Frequently Asked Questions

Answers from Our Scranton Criminal Defense Attorney

After you have been arrested or accused, it is important that you seek a knowledgeable Scranton criminal defense lawyer who can not only represent you in court, but can help you understand the charges you face and how they can affect your future.

At the Law Offices of William D. Thompson, our legal staff is here to offer you dedicated legal advocacy when you need it most. Read some answers to frequently asked questions below or call our firm at 570.666.1068 to schedule your free initial consultation.

What should I do if I am arrested?

Immediately ask to call a criminal defense attorney. Do not say anything to the police that could incriminate you at a later date. Do not answer any questions without an experienced criminal defense attorney present.

What is the typical procedural process associated with a criminal arrest?

Law enforcement may effectuate a lawful arrest by probable cause, filing a criminal complaint and the issuance of an arrest warrant, or a summons to appear issued by mail. You will then face a preliminary arraignment within 72 hours and a preliminary hearing within ten days of the initial arrest. The sole purpose of a preliminary hearing is to determine whether or not the Commonwealth can establish a prima facie case against the accused by establishing that a crime was committed and that the accused is the individual who committed it.

At trial:

  • If the matter is not otherwise resolved, then it must proceed to the Court of Common Pleas. Trial may commence in front of a judge or jury
  • If an accused is incarcerated, trial must commence within 180 days from filing the criminal complaint
  • If the accused is not incarcerated, then trial must commence within 365 days from the criminal complaint
  • If the trial results in an acquittal, then the matter is concluded
  • If the trial results in a conviction on any or all of the charges, then the matter proceeds to sentencing

A defendant has a right to be sentenced within ninety days of the date of conviction or guilty plea. After the court has imposed sentence, a defendant has a right to file a written post-sentence motion within ten days. The judge must decide that post-sentence motion within 120 days and the defendant has a right to file a notice of appeal with the Superior Court of Pennsylvania within 30 days of imposition of sentence.

What am I facing when charged with a DUI in Pennsylvania?

In Pennsylvania, the legislature has taken the position that a person’s Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) and the number of times the person has committed a DUI will dictate the punishment they receive.

Sentencing schemes for DUI offenses can be very complicated and always have serious repercussions. The maximum penalties can range from six months of probation up to five years of incarceration depending upon the BAC and the number of prior DUI convictions and many of the DUI tiers carry mandatory minimum sentences. The mandatory minimum sentences can range from 48 hours to one year. Finally, almost all DUI offenses carry mandatory driver license suspensions and ignition interlock installation.

When facing such serious consequences and life-altering repercussions, you should ensure you are represented by a skilled and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney. If you are faced with such a situation, please contact Attorney Bill Thompson immediately.

What are the best defenses for a criminal charge?

While all cases are different, there may be several ways to successfully defend the case depending upon the underlying factual circumstances. As with many things, the devil is always in the details. It takes an experienced and seasoned criminal defense lawyer to flush out the factual circumstances of a DUI prosecution in order to find inconsistencies, suppression issues, procedural defects, or insufficient evidence.

If I am arrested, do the police have to read me my rights?

Pursuant to the well-known United States Supreme Court decision in Miranda v. Arizona, an individual that is being subjected to “custodial interrogation” must be advised of their constitutional rights and make a knowing, intelligent, and voluntary waiver of those rights.

Any statements that an accused makes prior to being arrested are fully admissible at trial. Likewise, statements that an accused makes that are not in response to “custodial interrogation” and/or police questioning are also admissible.

Do I ever have to consent to allow law enforcement to search my person, automobile, or home?

Under very limited circumstances, a police officer can search your person without your consent and without a warrant. This type of search is referred to as a Terry Stop. If a police officer has a reasonable suspicion that an individual is presently armed and dangerous, then the officer has the authority to pat down the exterior of the individual’s clothing to check for weapons to ensure officer safety. The police officer does not have the authority to search the inside of your pockets or clothing unless he can feel a weapon or readily identifiable contraband.

Otherwise, an individual is never required to consent to a search by the police. Although law enforcement officials may threaten to detain individuals until a search warrant is obtained, you have the absolute constitutional right not to give consent.

During the investigation the police lied to me, can they do that?

Unfortunately, federal and state appellate courts have consistently ruled that law enforcement officials and police officers may lie or manipulate information in order to obtain a confession. Consequently, that is even greater motivation to wait to answer any questions until you have a criminal defense attorney present.

Should I represent myself?

We have all heard the popular expression, “a person who represents himself has a fool for a client.” Although harsh, it is really true. As a pro se defendant, you will be squaring off against the vast resources of the criminal justice system. Moreover, you will be attempting to negotiate with and argue complex legal matters against an assistant district attorney who is educated, trained, and skilled in the art of lawyering. It is never a wise decision to proceed in a criminal matter without the representation of an experienced and skilled criminal defense attorney.

What does “summary offense,” “misdemeanor,” and “felony” mean?

A summary offense is a very low-level offense that many would equate to a traffic ticket. However, there are potentially serious consequences that can accompany a summary offense. The maximum penalty for most summary offenses is 90 days of incarceration and/or a $300 fine. Certain summary offenses may involve suspension of your driver’s license or may have significant impact upon future employment, education, and/or housing.

A misdemeanor offense can range from 30 days of incarceration to up to a maximum term of five years.

A felony offense is the most serious classification of crime. Felonies can range from a maximum of five years of incarceration up to the death penalty.

What is the difference between probation and parole?

Probation is a criminal sentence that is to be served independently while under the supervision of the court. Parole is a means of completing a sentence of incarceration.

Both probation and parole may be revoked if the offender is arrested for a new crime or violates any of the technical conditions of release. The revocation process is generally administrative in nature. As such, the offender must be given notice and an opportunity to be heard by an impartial decision-maker. In the case of parole, if revoked, the parolee generally goes back to jail and serves the remainder of his or her sentence of incarceration. In the case of probation, if the offender is found in violation, then the sentencing judge may re-sentence. At the time of re-sentencing, the original probationary period may be restructured as a sentence of incarceration.

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