Wondering about misdemeanors in Chester County, Pennsylvania? Criminal defense lawyer Michael DiCindio explains what you need to know in this article.
If you are facing misdemeanor charges, tell the police you are asserting your right to remain silent and contact an attorney for help.
Many people make the mistake of thinking misdemeanor crimes aren’t that serious. They assume they won’t have to do jail time or will get off with a ticket.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. Pennsylvania takes misdemeanors very seriously, and substantial jail time is always on the table. You can face anywhere from a few days up to five years in jail for misdemeanor charges.
You can also face unexpected collateral consequences that make it more difficult to find a job.
Keep reading to learn more about misdemeanors in the Commonwealth.
What is the Difference Between a Misdemeanor and a Felony in Pennsylvania?
Understanding misdemeanors in West Chester requires understanding sentencing laws. Pennsylvania misdemeanors are very different from misdemeanors in the rest of the country. In most states, a misdemeanor is any crime punishable by up to 12 months or less in jail. In these states, a felony is any crime punishable by more than one year in prison.
However, in Pennsylvania, many misdemeanors carry a maximum penalty of much more than one year in jail. Felonies in PA are still more serious than misdemeanors and carry lengthier sentences.
Additionally, felonies carry collateral consequences that can impact your life in ways a misdemeanor conviction doesn’t. For example, a felony on your record can impact the ability to vote, own a firearm, and serve on a jury.
There is also a class of offense below a misdemeanor. These less serious charges are called “Summary Offenses.” A summary offense is punishable by up to 90 days jail and a $300 fine.
Misdemeanors in the Commonwealth are much more serious than in other states. If you are charged with a misdemeanor in Chester County, it is important to hire a well-qualified criminal defense attorney.
What are the Penalties if You are Convicted of a Misdemeanor in Chester County?
Misdemeanors are broken into three different categories in Pennsylvania. Each category has a different minimum and maximum sentence. The three classifications of misdemeanor and the corresponding maximum sentences are:
- First Degree Misdemeanor: Up to five years jail/prison; $10,000 fine
- Second Degree Misdemeanor: Up to two years jail/prison; $5,000 fine
- Third Degree Misdemeanor: Up to one year jail; $2,500 fine
Sentencing is up to the judge in criminal cases, and the judge has wide discretion in imposing a sentence.
Under the Pennsylvania sentencing guidelines, the judge must consider the gravity of the offense, prior record, and other aggravating factors to create a score for the offender. This score is then used to calculate whether the sentence will be at the high end or low end of the penalty range.
Sometimes you can get probation as part of a sentence to reduce the time spent in custody. However, this is not always possible, since some crimes carry mandatory jail sentences. Misdemeanor probation comes with numerous conditions you must follow to avoid being rearrested.
What are Some Common Misdemeanors in Phoenix, Arizona?
Many crimes can be charged as felonies or misdemeanors, depending on the unique facts involved. For instance, theft is charged differently based on the dollar value of the property stolen. It is important to carefully review your criminal complaint with your lawyer to understand how your case is charged.
Some common misdemeanors in West Chester include:
If you are charged with a misdemeanor, get in touch with our team to learn how we can help. By fully understanding your side of the story, we can fight hard to prove your innocence to the jury.
How an Attorney Can Help with Your Charges
Now you know what a misdemeanor is in West Chester, PA. Misdemeanors in Pennsylvania are quite serious and require a serious response. Don’t risk your future by assuming the prosecution will just go easy on you; they won’t.
Hiring a criminal defense lawyer gives you the best chance of beating your charges.
An attorney will investigate the circumstances of your charges to gather evidence and identify defenses and alibis. They will use the evidence to negotiate a favorable resolution.
If a dismissal isn’t possible, they will negotiate for a favorable plea deal that helps you avoid the worst consequences of your charges.
If your attorney cannot reach a fair plea deal, they will take your case to trial to pursue an acquittal. They may be able to achieve a “not guilty” verdict on your misdemeanor charges.