Lamb McErlane understands that criminal charges or a criminal investigation are one of the most daunting experiences that a company or an individual can face.
The criminal defense team at Lamb McErlane is well-prepared to deliver a wide range of services, from initial investigations through to trials and appeals. Depending on the needs of a given client, our firm criminal defense lawyers have achieved acquittals at hard-fought trials, declinations of prosecution following complex and intensive investigations or negotiations, comprehensive and favorable global resolutions, and significant appellate victories.
Lamb McErlane has extensive experience in both state and federal courts in dealing with criminal matters, as well as conducting coordinating parallel civil and administrative litigation. Lamb McErlane’s criminal defense team includes a former Chester County District Attorney and Supreme Court Justice; a former Assistant United States Attorney; Assistant District Attorneys from Chester, Delaware, and Philadelphia Counties; and a former public defender.
Moreover, the group’s criminal defense attorneys at Lamb McErlane are dedicated to a high level of personal service and help clients cope with stressful situations by staying in constant communication with all parties involved in the case. Whether the client is an individual or a corporation drawn into a prosecution as witness, target, subject, or defendant, the firm aggressively and effectively fights to protect our clients’ constitutional and other legal rights.
Lamb McErlane PC represents clients and individuals pertaining to a number of criminal matters, including:
- Assault – Aggravated and Simple
- Driving Under the Influence – DUI
- Driving While Intoxicated – DWI
- Drug Charges: Possession, Delivery, Conspiracy
- Expungement & Pardon
- Fighting – Bar Fights
- Insurance Fraud
- Murder, Attempted Murder, Manslaughter, Involuntary Manslaughter
- Public Intoxication
- RICO – Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations
- Retail Theft
- Sex Crimes: Sexual Assault, Indecent Assault, Corruption of Minors, Child Pornography
- Traffic Offenses – Speeding and other Moving Violations
- Theft, Burglary or Trespassing
- Underage Drinking
- Vehicular Manslaughter, Homicide by Vehicle
- White Collar Crime
- Simple Assault
- Marijuana / Marihuana
- Drug Trafficking
- Internet Crimes
Recent Criminal Defense Cases
- Represented a Chester County police detective charged with numerous theft related offenses over a 5 year period valued in excess of $60,000, including stealing cash from the police evidence room. In a highly publicized case in which the District Attorney’s office had requested 10-20 years in state prison, the client was sentenced to 11 ½ -23 months in County jail, and was made eligible by the sentencing judge for work release after 3 months.
- Represented an individual charged with a complex scheme to embezzle over $100,000 from his employer over the course of numerous years. Client was charged with 200 separate counts of theft related offenses, based upon the allegation that he created a fictitious company and diverted business from his own employer to the fictitious company so that he could profit from the diverted business. After having approximately half of the charges dismissed through pre-trial filings, we proceeded to a lengthy 7 day jury trial that included the introduction of over 800 trial exhibits. Ultimately, the client was found Not Guilty of all 102 counts he faced at trial.
- Represented a man falsely charged with robbing a Rite Aid pharmacy with a gun. The “evidence” against him included a surveillance video which the police and prosecutor believed showed the man robbing the pharmacy. There was also “eyewitness” identification by 3 witnesses in the Rite Aid who each claimed to have picked out the man from a photo lineup. Each of the 3 witnesses then was brought to the police station after the man was arrested and identified the man to the police as being the person who robbed the Rite Aid. After we filed pre-trial motions to throw out the identifications, and 4 days of hearings arguing the motions, the Court suppressed several of the identifications as being illegally obtained. After 13 months of preparing a defense for trial, the District Attorney’s office finally withdrew all charges against the man prior to trial. The man is in the process of expunging all of these charges from his record, as well as pursuing all other available avenues of recourse.
- Represented an individual accused of driving the wrong way on Route 202 and colliding head on with another vehicle, killing both occupants of that vehicle. The Commonwealth alleged that the client had been smoking marijuana “all day”, and drinking alcohol, prior to the accident. In addition to other charges, client was charged with 2 counts of Homicide by Vehicle while DUI, each of which carried a separate mandatory 3 year jail term, which the law required upon conviction to be served consecutively. After a 6 day jury trial, the client was found Not Guilty of the most serious charges of Homicide by Vehicle while DUI, and was found guilty only of the lesser offenses of the case.
- Represented a prominent local politician accused of threatening to kill an individual with a gun. After a jury trial, the client was found Not Guilty of all charges. Upon a findings of Not Guilty, and over the Objection of the Attorney General’s Office which prosecuted the case, the Court permitted the client’s record to justifiably be wiped clean, and his weapon be returned to him.
- Represented two brothers charged with the felony offense of shooting a weapon into the trailer of another individual in East Brandywine Township, as well as other misdemeanor charges associated with the same act. During a four-day jury trial, the trial judge granted our motion to dismiss the felony charge and one of the misdemeanor charges for lack of evidence on both clients. Only the remaining misdemeanor charges went to the jury. Despite the length of the trial, the jury returned Not Guilty verdicts for both clients on all charges in approximately 45 minutes. We since have successfully had all weapons rightfully returned to our clients, and more importantly had these offenses expunged from their records.
- Represented a college student whose tale began with an arrest for public indecency after he was found nude outside in a residential development. A search of his car revealed what the police believed were chemicals designed for some illicit purpose (most likely the manufacture of drugs). The police impounded the car, and later charged the individual with Burglary and related offenses for physically breaking into the State Police impound lot located adjacent to their barracks by cutting the surrounding fence, retrieving the chemicals from the trunk, and disposing of them. A subsequent mental health evaluation identified that the young man was suffering from a mental illness at the time of these events. Despite the argument of the Commonwealth seeking a significant jail sentence, the young man received probation.
