Felonies Attorneys in Ridley Park, Pennsylvania
Criminal codes across the country generally break down crimes into two categories – misdemeanors and felonies. Of the two, felonies carry the heaviest potential penalties.
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania follows this system, and its statutes define felonies by their degree – first, second, and third. First-degree felonies carry the heaviest potential penalties. Murder, however, is in a separate category and has its own set of penalties.
If you find yourself being investigated for or charged with a felony in or around Ridley Park, Pennsylvania, contact the criminal defense attorneys at Adams Kearney Law. A felony trial or conviction can change your life completely, and we will work with you to develop a strong defense strategy to achieve the best possible result.
We proudly serve clients not only in Ridley Park but also throughout Delaware County, Chester County, as well as surrounding cities and the greater Philadelphia area.
Crimes Classified as Felonies in Pennsylvania
Some crimes are automatic felonies in Pennsylvania, while others can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the circumstances and the past history of the defendant. Many felonies involve physical harm to others, but some drug, theft, and white-collar crimes are also felonies.
Less serious offenses such as a DUI (driving under the influence) may be categorized as a misdemeanor, which can result in less serious consequences. The least serious crimes are called summary offenses and include minor incidents like loitering.
As mentioned earlier, felonies in the Commonwealth are categorized by the degree of seriousness, with a first-degree felony being the most serious outside of murder, which will be dealt with later. First-degree felonies include assault with serious bodily injury or the threat thereof, arson that endangers someone, kidnapping, home burglary, rape, and theft of property valued at more than $500,000.
Second-degree felonies include aggravated assault, aggravated indecent assault, assault with a deadly weapon without injury, statutory sexual assault, burglary of commercial property, and theft of property valued between $100,000 and $500,000.
Third-degree felonies include bribery, possession of child pornography, possession of a drug with intent to distribute, certain gun offenses, second or subsequent stalking offenses, and institutional sexual assault of a minor.
Murder Charges in the Commonwealth
Murder charges have separate sentencing guidelines but follow the same severity index of first-degree through third-degree and include attempted murder. Murder in the first degree is one that is intentional. Murder in the second degree occurs when the defendant is a principal or an accomplice in a homicide, while murder in the third degree covers all other types of murder.
How Is Sentencing Determined in Pennsylvania?
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania uses what's known as "indeterminate" sentencing for most felonies. What this means is that the presiding judge will set both a minimum and maximum prison term. The maximum cannot be more than the law prescribes for the class of felony, and the minimum cannot be more than half of the maximum. When the minimum sentence has been met, the defendant can apply for parole.
The state also sets guidelines for imposing sentences based on past criminal history and other factors, such as the age of the victim, in certain crimes, but the judge is not legally required to follow the guidelines.
When it comes to murder, however, the indeterminate rule for sentencing is out the window, and mandatory sentences prevail. In the case of first-degree murder, for instance, the jury will determine the sentence, with a choice of life in prison or the death penalty.
Potential Penalties for Felonies
A first-degree felony has a maximum sentence of 20 years, a second-degree of ten years, and a third-degree of seven years. First- and second-degree felonies also face fines of up to $25,000, while the fine on a third-degree is $15,000, tops.
Murder convictions have different sentencing possibilities. In addition to life or a sentence of death for first-degree murder, a defendant in a second-degree murder trial can also get life in prison.
A third-degree murder conviction can result in a fixed prison sentence of no more than 40 years or a mandatory life sentence if the defendant has a previous conviction for murder or voluntary manslaughter. Attempted murder can result in a fixed prison sentence of no more than 20 years, or 40 years if the attempt results in serious injury.
Depending on the crime for which you are being accused or charged, defenses can change, but in every criminal charge, you are protected by your Constitutional rights. For instance, police cannot conduct an illegal search or seizure, nor can they arrest you without probable cause. In addition, if authorities fail to read you your Miranda Rights, that can become an issue for getting the case dismissed.
It’s also sometimes the case that a law enforcement official will attempt to influence witnesses in a line-up of suspects or in a mugshot review. There is also the possibility of a witness or accuser pursuing a revenge motive to get even with you for some reason.
Whatever happens, you should remember the words of the Miranda Rights warning: “What you say can and will be used against you.” This means that, before answering any questions from police or prosecutors, you should obtain the counsel and representation of a criminal defense attorney.
Felony Defense Attorneys Serving Ridley Park, Pennsylvania
If you are being questioned about a possible felony or are facing actual charges, you need to contact us as soon as possible. We will develop an aggressive legal strategy to challenge the prosecutors’ allegations and protect your rights under the Constitution. If you or a loved one is facing a felony charge in or around Ridley Park, Pennsylvania, reach out to us immediately at Adams Kearney Law.