If you are charged with a crime, especially one involving an illegal gun, drugs or DUI, in Pennsylvania, you’ll have to consider whether a plea deal is the right choice for you. This isn’t an easy decision and it’s important to speak to a criminal defense lawyer like Alfonso Gambone of Gambone & Associates in Philadelphia.
Alfonso is a former military prosecutor, an Iraq War veteran, and one of the most knowledge criminal defense attorneys in our area.
QUESTION: Alfonso, can you tell me some reasons why a person should reject a plea deal and fight a criminal charge in Pennsylvania?
Answer:Rob, there are several reasons why a person should reject a plea offer and proceed to trial.
- In many criminal cases the prosecution has “over charged” a person. The prosecution must meet each and every element of an offense beyond a reasonable doubt.
- Frequently we’ll see cases where the assistant district attorney or prosecutor will have little, if any chance of getting a conviction on all of the charges especially on the most serious felony offense like gun and drug charges.
- There are also degrees of offenses in Pennsylvania. An aggravated assault, for example, can be a felony of the first on second degree but it can also be the misdemeanor offense of simple assault.
- If you’re considering a plea offer, your criminal defense lawyer needs to consider not only the charges but the degrees of the offense. This can make a huge difference during the evaluation of a plea offer.
QUESTION: I’ve heard about criminal cases where evidence was illegally obtained or the evidence doesn’t fit with the criminal charges. Can you explain how that would effect a person’s decision to plead guilty?
The two most powerful pre-trial motions in a criminal defense are a motion to quash and motions to suppress evidence. A motion to quash asks the court to dismiss the case or some of the charges because the prosecution is unable to present a case in which a judge or jury could find you guilty. A motion to quash basically says that the prosecution is unable to meet the elements under the law and therefore the case shouldn’t go forward.
In a drug case, for example, where the defendant is charged with possession with the intent to deliver (PWID) drugs or some other controlled substance, a motion to quash would argue that there are no observed drug sales and/ or the district attorney can’t even present an expert to testify as to the defendant’s intent on selling drugs.
In this situation the court could dismiss at least the felony drug charge because it would be impossible for the prosecution to meet the burden of proof and no judge or jury could do it.
Motions to Suppress evidence, asks the court to throw out critical pieces of evidence such as drugs from a narcotics prosecution, blood results from a DUI or drunk driving case and even a gun from an illegal firearms case. Motions to Suppress are based on the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article 1, Section 8 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, which protects a person against unreasonable searches and seizures.
QUESTION: What if you’ve never been in trouble before and this is your first time. How can that help your criminal case?
The evidentiary standard in a criminal trial is guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and that burden is always on the prosecution. Remember that your defense isn’t required to do anything and so it’s prosecution’s burden to prove its case. While the defense technically doesn’t have to do anything, a good defense strategy should focus on creating reasonable doubt in the eyes of the judge or jury.
In addition to cross examining the prosecution’s witnesses, two ways of creating reasonable doubt is through defense fact witnesses and your good character. There is a difference between fact witnesses and character witnesses. Fact witnesses will testify as to what occurred on the day in question because they observed it. Character witnesses aren’t being called to testify to what occurred but rather your reputation in the community for being an honest, peaceful, and a law abiding person
Fact witnesses provide the judge or jury with a different version of what actually occurred. The judge or jury will have to weigh the two versions and decide whether or not the inconsistencies equate to reasonable doubt. Remember reasonable doubt is the pause a person would have when faced with a decision of great importance.
Criminal trials aren’t about proving innocence but rather telling a judge that he or she should have concern about the evidence and that the prosecution therefore hasn’t met their burden of proof.
With regards to character, in Pennsylvania and most jurisdictions, good character alone can create reasonable doubt which means that if a judge or jury believes that your good character causes them to pause, the prosecution hasn’t met its burden and he must find you not guilty.
QUESTION: How should a criminal defense lawyer evaluate a plea deal from the prosecution? Can’t the judge basically give you any type of sentence including jail?
If the prosecution is making an offer that is equal to the sentencing guidelines, you really aren’t getting a deal! Most judges even after a conviction will determine a sentence based on a set of guidelines that are published. Going to trial isn’t is about your risk vs. your reward of litigation.
Alfonso, thanks for coming back on the show this evening. If you would like more information on your criminal defense options call Alfonso at 215-755-9000 or visit his website GAMBONELAW.COM. Caller and visitors can also receive a free copy of his latest book-What everyone should know about drugs, guns and defense lawyers in Pennsylvania.
A criminal charge is something that hopefully that you and your family will never have to deal with. This can be one of the most difficult times in a person’s life and its important to understand your options. Whether it’s an illegal gun, drug charge or a DUI, understanding your options is the first step toward a successful outcome. If you are charged with a crime in Pennsylvania, visit my website GAMBONELAW.COM or call my office at 215-755-9000.
I’ve not only defended thousands of people just like you, I’ve written 3 books on criminal defense based on that experience that I want you to have at no cost. These books the explain basics behind criminal charges and offer the most effective defense strategies to fight and win your case. So before we sit down and discuss your criminal problem get your free books now. Visit GAMBONELAW.COM or call 215-755-9000.