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Prohibited Offensive Weapons & Other Weapons Charges

Lehigh Valley Criminal Defense Attorneys

Weapons Charges Defense Attorneys in Easton Pennsylvania, Serving Lehigh & Northampton County

Our Weapons Charges Defense Attorneys Represent Defendants in Allentown, Bethlehem & Easton and throughout the Greater Lehigh Valley

Our Firearm & Weapons Charges Attorneys have represented numerous individuals charged with Firearm Violations, Prohibited Offensive Weapons & other Weapons Charges in Easton, Allentown, Bethlehem & the Greater Lehigh Valley.  We have successfully had Lehigh & Northampton County Prohibited Offensive Weapons Charges and Gun Charges downgraded or outright dismissed.

In Pennsylvania, Possession of a prohibited offensive weapon, POW, is a 1st degree misdemeanor and can carry a sentence of up to five years of imprisonment. The law regarding prohibited offensive weapons is a somewhat counter-intuitive statute. Unaltered firearms never fall within the definition of a POW and, surprisingly, are legal to carry, even without a permit or license in many situations.  But less dangerous weapons such as brass knuckles and blackjacks are often illegal to carry.

Case law has developed that categorizes different weapons under the statute. Non weapons, such as baseball bats do not fall under the POW statute. Nunchuks and many other weapons used in martial arts are not prohibited under the statute while sword canes and other such items are. Most knives are exempted but knives that open automatically or lock at 90 degree angles are prohibited.

Yet many other weapons remain unclassified by case law and are the subject of litigation.  As your Weapon Charge Defense Attorneys, we will research the law to determine if the item in question falls under an established exemption.  If there is no establish exemption, perhaps we can create one.

While many criminal defense strategies revolve around people and credibility, Weapons Charges are unique. Weapons charges are highly technical cases and are often charge incorrectly by the Police and District Attorney. We have had Prohibited Offensive Weapons cases dismissed because the item in question, a spring assisted knife, does not fit the technical definition of a Prohibited Offensive Weapon. We have had other Prohibited Offensive Weapons case, involving machetes dismissed because machetes are simply not illegal to carry. We have cases involving the destruction of serial numbers on a firearm dismissed because our research revealed the firearm to be produced prior to the requirement that firearms contain serial numbers. Conversely, we have has possession of stolen firearm case dismissed because did, indeed, contain a serial number.

Our Criminal Defense Attorneys in Easton, Pennsylvania are familiar with all matters of weapons.  We are here to help.  Call now if you, or a loved one, are facing Gun or Weapons Charges.

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Local Criminal Defense Law Office to subpoena a sitting Judge in a criminal case.

First

Law Office to achieve release on bail for a client incarcerated on a Northampton County Detainer

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Local Law Firm to have a Prosecutor assert fifth amendment when questioned under oath in our case.

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Law Firm to utilize independent blood test results in a Northampton County DUI case to result in a dismissal of charges.

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Law Firm to achieve the emergency release of Northampton County inmates during the COVID-19 Crisis pro bono & first overall.

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Law Firm to successfully challenge the Northampton County ARD Programs' lack of individualized hearings.

Our Approach to Defending Weapons Charges in the Lehigh Valley

Early Intervention & Aggressive Weapons Charges Defense

Early Retention of a Lehigh Valley Criminal Defense Attorney is the Best Defense to Criminal Charges in Easton, Allentown & Bethlehem

When at all possible we want to be involved in a Lehigh or Northampton County Weapons case as early as possible.

 

While many criminal defense strategies revolve around people and credibility, Weapons Charges are unique.  Weapons charges are highly technical cases and are often charge incorrectly by the Police and District Attorney.  While in most cases, we will start by interviewing witnesses, in Weapons Cases we begin with research regarding the specific weapon in question and we then move on the research the fine details of the law.

