Montgomery County Criminal Atttorney – What Do You Need To Know?
Case Investigatory/Pre-Charge Stage
- Almost every criminal case in Montgomery County begins with an “investigation” by law enforcement. Outside of a few rare exceptions, criminal cases are initiated by police who file criminal charges and submit a criminal complaint to a local Magistrate Judge.
- The actual police officer is the complainant, or “affiant,” who “presses” the charges. It’s a common misconception that it’s the “alleged victim” who is the complainant, but often even where there are no victims (or even when the victim expressly does not want to file charges) police officers still “press” criminal charges.
- As the police officer is the “affiant,” they need to conduct some investigation before they prepare a criminal complaint. However, the extent of the “investigation” varies greatly from case to case. The “investigatory stage” could be as quick as an officer “initiating a traffic stop,” and immediately charging a suspect with DUI or possession of weapons or narcotics found in a vehicle.
- However, the investigation could extend several months, or even years, as police conduct additional surveillance, controlled buys, forensic testing, or otherwise attempt to gather additional evidence.
- Sometimes charges are never filed because of a lack of evidence, or the discovery of “exculpatory” evidence.
- Make no mistake, police officers are usually primarily motivated to find enough evidence to file charges. This is because, in many jurisdictions, one of the primary metrics of job performance is cases closed by charges being filed. Unfortunately, the emphasis on filing charges sometimes causes police to be more interested in making arrests and closing cases than doing justice.
Involving a Montgomery County criminal attorney in your case early, before charges are even filed, can sometimes make a substantial difference. Prior to being placed into custodial arrest, you have no due process right to avoid having your statements used against you, no Miranda rights, and there is no requirement that rights be read to you. Police could have substantial information that you aren’t even aware of, and may even try to harass or falsely promise you leniency in return for your “cooperation.”
- Police are permitted to lie to elicit incriminating information.
- As a normal person, you may not even know the criminal consequences of any statements you are making to police – Admitting to something “small” could become a very “big” criminal issue. There are many things that are crimes that you aren’t even aware of.
- When you aren’t given the option of consulting with an attorney prior to speaking with law enforcement, it’s often better to say nothing.
As a skilled Montgomery County criminal attorney, I am confident that I can assist you in navigating the “investigatory” stage of police interaction. I have extensive experience with police investigations, know their tricks, traps, and can help you determine when offers of leniency in return for cooperation are in fact genuine. It’s also never too early to begin laying out your case in your own defense. If you contact me or schedule an appointment to discuss your criminal case, you can retain me to lay out a concrete plan on how to proceed to help you achieve the best outcome.
In the next section, I discuss when charges are initially filed, what to expect, and what a Montgomery County criminal attorney can do for you.
Montgomery County Criminal Atttorney – When Charges are Filed
Although some people are fortunate enough to retain a Montgomery County criminal attorney prior to charges being filed, most individuals will hire an attorney once police have finished their investigation and filed criminal charges, either for reasons of necessity, surprise, or finance. What will happen next in the process depends on, first, the grading of the most serious offense: Is it a Felony, Misdemeanor, or Summary offense?
I’ve included a chart on the right (desktop) or below (mobile) that details the expected steps in each of the respective scenarios. The general rule of thumb is that the more serious or violent the offense, the more likely it will result in your immediate incarceration on monetary bail. For less serious (or dangerous) offenses, you may not even need to be “arrested” at all.
Felony charges mean that you are going to be arrested. Pennsylvania Rule of Criminal Procedure 509 leaves no discretion for police or judges to avoid the initiation of felony charges with an arrest. However, being arrested does not always mean you’ll spend any time in jail.
