Being charged with a crime is a life-changing experience. A criminal conviction, whether for a misdemeanor or a felony, can result in severe repercussions for you and your family. This can include significant jail or prison time as well as major fines. Even a minor criminal offense can take a toll on your future, including the loss of a driver’s license, difficulty gaining employment, and difficulty gaining admittance to college.
At SMT Legal, we believe everyone deserves a second chance, and our criminal defense attorneys in Pittsburgh will work with you to help you get the best result possible when you are charged with a criminal offense. If you or a loved one are facing any criminal charges, let our law offices be your first call.
Navigating Pennsylvania’s Legal System with the Right Criminal Defense Lawyers
When you are charged, law enforcement officials are not interested in your explanation of why they are making a mistake. In fact, they are happy to let you talk, knowing that anything you say could be used to incriminate you in court. Telling your story to the police officer is not the way to go. You must wait until you have trustworthy legal representation from experienced criminal defense lawyers.
The criminal justice system is set up in favor of the prosecutors and the state. Every member of the police and court system is working to increase their conviction rates. When it comes to legal matters, you need someone who is on your side and will guide you from your preliminary hearing through your trial in a criminal court.
The criminal defense lawyers at SMT Legal understand how to navigate the complex laws surrounding charges, hearings, and trials in Pittsburgh and surrounding communities. We believe in building a solid attorney-client relationship so we can present the strongest defense on your behalf. This trust is founded on providing you with a thorough understanding of the legal issues you face and how we plan to overcome them.
Understanding the Benefits of Hiring a Criminal Defense Lawyer
A criminal conviction affects your immediate freedom and your entire future. Those with a criminal record have difficulty returning to work and home after serving jail time. Working with an experienced criminal defense attorney can help you avoid many of the consequences of facing these allegations.
A good defense lawyer will listen to your story and examine ways to showcase the positives while downplaying the negatives. They will analyze the evidence against you and find ways to dismiss it, poking holes in the prosecutor’s case against you. They can propose plea deals that reduce your jail time and fines.
If you choose to go with a public defender, you put your life in the hands of someone who may be competent but is often stretched thin across a huge roster of clients. They often meet with you only minutes before your arraignment. SMT Legal criminal defense attorneys in Pittsburgh will manage all hearings, negotiations for plea bargains, and interactions with the prosecutor. We believe all criminal defendants deserve a chance for the best possible outcome.
Representation for Criminal Charges: From Misdemeanors to Felony Charges
At SMT Legal, we are standing by to help when you need an experienced Pittsburgh criminal defense attorney. Our team has the resources necessary to investigate every aspect of your case and help formulate a solid, strong defense on your behalf. We are skilled in handling criminal cases involving misdemeanor offenses and felony charges.
Our criminal defense representation includes charges such as:
- DUI defense: DUIs can be charged if you have alcohol or drugs in your system. In some instances, a potential defense may be available if the drug was a prescription medication and you were unaware of its effects.
- Drug crimes: Manufacturing, possession, and sale of cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, LSD, and opioids carry severe penalties and can be upgraded to federal crimes if the activity crosses state lines.
- Internet crimes: You could face penalties for crimes involving the use of a computer or other device connected to the Internet, such as identity theft, credit card fraud, revenge porn, child pornography, cyberstalking, hacking, and distribution of a computer virus.
- Sex crimes: These involve actions that have an element of rape, sexual assault, or child pornography. They also include sex with a person under the age of consent, and conviction requires you to register as a sex offender, along with imprisonment and fines.
- Theft: Theft is taking any property from another person without their consent, such as shoplifting, pickpocketing, grand theft, petty theft, and burglary.
- Violent crimes: These include murder, domestic violence, simple or aggravated assault, and terrorism. The presence of a weapon typically creates an aggravating circumstance, which results in higher prison time and fines.
- White collar crimes: Affecting a larger number of people in most cases, white collar crimes usually happen in a business or as part of a business front, such as for money laundering. Other offenses include bribery, corporate fraud, embezzlement, insurance fraud, mail fraud, and insider trading.
