May 2011 Archives

May 16, 2011

What a Nice Day the Delco Way

Mondays are always busy at my office. Not only do we get a lot of new clients calling that
got in trouble over the weekend, Mondays are the day for pre-trial conferences in Delaware County. We are usually double and triple booked for Mondays in Delco. In addition, my secretary is usually texting me all the new clients that called over the weekend. I try to get back to everyone on my cell phone in the courtroom hallway in between cases. I have to hustle between courtrooms to get to everyone. It can be stressful at times, but it is well worth it at the end of the day when you provide a good service for your clients and make a good living at it. To me, being a criminal defense lawyer in Pennsylvania is not work. I love what I do, and will never work a day in my life as long as I am doing this.

Today, I started out in Media, District Court. I was scheduled in front of District Judge Klein at 8:30 for a delco possession of marijuana case. My client was charged with
Possession of Marijuana, and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia. I called the police officer the week prior, and asked him if we could drop the case down to a Disorderly Conduct. Disorderly conduct is a summary offense and is a great disposition for a possession of marijuana/paraphernalia cases. It allows you to pay a fine and move on with your life. No probation, no community service, no more court dates, nor more nonsense - it's that simple, just pay the fine and move on. The officer explained to me that Judge Klein does not like to accept guilty pleas for Disorderly Conduct when drug charges are dropped. The judge does have the power to reject the plea agreement. After negotiating with the officer, he said his department doesn't normally do this, but he would speak with his sergeant about dropping this down to a Disorderly Conduct. I also called the DA that would be prosecuting the case, and got her on board with the D.C. plea. When I arrived in the courtroom, the place was packed with defendants, police and attorneys. Everything went smoothly. In court, the cop and the DA both agreed to the D.C. plea. Now we just had to get in with the judge. We slipped it in fast before she could even blink.

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May 11, 2011

Pennsylvania DUI Preliminary Hearing: What is it? What's the Purpose? What's the Strategy? (Part III of IV)

Continued from the May 7th, 2011 blog.

If you do not waive your Pennsylvania DUI preliminary hearing and choose to exercise this right, there are certain strategies a good attorney will implement. In a Pennsylvania DUI preliminary hearing, many times the judge will hold the charges for court. However, a good DUI defense attorney will set you up for success at trial by using the preliminary hearing as a tool. First, preliminary hearings are recorded in Chester County, PA and Delaware County, PA. There is a tape recorder running while the witnesses are testifying. I always check with the judge to make sure the tape recorder is running. That means your attorney's cross-examination of the police officer in a DUI case will be recorded. For a fee, you will have the ability to have this recording transcribed by a court reporter. If you plan on taking your Pennsylvania DUI case to trial, the transcript will be invaluable. Many times police officers are not prepared for the preliminary hearing and will make inaccurate statements when questioned. My office will do a thorough cross-examination and bring out inaccuracies in the officer's story. The officer will be stuck with the inaccurate statements he makes at the preliminary hearing at trial. If the police officer deviates at trial from what he said at the preliminary hearing, your attorney may confront the officer with the transcript. This is called impeaching the witness with a prior inconsistent statement. I frequently use prior inconsistent statements at trial to make the officer appear untruthful on the stand.

Continue reading "Pennsylvania DUI Preliminary Hearing: What is it? What's the Purpose? What's the Strategy? (Part III of IV) " »

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May 7, 2011

Pennsylvania DUI Preliminary Hearing: What is it? What's the Purpose? What's the Strategy? (Part II of IV)

Continued From the May 4th, 2011 Blog

At the preliminary hearing for a Pennsylvania DUI case or other types of criminal cases you will have two options: 1) you can waive your hearing; or 2) you can have a hearing and force the Commonwealth to present evidence. Waiving your hearing means that you concede that the Commonwealth has meet its burden on the charges and you allow the case to proceed to the next level. Many times deals can be worked out at the preliminary hearing. Deals at the preliminary hearing typically come in two forms: 1) negotiated waivers; and 2) liberty waivers. A negotiated waiver is when the Commonwealth will drop one of the more serious charges in exchange for a waiver on the less serious charges. The typical example is an assault case. Many times the Commonwealth will drop Aggravated Assault (a felony) in exchange for the defendant "waiving up" on Simple assault (a misdemeanor). A liberty waiver is when the Commonwealth will stipulate to a reduction in bail in exchange for your waiver of the preliminary hearing.

Continue reading "Pennsylvania DUI Preliminary Hearing: What is it? What's the Purpose? What's the Strategy? (Part II of IV) " »

May 4, 2011

Pennsylvania DUI Preliminary Hearing: What is it? What's the Purpose? What's the Strategy? (Part I of IV)

This week I was back in Coatesville, Pennsylvania, Chester County, to defend a 1st offense DUI at the preliminary hearing. I was in front of Magisterial District Judge Grover E. Koon. This case was an exciting one and really got me thinking about trial strategy for DUI defendants at a preliminary hearing. Judge Koon is one of two district judges out of Coatesville. Judge Koon is a laid back judge, and jovial guy, but I know from my time in the Chester County District Attorney's Office that Judge Koon is tough on crime and will usually hold the charges for the Court of Common Pleas.

The preliminary hearing is very important step in the criminal process and a good Pennsylvania DUI attorney will start planning his trial strategy at the prelim. Many of my clients ask me, "what is a preliminary hearing?" What is its purpose? It can be a tough concept to grasp, but I usually explain it to my clients in manner below. Other attorneys may have a different way of explaining it, but I like to keep things simple and easy to understand without using too much legalese.

Continue reading "Pennsylvania DUI Preliminary Hearing: What is it? What's the Purpose? What's the Strategy? (Part I of IV) " »