 

The earlier we are contacted, the better outcome we can achieve.  When at all possible, we prefer to be involved in a Weapons Charge case, prior to the Preliminary Hearing in order to maximize our ability to defend against the Firearm or Weapons charges.

Weapons Charges Law in Easton, Pennsylvania

Below you can find the Pennsylvania Weapons Charges Statutes

Prohibited offensive weapons - 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 908

Prohibited offensive weapons – 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 908
(a) Offense defined.–A person commits a misdemeanor of the
first degree if, except as authorized by law, he makes repairs,
sells, or otherwise deals in, uses, or possesses any offensive
weapon.
(b) Exceptions.–
(1) It is a defense under this section for the defendant
to prove by a preponderance of evidence that he possessed or
dealt with the weapon solely as a curio or in a dramatic
performance, or that, with the exception of a bomb, grenade
or incendiary device, he complied with the National Firearms
Act (26 U.S.C. § 5801 et seq.), or that he possessed it
briefly in consequence of having found it or taken it from an
aggressor, or under circumstances similarly negativing any
intent or likelihood that the weapon would be used
unlawfully.
(2) This section does not apply to police forensic
firearms experts or police forensic firearms laboratories.
Also exempt from this section are forensic firearms experts
or forensic firearms laboratories operating in the ordinary
course of business and engaged in lawful operation who notify
in writing, on an annual basis, the chief or head of any
police force or police department of a city, and, elsewhere,
the sheriff of a county in which they are located, of the
possession, type and use of offensive weapons.
(3) This section shall not apply to any person who
makes, repairs, sells or otherwise deals in, uses or
possesses any firearm for purposes not prohibited by the laws
of this Commonwealth.
(c) Definitions.–As used in this section, the following
words and phrases shall have the meanings given to them in this
subsection:
“Firearm.” Any weapon which is designed to or may readily be
converted to expel any projectile by the action of an explosive
or the frame or receiver of any such weapon.
“Offensive weapons.” Any bomb, grenade, machine gun, sawed-
off shotgun with a barrel less than 18 inches, firearm specially
made or specially adapted for concealment or silent discharge,
any blackjack, sandbag, metal knuckles, dagger, knife, razor or
cutting instrument, the blade of which is exposed in an
automatic way by switch, push-button, spring mechanism, or
otherwise, any stun gun, stun baton, taser or other electronic
or electric weapon or other implement for the infliction of
serious bodily injury which serves no common lawful purpose.
(d) Exemptions.–The use and possession of blackjacks by the
following persons in the course of their duties are exempt from
this section:
(1) Police officers, as defined by and who meet the
requirements of the act of June 18, 1974 (P.L.359, No.120),
referred to as the Municipal Police Education and Training
Law.
(2) Police officers of first class cities who have
successfully completed training which is substantially
equivalent to the program under the Municipal Police
Education and Training Law.
(3) Pennsylvania State Police officers.
(4) Sheriffs and deputy sheriffs of the various counties
who have satisfactorily met the requirements of the Municipal
Police Education and Training Law.
(5) Police officers employed by the Commonwealth who
have satisfactorily met the requirements of the Municipal
Police Education and Training Law.
(6) Deputy sheriffs with adequate training as determined
by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.
(7) Liquor Control Board agents who have satisfactorily
met the requirements of the Municipal Police Education and
Training Law.