When you are “arrested,” expect to be brought before a magistrate judge either directly or (usually) by video arraignment. Video arraignment means you’ll be sitting in the holding cell of a police station (after being fingerprinted and “processed”), often without an attorney, on a camera that streams directly over to the local courthouse (or a designated after hours courthouse if the local courthouse is closed because of the time of the arrest.) The Judge will then listen to police, who often give a very one sided story of what occurred, may ask you some questions about your work or home situation, and then make a decision on bail. Bail must be set. However, it can be set at “unsecured” or “R.O.R.,” either of which means you are to be immediately released and do not need to post a “bond,” meaning you pay no money for your release.
However, it is far more likely for “monetary bail” to be set in the following cases (this list is not exhaustive):
- When the charges include a particularly serious offense, especially if someone was injured, even accidentally.
- Something in your background indicates you might be a flight risk.
- When there is an allegation of violence, especially domestic violence.
- If the circumstances of your arrest or charges indicate that you, or someone else, was put at risk of bodily harm.
- If you have a prior criminal record, especially a lengthy record or one that includes prior violent or serious offenses.
- If you are on probation or parole (Although this is often for your own good, speak to me about this.)
- If police specifically ask for monetary bail, often because they want to pressure you, or because the “affiant” is on bad terms with you for any reason.
“Monetary bail” means that you will be sent to jail until someone posts a bond or puts up a sufficient amount of money to bail you out of prison. This isn’t fun.
Hiring a Montgomery County criminal attorney may help you in avoiding monetary bail and being remanded to jail. Sometimes even just having an attorney present indicates to the Judge that you are serious about addressing the charges, and aren’t likely to run away because you’ve already spent money on your defense.
Having a Montgomery County criminal attorney hired prior to arrest can also help you avoid incarceration when there are arrest warrants, because your attorney can set up a “turn-in” date and time with the police officer and magistrate judge for a voluntary surrender. This can often do a lot to avoid monetary bail from being imposed.
Further, a Montgomery County criminal attorney can argue various factors that may call for reduced monetary bail or for unsecured or R.O.R. bail. Further, your attorney can always petition the same court or a different judge to reduce or eliminate the terms and conditions of your bail at a later date.
Misdemeanor charges are a toss-up. Misdemeanor charges are usually initiated by “summons.” A summons is simply an order in the mail with a date and time to appear for your first court appearance, rather than a formal arrest with an immediate decision on bail. However, if any of the following are true, expect to be arrested rather than issued a summons:
- The [judge] has reasonable grounds for believing that the defendant poses a threat of physical harm to any other person or to himself or herself;
- The [judge] has reasonable grounds for believing that the defendant will not obey a summons;
- The summons was mailed [to your last known address] and has been returned undelivered;
- Nobody can figure out who you are.
If you believe you are going to be arrested, or a loved one has been arrested, please click the tab for “Felony Charges” for more information on the arrest process.
Although the previous list includes the formal, statutory, reasons for an arrest warrant to be issued, practical experience indicates that the following are better informal indicators that arrest is likely (this list is not exhaustive):
- You are being charged with a misdemeanor involving allegations of violence, especially domestic violence.
- You are extremely drunk and/or high and the police officer thinks you might pass out.
- You are being investigated for other more serious crimes.
- You attempted to evade police interaction before hiring a Montgomery County criminal attorney to formally (and safely) deny further police contact.
- You are on probation or parole. (This may be for your own good, talk to me about this.)
- You have pissed off a police officer for any reason.
Hiring a Montgomery County criminal attorney may help assist you in handling police interactions in order to reduce the possibility of having an arrest warrant issued. However, sometimes dealing with an arrest warrant in criminal cases is unavoidable, as the local judge is only relying on information they receive from local police when they make the decision. You get no input. Unfortunately, this power can sometimes be abused. In the cases where the local judge decides to issue an arrest warrant based on police request, the outcome of the arrest can be greatly mitigated with proper counsel, often resulting in no time in jail and a quick in-and-out turn-in.