What is a Preliminary Hearing?
Understanding the First Major Event in a Criminal Case
‘What is a preliminary hearing?” The simple answer is that a Preliminary Hearing is the first major event in a criminal case.
The purpose of the preliminary hearing is for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to show that there exists sufficient evidence to hold the case over for the Court of Common Pleas. Specifically, the Commonwealth needs to show a prima facie case – or that it is “more likely than not” that a crime was committed, and that the charged individual is the one who committed that crime(s). This is a very low burden for the Commonwealth to meet, and is designed to safeguard an individual from being wrongfully accused.
While the standard for the Commonwealth is low, at the Preliminary Hearing the Commonwealth must present witnesses to prove its prima faciecase. This gives the defense its first opportunity to cross examine the Commonwealth witnesses, and its first glimpse at the prosecution’s case.
Oftentimes, the events that occur at the Preliminary Hearing shape and define the direction in which the case will proceed, and errors or misjudgments at that level critically handicap the ability to present a defense at later stages in the process. As the first major event in a criminal case it is extremely important to have quality representation at the Preliminary Hearing to best protect your interests and guide you through the process.
What is ARD?
Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition, or ARD, is a program administered by the District Attorney’s Office in the county in which criminal charges are filed. The purpose of ARD is to divert a person’s charges from the normal criminal system, allowing the individual the opportunity to complete certain conditions (probation, evaluations and community service), ultimately making that individual eligible to have his or her record expunged.
ARD is most often available for first time, non-violent offenses, particularly DUIs (driving under the influence). In the case of DUI, completion of the program requires a CRN (court reporting network) evaluation and mandatory highway safety classes. For higher blood alcohol levels (.16 of above), those who refused blood/breath/urine testing, or those with prior DUIs, an additional, more comprehensive drug and alcohol evaluation will be required in addition to counseling. Certain counties also include mandatory community service as a condition of the program.
While acceptance onto ARD is wholly discretionary with the District Attorney’s office, certain prior offenses will preclude admission onto ARD, as will currently being charged with certain offenses. Prior DUIs within the past 10 years from the date of the most recent arrest will prohibit admission, as will the presence of a person under the age of 14 in the offender’s car. An accident which resulted in serious bodily injury to another person will also preclude an individual from being admitted onto ARD.
Admission onto ARD can often have serious consequences to other facets of a person’s life, such as professional licensing, car insurance rates, admission to post-secondary educational institutions and driver’s license suspensions. Experienced counsel should be consulted prior to applying for the ARD program.
Expunging Criminal Records
Pennsylvania law allows full expungement of criminal records in certain cases, and partial expungement in other. Expungement of a criminal record wipes clean all traces of that record, except for certain limited uses. The questions that need to be answered are “how and at what stage was the case resolved?”
With the exception of Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania has two main levels of courts in a criminal case: 1) District Justice Court and 2) the Court of Common Pleas. At the District Justice Court level, the District Justice has the duty to determine whether enough evidence has been presented to move the case forward to the Court of Common Pleas. At the Court of Common Pleas level, most cases are resolved through either a plea negotiation or a trial. If criminal charges are totally withdrawn at any point in the process, those charges can be expunged. If charges are partially withdrawn at the District Justice level, (e.g., some charges are withdrawn and a guilty plea is entered to others), the charges that are withdrawn can usually be expunged.
The charges at the District Justice Court to which the individual pled guilty may be expunged after the passage of five years if the individual remains free from criminal contact during that period of time.If charges are not withdrawn until the case reaches the Common Pleas level as part of a plea negotiation, the court will use a balancing test to determine whether to expunge the charges from the individual’s record. This latter case often poses significant hurdles to expungement.
Successful completion of Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition, or ARD, is a program administered by the District Attorney’s Office in the county in which criminal charges are filed. The purpose of ARD is to divert a person’s charges from the normal criminal system, allowing the individual the opportunity to complete certain conditions (probation, evaluations and community service), ultimately making that individual eligible to have his or her record expunged also may entitle an individual to have his or her record expunged.
One should never simply assume that his or her record has been expunged. While each Pennsylvania county operates differently, expungement most often requires a person to actively petition the courts to sign an expungement order, which then must be distributed to the numerous law enforcement agencies that maintain a record of the arrest.
Expungement is a time-consuming process that requires the assistance of a competent attorney. However, when done properly, successful completion of the process is well worth the effort.
New Law in PA: Certain Convictions Can Now Be Sealed
On February 16, 2016, Governor Tom Wolf changed the way the public can learn of or gain access to certain prior convictions in Pennsylvania. The new law permits a person to request a Court to seal records of certain past conviction so that only members of law enforcement and state licensing agencies may have access to those records.
Prior to the signing of this Senate Bill, only under extremely rare circumstances could a conviction for anything over a summary level offense be sealed by a Court. However, under the new law, PA convictions for most lower level offenses (misdemeanors or the 2nd or 3rd degree, or ungraded offenses which have a maximum imprisonment of two years) may be sealed by the Court after a period of 10 years from the date of conviction or release from prison or completion of probation/parole, whichever is later.
Certain lower level offenses are specifically excluded from the new law, including but not limited to most simple assaults, retaliation against a witness, Megan’s Law offenses, and 4 or more offenses punishable by 1 or more years in prison.
Law enforcement agencies and state licensing agencies will still have access to the otherwise sealed convictions. However, as a practical matter, no other agencies will be permitted to access such conviction, and no person who has had a past conviction sealed shall be required to disclose the sealed conviction. Therefore, a person who has had a prior conviction sealed may legally and safely state to employers, potential employers, financial institutions, housing agencies, etc. that he/she has never been conviction of the sealed offense.
The new law takes effect in 270 days from February 16, 2016.