Scranton Criminal Defense Attorney
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Criminal Defense Attorney FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions about Criminal Charges

Answers from Our Scranton Criminal Lawyer

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.

Recent Reviews From Previous Clients

  • Bill was successful in providing us with a great outcome.

    “We were referred to Bill by a senior member of law enforcement. As a parent, your worst nightmare is receiving a call that one of your children had found themselves in a situation that could have serious criminal ramifications. Bill was quite willing to accept our case, and immediately set about the task of learning and examining the facts, then having a detailed conversation with us as a group, and independently with our child. Bill walked us through all the implications of his actions, and outlined best and worst case scenarios so that we would be adequately armed with as much information as possible. A lot of that may seem standard fare for some attorney’s, but where Bill absolutely stood apart was the way he engaged us as a family. Granted, we do not have a lot of experience working with attorney’s, but the experience of working with Bill was in large part contradictory to the stereotype. He gave us the feeling that he genuinely cared about our child’s well-being, and we walked away from our initial meeting with an assured feeling that he would do whatever it took to provide us with the best possible outcome. This was a traumatic experience for our child, but through it all, he actually looked up to Bill as not just his attorney, but somewhat of a mentor. This speaks volumes to Bill’s ability to effectively communicate with us, and the level of transparency into the process that he provided. Bill was successful in providing us with a great outcome, and we are extremely grateful for his dedication to the case and his brilliance in the execution of it. We would 100% recommend Bill with no reservations whatsoever. ”

    Former Client

  • I just wanted to say thanks for doing such a good job handling my case. You are the best Billy. I highly recommend him to anyone who needs a lawyer.

    “I just wanted to say thanks for doing such a good job handling my case. Every other lawyer I talked to told me that I was getting 5 years for my second DUI and you got me six months [probation]. You are the best Billy. I highly recommend him to anyone who needs a lawyer. ”


  • I'd just like to thank him and I would recommend him to any friends or family member. So thank you Bill for everything you managed to do for me, I appreciate it more then I can put into words.

    “I'd just like to thank him and I would recommend him to any friends or family member. So thank you Bill for everything you managed to do for me, I appreciate it more then I can put into words. ”

  • We would definitely recommend him to friends!

    “We were referred to Bill by a lawyer who had previously help us with some real estate issues when we were looking for a criminal lawyer. From the first call, Bill was great with communication and keeping us update with information. He explained everything very clearly from the worst case scenario to the most realistic. He made sure every question was answered and did the research when necessary. Overall, Bill took what could have been a huge mess in multiple counties and helped us get a fair and reasonable resolution for everything. Honestly, we hope we never have to call Bill again, but we would definitely recommend him to friends. ”

    Former Client

  • I highly recommend him to others and I will continue to do so!

    “I met Mr. Thompson about 4 years ago. I was on probation at the time and I hired him in June 2011 for a reduction of my sentence. (I was sentenced in 2008 for 5 1/2 years Probation, among other things. Mr. Thompson was not my lawyer at the time ) After hiring Mr. Thompson he had a hearing set up with the Judge in October 2011, however I was violated before my court date. He immediately came to speak with me the day I was incarcerated in September of 2011. He kept me up to date with information regarding my case regularly. If I had questions he was able to answer them. For example I was on a certain block while incarcerated. He was able to answer my question. He was also in communication with my mother during that time to keep her up to date as well. He was reasonably priced in comparison to my previous lawyer. He managed to have my sentence reduced by a year and a half with a violation and I was out of jail in 43 days. I have used him in other situations regarding the law after being out of jail in November 2011 and I would use him again. I highly recommend him to others and I will continue to do so. ”