Firearms Offenses - 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 6105

§ 6105. Persons not to possess, use, manufacture, control, sell
or transfer firearms.
(a) Offense defined.–
(1) A person who has been convicted of an offense
enumerated in subsection (b), within or without this
Commonwealth, regardless of the length of sentence or whose
conduct meets the criteria in subsection (c) shall not
possess, use, control, sell, transfer or manufacture or
obtain a license to possess, use, control, sell, transfer or
manufacture a firearm in this Commonwealth.
(2) (i) A person who is prohibited from possessing,
using, controlling, selling, transferring or
manufacturing a firearm under paragraph (1) or subsection
(b) or (c) shall have a reasonable period of time, not
to exceed 60 days from the date of the imposition of the
disability under this subsection, in which to sell or
transfer that person’s firearms to another eligible
person who is not a member of the prohibited person’s
household.
(ii) This paragraph shall not apply to any person
whose disability is imposed pursuant to subsection
(c)(6).
(a.1) Penalty.–
(1) A person convicted of a felony enumerated under
subsection (b) or a felony under the act of April 14, 1972
(P.L.233, No.64), known as The Controlled Substance, Drug,
Device and Cosmetic Act, or any equivalent Federal statute or
equivalent statute of any other state, who violates
subsection (a) commits a felony of the second degree.
(2) A person who is the subject of an active protection
from abuse order issued pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S. § 6108
(relating to relief), which order provided for the
relinquishment of firearms, other weapons or ammunition
during the period of time the order is in effect, commits a
misdemeanor of the first degree if he intentionally or
knowingly fails to relinquish a firearm, other weapon or
ammunition to the sheriff as required by the order unless, in
lieu of relinquishment, he provides an affidavit which lists
the firearms, other weapons or ammunition to the sheriff in
accordance with either 23 Pa.C.S. § 6108(a)(7)(i)(B), 6108.2
(relating to relinquishment for consignment sale, lawful
transfer or safekeeping) or 6108.3 (relating to
relinquishment to third party for safekeeping).
(3) (i) A person commits a misdemeanor of the third
degree if he intentionally or knowingly accepts
possession of a firearm, other weapon or ammunition from
a person he knows is the subject of an active protection
from abuse order issued pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S. § 6108,
which order provided for the relinquishment of the
firearm, other weapon or ammunition during the period of
time the order is in effect.
(ii) This paragraph shall not apply to:
(A) a third party who accepts possession of a
firearm, other weapon or ammunition relinquished
pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S. § 6108.3; or
(B) a dealer licensed pursuant to section 6113
(relating to licensing of dealers) or subsequent
purchaser from a dealer licensed pursuant to section
6113, who accepts possession of a firearm, other
weapon or ammunition relinquished pursuant to 23
Pa.C.S. § 6108.2.
(4) It shall be an affirmative defense to any
prosecution under paragraph (3) that the person accepting
possession of a firearm, other weapon or ammunition in
violation of paragraph (3):
(i) notified the sheriff as soon as practicable that
he has taken possession; and
(ii) relinquished possession of any firearm, other
weapon or ammunition possessed in violation of paragraph
(3) as directed by the sheriff.
(5) A person who has accepted possession of a firearm,
other weapon or ammunition pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S. § 6108.3
commits a misdemeanor of the first degree if he intentionally
or knowingly returns a firearm, other weapon or ammunition to
a defendant or intentionally or knowingly allows a defendant
to have access to the firearm, other weapon or ammunition
prior to either of the following:
(i) The sheriff accepts return of the safekeeping
permit issued to the party pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S. §
6108.3(d)(1)(i).
(ii) The issuance of a court order pursuant to
subsection (f)(2) or 23 Pa.C.S. § 6108.1(b) (relating to
return of relinquished firearms, other weapons and
ammunition and additional relief) which modifies a valid
protection from abuse order issued pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S.
§ 6108, which order provided for the relinquishment of
the firearm, other weapon or ammunition by allowing the
defendant to take possession of the firearm, other weapon
or ammunition that had previously been ordered
relinquished.
