Best Pennsylvania Criminal Lawyers


Best Pennsylvania Criminal Lawyers

If you have been arrested or charged with a crime in Pennsylvania, having an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side can make all the difference in the outcome of your case. Criminal charges can have severe and long-lasting consequences, so you need strong legal advocacy to protect your rights. This article provides an in-depth look at finding the best criminal lawyers in Pennsylvania, as well as an overview of Pennsylvania criminal law and procedure.

Importance of Retaining a Criminal Defense Attorney in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania has complex criminal laws and court procedures. Without guidance from a criminal defense lawyer who understands the nuances of Pennsylvania criminal law, you could face harsher punishments than necessary. A knowledgeable attorney can analyze the details of your case, build a strong defense, and advocate for your rights in court. They know how to navigate each step of the criminal justice process and can advise you on the best course of action given the charges you face.

In particular, a criminal defense lawyer can assist with tasks like:

  • Reviewing police reports and evidence to identify any constitutional violations or other ways to get charges reduced or dismissed
  • Negotiating with the prosecutor for a favorable plea bargain or reduced sentence recommendation
  • Filing motions to suppress illegally obtained evidence
  • Presenting expert witnesses and other evidence to counter the prosecutor’s case
  • Making compelling legal arguments to challenge the charges at pre-trial hearings
  • Cross-examining the State’s witnesses to undermine their credibility
  • Preparing you to take the stand to tell your side of the story (or advising you not to testify)
  • Gathering evidence and witnesses to support your innocence or mitigating circumstances
  • Locating programs and services you qualify for if convicted

Without an attorney handling these aspects of your defense, you could miss out on key opportunities to reduce charges and penalties. You want someone in your corner who knows Pennsylvania criminal courts inside and out.

How to Find the Best Criminal Lawyer in Pennsylvania

When researching criminal defense attorneys in Pennsylvania, there are several key factors to keep in mind:

Focus on Criminal Defense

Look for lawyers who dedicate their practice to criminal defense. They should have extensive experience representing clients facing charges like yours in Pennsylvania courts. Verify that they handle criminal matters routinely rather than occasionally. Criminal law is a complex specialty that requires full commitment.

Strong Knowledge of Pennsylvania Law

Make sure any lawyer you consider has a comprehensive understanding of Pennsylvania’s criminal laws, penalties, and procedures. They should be up to date on changes to DUI laws, drug laws, sentencing guidelines, gun laws, and all other relevant areas. Familiarity with Pennsylvania’s court system is also a must.

Courtroom Litigation Experience

Opt for a lawyer with a proven track record of litigation success. This includes experience filing successful motions, negotiating favorable pleas, and mounting rigorous defenses at jury trials. You want an attorney who is comfortable fighting for your rights in court.

Credentials and Education

Verify that any lawyer under consideration has the right credentials. Look for attorneys who graduated from excellent law schools and hold a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree. Membership in respected groups like the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers or Pennsylvania Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is also a good sign.

Client Reviews

Check online sources like Google, Facebook, and Avvo to see what former clients say about potential attorneys. Reliable criminal lawyers should have numerous positive reviews praising their knowledge, skills, and commitment to clients.

Comparison Shopping

You have the right to talk with multiple attorneys before deciding who to hire. Interview several top options to compare qualifications, discuss case strategies, and get fee estimates. This gives you a better sense of the best attorney match for you.

Now that you know what to look for, here is an overview of some of the best criminal defense attorneys in major cities across Pennsylvania:

Best Criminal Defense Lawyers in Philadelphia, PA

Brian McMonagle

– 28+ years criminal law experience
– Secured full acquittals in several high-profile murder cases
– Strong record of getting charges dismissed pre-trial
– Handles complex felonies and federal cases

William Brennan

– 22+ years exclusively practicing criminal defense
– Led Pennsylvania Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
– Skilled in cross-examining witnesses to expose flaws in prosecution’s case
– Rated “Superb” 10/10 on Avvo rating system

Fortunato Perri Jr.

– 19+ years criminal law background
– Experience with drug trafficking, white collar crime, and sex offense cases
– Aggressive litigator and tough negotiator
– Fluent in Italian to assist Italian-speaking clients

Best Criminal Defense Lawyers in Pittsburgh, PA

Patrick Thomassey

– 45+ years of criminal law experience
– Handles high-profile homicide and sex crimes cases
– Skilled at getting charges reduced or dropped pre-trial
– Well-respected within Pennsylvania legal community

Jerry Santilli

– 28+ years exclusively practicing criminal defense
– Experienced representing juveniles charged with crimes
– Strong background defending DUI and drug possession cases
– Effective negotiator in securing reduced sentences

Brandon Verdream

– 17+ years criminal defense background
– Handles wide range of misdemeanors and felonies
– Strong track record with motions to suppress evidence
– Known for meticulous review of prosecution evidence