We also offer guidance for cases involving summary offenses, which are the lowest-level criminal charge in Pittsburgh, PA. Summary offenses include actions such as loitering, harassment, and underage drinking.
SMT Legal criminal defense attorneys also work with clients who need an expungement of their previous convictions or charges. Expunging removes the charge from your record, making it as if it never happened for most purposes. This can improve your chances of getting a job, renting a home, or securing education funding.
Understanding Criminal Charges in Pittsburgh
If you have never been charged before, you likely do not know what you are up against when it comes to imprisonment and fines. Criminal charges in Pittsburgh fall into three categories:
- Summary offenses
Each kind of charge requires its own approach to successfully overcome, and our accomplished criminal defense attorneys in Pittsburgh have experience managing a variety of charges in each category. We can educate you about what to expect and what defense strategies we will use.
Summary Offenses and Misdemeanor Charges
These are considered the lowest-level offenses, but they do carry potential penalties. Likewise, a conviction for summary offenses and misdemeanors will become part of your criminal record and show up on a background check by employers.
For summary offenses and misdemeanor crimes, the following penalties could be applied:
- Summary offense: Summary offenses carry a maximum of 90 days in county jail and fines of up to $300.
- Third-degree misdemeanor: A conviction on a lowest level misdemeanor will result in six to twelve months in state prison and fines up to $2,500.
- Second-degree misdemeanor: A second-degree misdemeanor conviction can result in one to two years in state prison with fines up to $5,000.
- First-degree misdemeanor: A conviction on these charges will put you in state prison for 2.5 to 5 years, plus up to $10,000 in fines.
Notice that summary offenses only carry time in county jail, whereas misdemeanors put you in state prison instead. There is a vast difference between the two, and this becomes critical if the prosecutor wants to upgrade your summary offense to a misdemeanor or your misdemeanor to a felony. This is only one of the circumstances in which working with a tenacious Pittsburgh criminal defense lawyer from SMT Legal can reduce your penalties.
Charges can be upgraded depending on many factors, such as aggravating circumstances and the past criminal history of the person charged. The difference between a misdemeanor and a felony in Pittsburgh, PA is determined by the severity of the crime. Misdemeanors are crimes with lesser penalties, such as first-time DUI offenses, thefts, or simple assaults.
Prosecutors are always interested in increasing their conviction rate, especially if they can have the charges upgraded to punish you with more time behind bars and larger fines. Our job as your defense attorneys is to rebut their arguments, demonstrate reasonable doubt, and maintain your innocence in the minds of the judge and jury. We fight back against upgraded charges and work to have them reduced or dismissed.
Felonies are more severe crimes, such as sexual assault, murder, or aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Both misdemeanors and felonies are categorized by degree into the categories of 1st-degree, 2nd-degree, and 3rd-degree.
When we turn to felony offenses, we can see the following classes and penalties that could apply:
- Third-degree felony: This charge carries between three-and-a-half to seven years in state prison with fines up to $15,000.
- Second-degree felony: Each conviction will bring between five to ten years in state prison and fines up to $25,000.
- First-degree felony: The harshest penalties are reserved for first-degree convictions, imposing ten to twenty years in state prison and as much as $25,000 in fines.
Legal representation is especially important when facing felony charges because a felony charge stays on an individual’s criminal record forever. They also remove many essential rights as a citizen, such as the right to vote and the right to own a firearm. You may also lose custody of your children, face difficulty finding work after you complete your sentence, and be unable to rent a place to live.
Defending Yourself Against Criminal Charges
There are a number of strategies your attorney may use for your defense, depending on the nature of the crime, your past history, the severity of the crime, and how many victims were affected. Some common criminal defense techniques we used to help our clients succeed include:
- Entrapment: Your attorney can argue that law enforcement encouraged or coerced you to commit a crime you otherwise would not have committed. This is commonly used in drug defense trials involving undercover police posing as buyers or sellers.
- False confession: You can argue that you confessed to a crime you did not commit because the police and prosecutor subjected you to harassment or false statements to elicit a confession.
- Inconsistent witnesses: When a witness’s story changes or is inconsistent, your attorney can move to have their statements removed from consideration. They can also argue the testimony is not credible, showing reasonable doubt that you committed the crime.