That is exactly what had to happen in a 2018 case that I took where a nice suburban mother (with no prior record) was charged with over 45 misdemeanor offenses, including “corruption of minors,” by an irate police officer who encountered her after police were called to a party where high school students were allegedly drinking alcohol. Fortunately, it’s the judge that makes the final decision, not the police officer. She was released within minutes. Sometimes law enforcement can really be ***holes… like anyone else.
If you are reading this, you are charged with something for which the typical punishment is usually only a fine (although theoretically up to 90 days in jail can be imposed for many summary offenses, it rarely ever occurs.)
There are specific restrictions on arrests in summary cases, which are usually initiated by a “citation/summons” handed to you on yellow paper, or through the mail. If you are arrested, it should typically only be if you’re walking around town falling down in the street because you are ****faced drunk or high, or shortly after breaking up a minor scuffle, and then you should be released once you are sober and/or calm.
Summary offenses (except for the exceptional driving under suspension charges, 75 Pa.C.S. 1543(a) and (b), which can come with 30 and 60 day mandatory prison terms respectively) are typically most damaging because of the effects on your employment, drivers license, criminal background, or other “collateral” consequences. If you are incarcerated for a significant period of time on only summary offenses, please call me so that I can discuss the case with you and potentially refer you to a civil rights attorney.
Otherwise, summary offenses are something you should be able to deal with from the street (with a Montgomery County criminal attorney if you are concerned about the outcome), not behind bars.
Montgomery County Magisterial District Courts (Local Courts), Current as of 2018:
MDJ 38-1-01 – District Includes: Townships of East Norriton and West Norriton
- 160 W. Germantown Pike, Ste D-5, Norristown, PA 19401-1386
MDJ 38-1-24 – District Includes: Townships of Franconia, Lower Salford, Perkiomen, Skippack and Worcester and
Boroughs of Schwenksville, Souderton and Telford
- 840 Harleysville Pike, Suite 2, Harleysville, PA 19438
MDJ 38-1-13 – District Includes: Township of Plymouth and part of Borough of Conshohocken
- 625 West Ridge Pike, Building”B”, Suite 101, Conshohocken, PA 19428-1188
MDJ 3 8-1-03 – District Includes: part of Township of Cheltenham
- 11 7 York Road, Suite 100 A, Jenkintown, PA 1 9046
MDJ 38-2-02 – District Includes: Townships of Marlborough, Upper Hanover, Salford and Upper Salford; Boroughs of
Green Lane, Red Hill, East Greenville and Pennsburg; PA Turnpike Northeast
- 80 H Gravel Pike, Suite 100, Red Hill, PA 18076
MDJ 38-1-18 – District Includes: Township of Montgomery, and part of Hatfield Township
- 601 Bethlehem Pike, Building “D”, Suite 100, Montgomeryville, PA 18936
MDJ 38-2-08 – District Includes: part of Township of Upper Moreland, Township of Lower Moreland, Borough of Bryn
- 102 York Road, Suite 100, Willow Grove, PA 19090-3294
MDJ 38-1-25 – District Includes: part of Township of Upper Merion and Borough of Bridgeport
- 128 West Fourth Street, Bridgeport, PA 19405-1805
MDJ 38-1-16 – District Includes: part of Borough of Norristown
- 601 DeKalb Street, Suite 200, Norristown, PA 19401
MDJ 38-1-04 – District Includes: part of Township of Abington and Borough of Rockledge
- 1150 Old York Road, Abington, PA 19001-2606
MDJ 38-1-12 – District Includes: Township of Lower Pottsgrove and part of Borough of Pottstown
- 1 Security Plaza, Suite 102, Pottstown, PA 19464
MDJ 38-1-15 – District Includes: part of Borough of Norristown
