Recently in Preliminary Hearing Category

October 5, 2011

Disorderly Conduct Citation Dismissed by Oxford District Court Judge: The Importance of the "Cooling Off Period" or the "60-90 Day Continuance" in Pennsylvania Preliminary Hearings and Summary District Court Hearings Involving Fights, Assaults, Harassment

Last week, I had a Disorderly conduct citation dismissed by Judge Farmer in Oxford District Court in Chester County. I wanted to write about the strategy used to get this citation thrown out. This same strategy can be applied to Pennsylvania Simple Assault cases at preliminary hearings. The facts are as follows*: my client, a prevalent executive at a marketing firm, was cited for Disorderly conduct stemming from an incident that occurred while he was picking up his daughter from her boyfriend's house. The short version of the story is that the boyfriend's father was drunk and shouting obscenities at my client's wife who was sitting in the car. My client approached the boyfriend's father, pushed the father, the two shouted obscenities back-and-forth and eventually got the boyfriend's father in a choke hold before being jumped by other members of the family. The boyfriend's father and my client were cited for disorderly conduct. I was prepared to take this case to trial based on the premise that my client was defending his wife. Just as you are allowed to defend yourself in a self-defense case, you are allowed to use the same force to defend 3rd parties from harm. My client stated that the boyfriend's father was pointing at his wife and "going after her." His daughter and her boyfriend told police that this was not true. The attorney representing the boyfriend's father approached me in the hallway and we decided to request a cooling off period to have the charges dismissed. I spoke to the Pennsylvania State Police Trooper and he was alright with this disposition to the case. My client was obviously happy that the charge would be dismissed. Rather than going through a trial, my client agreed to this disposition.

Continue reading "Disorderly Conduct Citation Dismissed by Oxford District Court Judge: The Importance of the "Cooling Off Period" or the "60-90 Day Continuance" in Pennsylvania Preliminary Hearings and Summary District Court Hearings Involving Fights, Assaults, Harassment" »

September 23, 2011

Antoine Firm has Theft Charges and Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle Charges Tossed Out by Linwood District Judge

I wanted to write about a preliminary hearing in Linwood, Pennsylvania that was held last week that is worth noting.

A lady from Camden, New Jersey dropped her 1999 Kia Sephia off at a Leonard's Body Shop in Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania in March of 2010. She paid $1500 to have her car repaired. My client who was the shop owner's girlfriend, worked the front end of the business. She took the customer's cash and wrote out a receipt for the$1500. Her boyfriend owned the shop and performed all body work. After she dropped the car off months went by and no work was ever performed on the car. Subsequently, the owner was forced out of the shop and was forced to put the building up for sale. The customer could not locate her car. The police found out that the owner/boyfriend moved the car to his residential garage, never gave the car back and never contacted the customer. The shop owner basically kept the woman's car and never told her where it was. The Marcus Hook Police charged the boyfriend/owner and my client with Theft by Unlawful Taking, Theft by Deception, Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle and Disorderly Conduct.

Continue reading "Antoine Firm has Theft Charges and Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle Charges Tossed Out by Linwood District Judge" »

July 5, 2011

Sneaking Prescription Drugs into Delaware County Prison: Case Dismissed in Glenn Mills District Court

Last week I represented a client charged with contraband, possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. She decided to gamble and exercise her right to a preliminary hearing. She took the stand before the Honorable Richard Cappelli in the Delaware County Magisterial District Court. Defendants often waive their right to preliminary because the Commonwealth's burden is low. The burden on the Commonwealth at the preliminary hearing is not beyond a reasonable doubt. The Commonwealth must merely establish prima facia evidence. An easy way to understand prima facia evidence is that the Commonwealth must have some evidence on each element of the crime no matter how good the evidence is. Even if the evidence is false. This is not the legal definition but it is the way that I explain the term "prima facia" to clients. As you can imagine, this is a very low burden for the Commonwealth. The traditional thought pattern of many defense attorneys is to NEVER have your client take the stand at the prelim. No defenses are allowed and in Delaware County everything is recorded. Therefore, your client runs the possibility of incriminating themselves or saying something that will be used against them at trial. However, I have had a lot of success having client's take the stand at prelims. This year, I have had two cases dismissed this way. District judges have been receptive to defendant testimony. In this case, it paid off for my client to roll the dice. All of the drug charges were dismissed.

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June 11, 2011

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

Continued from the May 11th, 2011 blog

Back in May I was scheduled for this preliminary hearing in Coatesville District Court. My client refused chemical testing and the only evidence the Commonwealth had to convict my client were the field sobriety tests. When I arrived at this preliminary hearing in Coastesville District Court (Judge Koon's Court), I sat down in the lobby and prepared for my dui preliminary hearing as I always do. I sat silently next to my client and and read the affadavit of probable cause and police criminal complaint. These are the charging documents in a preliminary hearing. The police officer drafts them. These documents contain a narrative of the facts of your case and contain the charges that your client will face. It is important for your attorney to review these documents thoroughly. I always go through each one of the charges and review the sections and sub-sections of each crime. Sometimes the police will write down the wrong section or sub-section and will charge the wrong crime. A good attorney will leave no stone unturned and review these things thoroughly. I also read the facts of the case several times and prepare a cross-examination outline if I am going to have a hearing. I oberve other attorneys in court a lot. I notice that a lot of attorneys like to utilize their time socializing at the prelim rather than preparing and strategizing. They will fraternize with other attorneys, clients and court staff. This is great for generating business, but not great for conducting a thorough hearing. I take this hearing seriously and like to "put the heat" on police and prosecutors right from the start of the case.

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

June 1, 2011

Can A Letter from Your Dentist Can Get You Off Pennsylvania Drug Charges?

Reported by: Christiana Martin, Drexel University College of Law
Legal Intern for Jason R. Antoine, Attorney at Law PLLC, Pennsylvania Drug Charge Lawyer

I arrived at Marple Township District Court shadowing Jason for the first time. His client was on probation in Bucks County, Pennsylvania and faced new charges of possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia, and public drunkenness. Typically, if a probationer is found guilty of new charges, he or she will be violated by the adult probation department and incarcerated. However, if the attorney can have your case plead down to a summary offense, typically, the probation department will not violate. Pleading this case down to a summary seemed like a monumental task at the beginning. The client had a rap sheet of drug offenses a mile long. He was on probation for drugs and got caught passed out in his front yard with PCP laced cigarettes in his pocket. The client could have faced jail time for violating the terms of his probation -- particularly with lab tests in evidence that showed that the client possessed a controlled substance at the time he was arrested by a Marple Township police officer. It seemed the chances of reducing the sentencing grade were slim, and the client's record and conduct seemed to point towards an unfavorable outcome, but drawing from his experience defending clients for years in Delaware County courts, Jason Antoine negotiated with the Delaware County District Attorney's Office to make an amazing deal that kept his client out of jail. He had all of the drug charges dropped and the defendant plead guilty to two summary offenses: Disorderly Conduct and Public Drunkenness. All the defendant had to do was pay a fine and he didn't have to go to jail. How did Mr. Antoine get this deal? Answer = oral hygiene. No one expected the client's oral hygiene to come up in these discussions. Yet, a letter from the client's dentist saying he was a nice guy was among the materials introduced into evidence, prompting the District Attorney to jokingly ask if the defendant had good teeth. Though Mr. Antoine could not speak to the dental health of his client, he used the letter attesting to the client's great disposition.

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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) " »