Best Criminal Lawyers in Harrisburg, PA

Heidi F. Eakin

– 22+ years criminal law experience
– Leads local association of criminal defense lawyers
– Skilled at navigating complex criminal cases
– Handles felonies, misdemeanors, and traffic violations

Jennifer Tobias

– 19+ years exclusively practicing criminal law
– Strong background defending drug charges
– Experience representing mentally ill defendants
– Proven record of favorable case results

Matthew L.transpose( )tunstall

– 15+ years criminal defense background
– Handles DUI, theft, juvenile cases
– Known for aggressive defense tactics
– Highly affordable legal fees

Overview of Pennsylvania Criminal Law

Now that you know how to find skilled criminal defense representation in Pennsylvania, here is an overview of some key aspects of Pennsylvania criminal law and procedure:

Pennsylvania Court System

There are several levels of courts in Pennsylvania that hear criminal matters:

  • Magisterial District Courts handle misdemeanor cases and preliminary hearings for more serious crimes.
  • Courts of Common Pleas have original jurisdiction over all criminal cases.
  • Superior Court hears appeals from Common Pleas courts.
  • Supreme Court is the highest appeals court in Pennsylvania.

Common Criminal Offenses

Some of the most common criminal charges prosecuted in Pennsylvania include:

  • Drug crimes like possession, manufacture, distribution, sale, trafficking, cultivation
  • Property crimes like larceny, robbery, burglary, motor vehicle theft, arson, vandalism, embezzlement
  • Violent crimes such as assault, battery, domestic violence, murder, manslaughter, sex offenses
  • Weapons offenses like illegal possession, brandishing, use in a crime
  • DUI alcohol and drugs
  • Sex offenses such as rape, statutory rape, sexual assault, indecent exposure
  • Financial crimes like fraud, identity theft, forgery, tax evasion
  • Computer crimes such as hacking, internet fraud, identity theft

Pennsylvania Sentencing Guidelines

Pennsylvania has established sentencing guidelines judges must consider when imposing sentences in criminal cases. This helps ensure consistent punishments for similar offenses. Key guidelines include:

  • First-degree felonies carry up to 20 years imprisonment
  • Second-degree felonies carry up to 10 years imprisonment
  • Third-degree felonies carry up to 7 years imprisonment
  • First-degree misdemeanors carry up to 5 years imprisonment
  • Second-degree misdemeanors carry up to 2 years imprisonment
  • Third-degree misdemeanors carry up to 1 year imprisonment

Judges consider the offense class and mitigating/aggravating factors about the crime and defendant when imposing a specific sentence.

Common Defenses to Criminal Charges

A skilled criminal defense attorney will explore and pursue any viable defenses to get charges against you reduced or dismissed. Here are some examples of defenses that may apply in Pennsylvania criminal cases:

  • Affirmative defenses – Self-defense, insanity, entrapment, duress
  • Alibi – You were somewhere else at the time of the crime
  • Misidentification – You were mistakenly identified as the perpetrator
  • False accusations – The alleged victim fabricated the story
  • Intoxication – You were too impaired to form criminal intent
  • Lack of criminal intent – The prosecution can’t prove you intended to commit the crime
  • Unlawful police conduct – Evidence was obtained illegally
  • Statute of limitations – Too much time passed before charges were filed

An experienced attorney knows how and when to raise these defenses for the best chance of success.

Pennsylvania DUI Laws

Driving under the influence (DUI) charges are vigorously prosecuted in Pennsylvania. Key aspects of the law include:

  • Blood alcohol content (BAC) limit of .08% for drivers 21+ years old
  • Any detectable BAC is illegal for underage drivers
  • Enhanced penalties for BAC of .16% or higher (“highest rate” DUI)
  • Refusing a chemical test leads to 1 year license suspension
  • Implied consent law means drivers consent to BAC testing
  • DUI penalties range from fines and license suspension up to 5 years imprisonment

Depending on your BAC level and prior record, a DUI conviction can negatively impact you for years through jail time, license suspension, fines, and other consequences. An attorney can help minimize the penalties.

Pennsylvania Drug Laws and Penalties

Like most states, Pennsylvania strictly prohibits the possession, sale, trafficking, and manufacture of illegal drugs. Even possession of small amounts can lead to criminal charges. Some key penalties for drug possession include:

  • Heroin less than 1 gram – Up to 1 year in jail
  • Cocaine less than 2 grams – Up to 1 year in jail
  • Meth less than 5 grams – Up to 3 years in jail
  • Marijuana less than 30 grams – Up to 30 days in jail and $500 fine

Those convicted of possession with intent to deliver face even harsher mandatory minimum prison sentences. Having an experienced attorney is critical for dealing with Pennsylvania’s complex drug laws.

Finding the Right Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Lawyer

Being arrested and charged with a crime in Pennsylvania can derail your future if you are convicted and saddled with a criminal record. However, the legal system is complex, and an experienced local criminal lawyer can advocate for you and help achieve the best possible outcome. Take your time researching attorneys’ qualifications before choosing legal representation. The right lawyer makes all the difference!