(b) Enumerated offenses.–The following offenses shall apply
to subsection (a):
Section 908 (relating to prohibited offensive weapons).
Section 911 (relating to corrupt organizations).
Section 912 (relating to possession of weapon on school
property).
Section 2502 (relating to murder).
Section 2503 (relating to voluntary manslaughter).
Section 2504 (relating to involuntary manslaughter) if
the offense is based on the reckless use of a firearm.
Section 2702 (relating to aggravated assault).
Section 2703 (relating to assault by prisoner).
Section 2704 (relating to assault by life prisoner).
Section 2709.1 (relating to stalking).
Section 2716 (relating to weapons of mass destruction).
Section 2901 (relating to kidnapping).
Section 2902 (relating to unlawful restraint).
Section 2910 (relating to luring a child into a motor
vehicle or structure).
Section 3121 (relating to rape).
Section 3123 (relating to involuntary deviate sexual
intercourse).
Section 3125 (relating to aggravated indecent assault).
Section 3301 (relating to arson and related offenses).
Section 3302 (relating to causing or risking
catastrophe).
Section 3502 (relating to burglary).
Section 3503 (relating to criminal trespass) if the
offense is graded a felony of the second degree or higher.
Section 3701 (relating to robbery).
Section 3702 (relating to robbery of motor vehicle).
Section 3921 (relating to theft by unlawful taking or
disposition) upon conviction of the second felony offense.
Section 3923 (relating to theft by extortion) when the
offense is accompanied by threats of violence.
Section 3925 (relating to receiving stolen property) upon
conviction of the second felony offense.
Section 4906 (relating to false reports to law
enforcement authorities) if the fictitious report involved
the theft of a firearm as provided in section 4906(c)(2).
Section 4912 (relating to impersonating a public servant)
if the person is impersonating a law enforcement officer.
Section 4952 (relating to intimidation of witnesses or
victims).
Section 4953 (relating to retaliation against witness,
victim or party).
Section 5121 (relating to escape).
Section 5122 (relating to weapons or implements for
escape).
Section 5501(3) (relating to riot).
Section 5515 (relating to prohibiting of paramilitary
training).
Section 5516 (relating to facsimile weapons of mass
destruction).
Section 6110.1 (relating to possession of firearm by
minor).
Section 6301 (relating to corruption of minors).
Section 6302 (relating to sale or lease of weapons and
explosives).
Any offense equivalent to any of the above-enumerated
offenses under the prior laws of this Commonwealth or any
offense equivalent to any of the above-enumerated offenses
under the statutes of any other state or of the United
States.
(c) Other persons.–In addition to any person who has been
convicted of any offense listed under subsection (b), the
following persons shall be subject to the prohibition of
subsection (a):
(1) A person who is a fugitive from justice. This
paragraph does not apply to an individual whose fugitive
status is based upon a nonmoving or moving summary offense
under Title 75 (relating to vehicles).
(2) A person who has been convicted of an offense under
the act of April 14, 1972 (P.L.233, No.64), known as The
Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act, or any
equivalent Federal statute or equivalent statute of any other
state, that may be punishable by a term of imprisonment
exceeding two years.
(3) A person who has been convicted of driving under the
influence of alcohol or controlled substance as provided in
75 Pa.C.S. § 3802 (relating to driving under influence of
alcohol or controlled substance) or the former 75 Pa.C.S. §
3731, on three or more separate occasions within a five-year
period. For the purposes of this paragraph only, the
prohibition of subsection (a) shall only apply to transfers
or purchases of firearms after the third conviction.
(4) A person who has been adjudicated as an incompetent
or who has been involuntarily committed to a mental
institution for inpatient care and treatment under section
302, 303 or 304 of the provisions of the act of July 9, 1976
(P.L.817, No.143), known as the Mental Health Procedures Act.
This paragraph shall not apply to any proceeding under
section 302 of the Mental Health Procedures Act unless the
examining physician has issued a certification that inpatient
care was necessary or that the person was committable.
(5) A person who, being an alien, is illegally or
unlawfully in the United States.
(6) A person who is the subject of an active protection
from abuse order issued pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S. § 6108, which
order provided for the relinquishment of firearms during the
