felonies, M1 charges, domestic violence related misdemeanors or misdemeanors observed by a law enforcement officer, the Magisterial District Judge (MDJ) will issue an arrest warrant. For all other charges the MDJ will merely mail a summons to appear for a preliminary hearing or summary trial.
The Preliminary Arraignment is the first court date a defendant must attend. At the preliminary Arraignment the MDJ will set bail. If an arrest warrant has issued, this will occur prior to the preliminary hearing. If a preliminary hearing was scheduled via summons, the Preliminary Arraignment will occur simultaneous to the Preliminary Hearing.
Preliminary Hearings are the first opportunity for the Defense to test the evidence the Commonwealth plans to bring against them. While the burden the Commonwealth must meet at this level is very low, it is a critical stage of the defense because it allows for the opportunity to lay the strategic groundwork that may make or break a defense in the upper courts. You should never waive a preliminary hearing without an attorney.
Formal Arraignment is the first court appearance in the Court of Common Pleas. The purpose of the Formal Arraignment is to inform defendants of certain rights they have and deadlines in their case. If negotiations have led to a favorable plea agreement in your case, a plea may be entered at this court date
Depending on the individual case, any of the following types of court hearings may occur after preliminary arraignment but before a trial:
• Diversionary Program Hearing – Diversionary Programs allow defendants a path through the criminal justice system that does not risk the chance of conviction. First time offenders may be eligible for the ARD program. Other defendant’s may be eligible for Mental Health Court regardless of whether they have prior convictions.
• Habeas Corpus Hearing – A Habeas Corpus hearing, like a preliminary hearing, may be held to contest the sufficiency of the Commonwealth’s evidence prior to a trial.
• Suppression Hearing – A suppression hearing may be held to have evidence illegally obtained by the police ruled inadmissible at trial.
• Guilty Plea – If the Commonwealth and the defendant agree upon the terms of a guilty plea, a plea may occur at any time throughout the criminal court process
In most criminal trials, cases proceed in front of a jury. However, sometimes it may be best to opt for a non-jury trial. Non-jury trials are most often used when the nature of the crime is one that risks a jury finding someone guilty based upon emotion rather than facts.
If the case precedes as a jury trial the judge, the prosecutor and the defense attorney will question potential jurors. Each side, without any justification, can eliminate a certain number of jurors. Another number of potential jurors can be eliminated based on a list of legal justifications. Eventually, through this process, a jury is reached and seated for trial.
After a jury is chosen, the trial begins with opening statements.
Because the government has the burden of proof, the prosecutor is allowed to make his opening statement first. The defense will then have the option of making an opening statement or waiting until after the prosecution rests its case.
Defense lawyers usually opt to deliver opening statements immediately after the prosecution so that jurors can examine the government’s evidence under the defense’s theory of the case.
After the opening statement(s), each side has the opportunity to present its case.
The prosecution must present its case first. During this time the government presents evidence and elicits testimony from its witnesses. The defense is entitled to cross-examine each witness that the government calls. The prosecution must establish each charge beyond a reasonable doubt.
When the prosecution rests, the defense presents evidence to the jury. If the prosecution’s case is weak, the defense may argue to have the case dismissed at this point. If the motion is denied the defense will go forwards with its case.
After the prosecution and criminal defense lawyer have rested their case, each side will have the opportunity to make a closing argument. The defense lawyer delivers the first argument and the prosecution follows him or her.
The defendant may testify as a witness in his or her defense. However, doing so opens the door for the prosecution to attempt to discredit the witness and in many cases allows the prosecution to bring up harmful information from the defendant’s past.
While the prosecution must establish its case beyond a reasonable doubt, the defense has no obligation to present a case. When advantageous the defense may rely solely upon raising a reasonable doubt in the prosecution’s case.
After the closing arguments, the judge will read specific instructions to the jury outlining the legal standards necessary to decide if the defendant is to be found guilty or not guilty. The jury then leaves the courtroom to deliberate the case.
If all jurors cannot reach a unanimous decision, the jury is “hung,” and the case may be dismissed or it may be tried in front of a new jury.