- 601 DeKalb Street, Suite 300, Norristown, PA 19401
MDJ 38-1-14 – District Includes: Township of Upper Moreland and Borough of Hatboro, part of Township of Horsham
- 420 S. York Road, Condo C-F, Hatboro, PA 19040-3989
MDJ 38-1-21 – District Includes: Townships of Lower Gwynedd, Upper Gwynedd, Whitpain and Borough of North Wales
- Blue Bell West, 653 Skippack Pike, Ste. 101, Blue Bell, PA 19422-1793
MDJ 38-1-28 – District Includes: Townships of Towamencin and part of Hatfield and Boroughs of Hatfield and Lansdale
- 430-440 Pennbrook Parkway, Lansdale, PA 19446-2007
MDJ 38-1-23 – District Includes: Township of Whitemarsh, part of Conshohocken Borough
- 4002 Center Avenue, Lafayette Hill, PA 1 9444-1440
MDJ 38-1-09 – District Includes: part of Township of Upper Merion and Borough of West Conshohocken
- 168 Allendale Road, King of Prussia, PA 19406
MDJ 3 8-1-08 – District Includes: Township of Springfield
- 1316 Bruce Road, Oreland, PA 19075-1899
MDJ 38-1-02 – District Includes: part of Township of Cheltenham and Borough of Jenkintown
- 117 York Road, Suite, 100 B, Jenkintown, PA 19046
MDJ 38-1-22 – District Includes: part of Township of Horsham
- 903 Sheehy Drive, Suite A, Babylon Business Campus, Horsham, PA 19044-1231
MDJ 38-1-11 – District Includes: Township of West Pottsgrove and part of Borough of Pottstown
- 1 Security Plaza, Suite 101, Pottstown, PA 19464-5499
MDJ 38-1-05 – District Includes: part of Township of Abington and the Willow Grove Mall
- 875 North Easton Road, Glenside, PA 1903 8-5298
MDJ 38-1-07 – District Includes: part of Township of Lower Merion and Borough of Narberth
- 116 A Cricket Avenue, Ardmore, PA 19003-1316
MDJ 38-1-20 – District Includes: Townships of Lower Providence, and part of Upper Providence, Boroughs of Collegeville
- 133 Level Road, Collegeville, PA 19426-3313
MDJ 38-2-03 – District Includes: Townships of Douglass, New Hanover, Upper Frederick, Lower Frederick and
- 1881 Swamp Pike, Gilbertsville, PA 19525-9667
MDJ 38-1-06 – District Includes: part of Township of Lower Merion
- 925 Montgomery Avenue, Suite 100, Narberth, PA 19072-1913
MDJ 38-2-09 – District Includes: part of Borough of Norristown
- 601 DeKalb Street, Suite 100, Norristown, PA 19401
MDJ 3 8-1-19 – District Includes: Townships of Limerick, part of Upper Providence and Borough of Royersford
- 497 West Ridge Pike, Limerick, PA 19468-1415
MDJ 38-1-10 – District Includes: Township of Upper Dublin and Borough of Ambler
- 1301 S. Bethlehem Pike, Ambler, PA 19002-5894
MDJ 38-2-04 – District Includes: part of Township of Lower Merion
- 925 Montgomery Avenue, Suite 200, Narberth, PA 19072-1913
What Will My Montgomery County Criminal Attorney Handle Next?
The information covered here is only a small part of Montgomery County’s (and indeed all of Pennsylvania’s) criminal procedure. Hundreds of pages can be, and have been, written to provide even just a minor overview of our state’s criminal procedure. Summarizing the entirety of the actual substantive law would take tens of thousands of pages, at a minimum.
In most circumstances, the next step of your felony or misdemeanor case will be a preliminary hearing. In almost all cases, you will then end up in the Norristown Court of Common Pleas, addressing your case before one of Montgomery County’s nine criminal trial judges.
Hiring a Montgomery County criminal attorney is absolutely an important investment in the outcome of your case. Remember, it’s your life, freedom, future employment, and reputation on the line. As a dedicated Montgomery County criminal attorney, I’d be happy to help you, and I am available to retain. Feel free to contact me so that we can discuss your case.
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