Criminal Defense

Criminal Defense

Criminal charges can be overwhelming, but Frank can help you navigate a complex criminal justice system. After reviewing your case, Frank will vigorously leverage every opportunity to suppress evidence against you and get the case dismissed.

When your liberty is at stake, your reputation is at stake, and you are unfamiliar with the complexities of the criminal justice system, Frank can help you answer the difficult questions that a defendant in a criminal case must confront: Can I get my case dismissed? Should I take a plea? Should I go to trial? Will I do time in prison? As a criminal defense attorney, Frank can help with finding the answer to those questions.

Drug Offenses. Drug crimes can range from simple possession, which is a misdemeanor crime, to trafficking, which can carry a mandatory prison sentence of 15 years, depending on the substance involved. When a drug investigation is improperly handled by law enforcement, Frank may be able to get the charges dismissed based on the misconduct. Even in circumstances where a drug investigation is properly handled by law enforcement, the prosecution still must be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the charges against you. A skilled attorney will be able to show deficiencies in the prosecution’s arguments.

Gun Offenses. In Pennsylvania, if a person who lacks a permit to carry a concealed weapon but is otherwise eligible to carry is caught carrying a concealed weapon, that person will likely be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor, which carries a penalty of up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.00. If a person who is prohibited from possessing a firearm is caught in possession of a firearm, that person can be charged with a third-degree felony, which carries a prison sentence of up to 7 years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.00.

Possession/Possession with Intent. Possession can be proven by showing actual possession or constructive possession. “[A]ctual possession is what most of us think of as possession—that is, having physical custody or control of an object.” United States v. Nenadich, 689 F. Supp 285 (2d Cir. 1988). Under the doctrine of constructive possession, a person can be found to be in possession of contraband when he or she is not carrying, holding, or touching the contraband. If you are caught with drugs and the police suspect the drugs are for distribution, you may be charged with a felony offense.

Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol and/or Controlled Substances. Pennsylvania has a tiered system where sentencing is based mainly on two factors: (1) the level of intoxication or type of intoxicant used, and (2) how many previous offenses the defendant has had. Severe penalties include a year of jail time, 18-month license suspension, and a minimum $2,500 fine.

Search and Seizure and the Suppression of Evidence. “Article I, Section 8 of the Pennsylvania Constitution ensures that citizens of this Commonwealth are protected from unreasonable searches and seizures.” Commonwealth v. Johnson, 240 A.3d 575, 584 (Pa. 2020). If you have been charged with a crime as the result of a traffic stop or search of an area where you have a reasonable expectation of privacy, you have certain constitutional rights at both the state and federal level that may have been violated. If your rights have been violated, Frank may be able to get the evidence suppressed and the charges dismissed.

Q: What if I tell my attorney information that could be used against me?

A: That information is strictly confidential, held only between you and Frank. The law allows your attorney to reveal only information that helps your case. It’s known as Attorney-Client Privilege.

Attorney-Client Privilege. Clients and non-clients seeking legal representation are entitled to attorney-client privilege. Attorney-client privilege is a legal privilege that works to keep confidential communications between an attorney and his client private. The privilege can be affirmatively raised in the face of a legal demand for the communications, such as a discovery request or a demand that the lawyer testify under oath. A client, but not a lawyer, who wishes not to raise attorney-client privilege as a defense is free to do so, thereby waiving the privilege.

Q: What is the difference between a Summary Offense, Misdemeanor, and a Felony offense?

A: Offenses are graded as a Summary, Misdemeanor, or Felony depending on the seriousness of the offense.

Summary Offenses. Offenses graded as summary offenses carry the least severe penalties. Summary offenses often include minor crimes, such as disorderly conduct, harassment, driving while under suspension, and low-level theft. The penalty for most summary offenses is a fine and/or community service. However, some Summary Offenses carry mandatory minimum sentences of up to ninety days in jail. A defendant does not have a right to a jury trial in cases involving only a summary offense.

Misdemeanors. More serious than summary offenses are misdemeanors. The least serious misdemeanors are third-degree misdemeanors. Unless otherwise specified, ungraded misdemeanors have the same penalties as third-degree misdemeanors. The most serious misdemeanor offenses are graded as first-degree misdemeanors. First-degree misdemeanors carry a maximum sentence of up to five years imprisonment and $10,000.00 in fines.

Felony Offenses. The most serious crimes are graded as Felony Offenses. Felony Offenses carry penalties of at least seven years imprisonment. Offenses that are graded as a felony of the first degree carry a minimum sentence of ten years in prison. Felonies can and often do carry additional consequences that may last a lifetime. For example, under 18 Pa.C.S § 6105(b) it is a felony of the first degree for a person previously convicted of certain felonies to possess a firearm, even after the person has completed their sentence.

Murder/Manslaughter. In Pennsylvania, first-degree murder is premeditated murder and carries a mandatory minimum sentence of life without the possibility of parole and in some circumstances the death penalty. To be convicted of second-degree murder, also known as felony murder, the defendant does not even need to be the same person who committed the actual homicide. For example, if two friends decide to rob a convenience store and one of them ends up killing the clerk, the other can be charged with felony murder and, if convicted, be sentenced to a mandatory term of life in prison. Third-degree murder covers “reckless” acts that the defendant knew or should have known would cause the result (for example, if he shoots indiscriminately into a crowd and someone dies). In most circumstances, a defendant is charged with murder generally. This means the defendant can be convicted if the prosecution can prove any degree of murder. Frank and a team of experienced attorneys can establish and raise defenses against murder charges and will zealously represent you in court.

In addition to the penalties imposed by the court, a conviction can have severe consequences to your family, finances, career, and reputation in the community. Whether you have been charged with a Summary, Misdemeanor, or Felony Offense, it is important that you contact an attorney as soon as possible to discuss your case.

Q: What happens when I am charged with a crime?

A: First, you will be required to attend a Preliminary Arraignment, which may be conducted via two-way closed-circuit audio-visual communication. At the Preliminary Arraignment, a copy of the criminal complaint will be issued to you. If there is no warrant for your arrest, then there must be probable cause to detain you. If there is a warrant or if probable cause is found, the court will set bail.

Next, there is a Preliminary Hearing. The Preliminary Hearing must be held within fourteen days of the arraignment if a defendant is in custody and within twenty-one days if a defendant is not in custody. At the preliminary hearing, you and your attorney will have the opportunity to examine evidence against you, cross-examine witnesses, call witnesses, testify, and take notes and recordings. If at the conclusion of the hearing the court finds that the Commonwealth has established a prima facie case against you, then the charges will proceed. Soon thereafter, you will be formally arraigned unless your attorney waives arraignment, and preparation for trial will begin.

Q: Should I go to trial?

A: It depends. In Pennsylvania, only around two percent (2%) of criminal cases go to trial.
As a criminal defense attorney, Frank can assess the strengths and weaknesses of your case and determine the best way to move forward. If you are facing criminal charges, contact Frank J. Klopp, PLLC for a free consultation to discuss your case.

Contact us about your case for a free and confidential consultation.