period of time the order is in effect. This prohibition shall
terminate upon the expiration or vacation of an active
protection from abuse order or portion thereof relating to
the relinquishment of firearms.
(7) A person who was adjudicated delinquent by a court
pursuant to 42 Pa.C.S. § 6341 (relating to adjudication) or
under any equivalent Federal statute or statute of any other
state as a result of conduct which if committed by an adult
would constitute an offense under sections 2502, 2503, 2702,
2703 (relating to assault by prisoner), 2704, 2901, 3121,
3123, 3301, 3502, 3701 and 3923.
(8) A person who was adjudicated delinquent by a court
pursuant to 42 Pa.C.S. § 6341 or under any equivalent Federal
statute or statute of any other state as a result of conduct
which if committed by an adult would constitute an offense
enumerated in subsection (b) with the exception of those
crimes set forth in paragraph (7). This prohibition shall
terminate 15 years after the last applicable delinquent
adjudication or upon the person reaching the age of 30,
whichever is earlier.
(9) A person who is prohibited from possessing or
acquiring a firearm under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(9) (relating to
unlawful acts). If the offense which resulted in the
prohibition under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(9) was committed, as
provided in 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(33)(A)(ii) (relating to
definitions), by a person in any of the following
relationships:
(i) the current or former spouse, parent or guardian
of the victim;
(ii) a person with whom the victim shares a child in
common;
(iii) a person who cohabits with or has cohabited
with the victim as a spouse, parent or guardian; or
(iv) a person similarly situated to a spouse, parent
or guardian of the victim;
then the relationship need not be an element of the offense
to meet the requirements of this paragraph.
(d) Exemption.–A person who has been convicted of a crime
specified in subsection (a) or (b) or a person whose conduct
meets the criteria in subsection (c)(1), (2), (5), (7) or (9)
may make application to the court of common pleas of the county
where the principal residence of the applicant is situated for
relief from the disability imposed by this section upon the
possession, transfer or control of a firearm. The court shall
grant such relief if it determines that any of the following
apply:
(1) The conviction has been vacated under circumstances
where all appeals have been exhausted or where the right to
appeal has expired.
(2) The conviction has been the subject of a full pardon
by the Governor.
(3) Each of the following conditions is met:
(i) The Secretary of the Treasury of the United
States has relieved the applicant of an applicable
disability imposed by Federal law upon the possession,
ownership or control of a firearm as a result of the
applicant’s prior conviction, except that the court may
waive this condition if the court determines that the
Congress of the United States has not appropriated
sufficient funds to enable the Secretary of the Treasury
to grant relief to applicants eligible for the relief.
(ii) A period of ten years, not including any time
spent in incarceration, has elapsed since the most recent
conviction of the applicant of a crime enumerated in
subsection (b), a felony violation of The Controlled
Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act or the offense
which resulted in the prohibition under 18 U.S.C. §
922(g)(9).
(e) Proceedings.–
(1) If a person convicted of an offense under subsection
(a), (b) or (c)(1), (2), (5), (7) or (9) makes application to
the court, a hearing shall be held in open court to determine
whether the requirements of this section have been met. The
commissioner and the district attorney of the county where
the application is filed and any victim or survivor of a
victim of the offense upon which the disability is based may
be parties to the proceeding.
(2) Upon application to the court of common pleas
pursuant to paragraph (1) by an applicant who is subject to
the prohibition under subsection (c)(3), the court shall
grant such relief if a period of ten years, not including any
time spent in incarceration, has passed since the applicant’s
most recent conviction under subsection (c)(3).
(f) Other exemptions and proceedings.–
(1) Upon application to the court of common pleas under
this subsection by an applicant subject to the prohibitions
under subsection (c)(4), the court may grant such relief as
it deems appropriate if the court determines that the
applicant may possess a firearm without risk to the applicant
or any other person.
(2) If application is made under this subsection for
relief from the disability imposed under subsection (c)(6),
notice of such application shall be given to the person who
had petitioned for the protection from abuse order, and such
person shall be a party to the proceedings. Notice of any
court order or amendment to a court order restoring firearms
possession or control shall be given to the person who had
petitioned for the protection from abuse order, to the
sheriff and to the Pennsylvania State Police. The application
and any proceedings on the application shall comply with 23
Pa.C.S. Ch. 61 (relating to protection from abuse).
(3) All hearings conducted under this subsection shall
be closed unless otherwise requested to be open by the
applicant.
(4) (i) The owner of any seized or confiscated firearms
or of any firearms ordered relinquished under 23 Pa.C.S.
§ 6108 shall be provided with a signed and dated written
receipt by the appropriate law enforcement agency. This
receipt shall include, but not limited to, a detailed
identifying description indicating the serial number and
condition of the firearm. In addition, the appropriate
law enforcement agency shall be liable to the lawful
owner of said confiscated, seized or relinquished firearm
for any loss, damage or substantial decrease in value of
said firearm that is a direct result of a lack of
reasonable care by the appropriate law enforcement
agency.
(ii) Firearms shall not be engraved or permanently
marked in any manner, including, but not limited to,
engraving of evidence or other identification numbers.
Unless reasonable suspicion exists to believe that a
particular firearm has been used in the commission of a
crime, no firearm shall be test fired. Any reduction in
the value of a firearm due to test firing, engraving or
permanently marking in violation of this paragraph shall
be considered damage, and the law enforcement agency
shall be liable to the lawful owner of the firearm for
the reduction in value caused by the test firing,
engraving or permanently marking.
(iii) For purposes of this paragraph, the term
“firearm” shall include any scope, sight, bipod, sling,
light, magazine, clip, ammunition or other firearm
accessory attached to or seized, confiscated or
relinquished with a firearm.
(g) Other restrictions.–Nothing in this section shall
exempt a person from a disability in relation to the possession
or control of a firearm which is imposed as a condition of
probation or parole or which is imposed pursuant to the
provision of any law other than this section.
(h) License prohibition.–Any person who is prohibited from
possessing, using, controlling, selling, purchasing,
transferring or manufacturing any firearm under this section
shall not be eligible for or permitted to obtain a license to
carry a firearm under section 6109 (relating to licenses).
(i) Firearm.–As used in this section only, the term
“firearm” shall include any weapons which are designed to or may
readily be converted to expel any projectile by the action of an
explosive or the frame or receiver of any such weapon.
(j) Copy of order to State Police.–If the court grants
relief from the disabilities imposed under this section, a copy
of the order shall be sent by the prothonotary within ten days
of the entry of the order to the Pennsylvania State Police and
shall include the name, date of birth and Social Security number
of the individual.
(June 13, 1995, 1st Sp.Sess., P.L.1024, No.17, eff. 120 days;
Nov. 22, 1995, P.L.621, No.66, eff. imd.; Apr. 22, 1997, P.L.73,
No.5, eff. 60 days; June 18, 1998, P.L.503, No.70, eff. imd.;
Dec. 3, 1998, P.L.933, No.121, eff. imd.; Dec. 15, 1999,
P.L.915, No.59, eff. 60 days; June 28, 2002, P.L.481, No.82,
eff. 60 days; Dec. 9, 2002, P.L.1759, No.218, eff. 60 days;
Sept. 30, 2003, P.L.120, No.24, eff. Feb. 1, 2004; Nov. 10,
2005, P.L.335, No.66, eff. 180 days; Oct. 17, 2008, P.L.1628,
No.131, eff. 60 days)

Criminal Court Process In Lehigh & Northampton County

A brief explanation of the different court hearings in Lehigh & Northampton County

FIling of Charges

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.

Preliminary Arraignment

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 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

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

Pre-Trial Motions & Hearings

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

Criminal Trial

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.

Let us help you!

If you need any legal assistance in the Lehigh Valley, please feel free to contact us.  Our Easton Law Office will get back to you within one business day.  Or, just call us now.

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