- Police misconduct: When law enforcement officers do not follow regulations and procedures, your lawyer can potentially have their testimonies and evidence dismissed from consideration. False information or inconsistencies between police reports and in-court statements can also put their credibility in question.
- Reasonable doubt: The prosecution bears the burden of proving you committed a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Your lawyer will work to maximize the appearance of reasonable doubt in the minds of the judge and / or jury and persuade them to acquit you.
- Self-Defense: Violent offense charges can sometimes be reduced or dismissed when a criminal defense attorney in Pittsburgh can show evidence that you acted in self-defense or to defend another person.
Depending on the circumstances, your defense lawyer may also consider having you plead guilty to lesser crimes in a plea bargain. In some situations, it is better to take a lesser charge and punishment than take your chances with the evidence against you. Our experienced criminal defense attorneys will be able to help you determine the best course of action to achieve the best possible outcome for your case.
Understanding How a Criminal Charge Will Affect Your Record
Even if you are not convicted of a crime, you can still suffer many consequences by merely being arrested for an illegal action. If you are charged with a crime, but the charges are dropped, your criminal record will show that the charges were dismissed. Our Pittsburgh criminal defense attorneys have years of experience and can help you determine the best course of action in your unique situation.
A qualified Pittsburgh criminal defense lawyer can help you understand the significance of the charges against you and explain what evidence will potentially be used against you. They will represent you in court and can attempt to negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecutor on your behalf. If your lawyer cannot get the charges dismissed or reduced, they will work hard to argue the best case for you at trial.
If you are found not guilty at trial, you are eligible for an immediate expunction of the charges. This will remove the records of the arrest and trial. Some misdemeanor offenses may be expunged after seven years if you do not receive any new charges during that time period. Misdemeanor charges that are not eligible for expungement include crimes involving violence, weapons, or sex crimes.
Do Not Wait to Hire a Reputable Criminal Defense Attorney in Pittsburgh
When you are charged with a crime, your case will proceed whether you are ready for it or not. The justice system is sometimes called too slow, but prosecutors will move quickly when they feel they have a valid case against you. You cannot afford to take risks by expecting things to work out without a powerful defense strategy. The sooner you hire an attorney, the better they will be able to help you.
At SMT Legal, we know you may be weighing the costs and benefits of hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney to be on your side. Consider the fees you pay for the services of a skilled lawyer as an investment in your future. Without experienced legal representation and advice, you are “betting against the house,” gambling away your freedom and reputation.
Our attorneys protect your rights and make sure your voice is heard throughout the process. We are dedicated to serving the needs of all citizens and ensuring their Sixth Amendment rights and other constitutional rights are protected before, during, and after a trial. We will tenaciously represent your best interests against all odds, supporting you through this difficult time.
Contact the Pittsburgh Criminal Defense Attorneys at SMT Legal today to Schedule an Initial Consultation
SMT Legal offers a team of exceptional team of criminal defense attorneys in Pittsburgh, PA with a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences. Our unique skills are beneficial for all manner of criminal cases, including assault, drugs, sex crimes, and white collar charges, among other criminal charges. We work as a team to analyze and create the strongest defense for every client, combatting false allegations, bad evidence, and false information before your trial starts.
We also develop persuasive arguments for the courtroom to promote reasonable doubt and sway the decision in your favor. We also stand by you during the appeals process to continue the fight for your rights. Our qualified Pittsburgh criminal defense attorneys have helped people charged with crimes for years. We stand ready to defend you, no matter the circumstances. Contact us and schedule a consultation today.
Chris Thomas is a fantastic lawyer. I was facing a 15 day license suspension and he got it drastically reduced to a much more manageable situation. I went from a license suspension and double digit points to no suspension and no points. He made it clear throughout the whole process what was going on and he eased my concerns. I will go to him again but I hope I’ll never have to!
-Matt Groesch, Criminal Defense Client
Christopher Thomas was a PHENOMENAL attorney! He is thorough, kind, intelligent, and willing to work hard for you to win! He bent over BACKWARDS for my fiancee for his DUI. Got him the absolute minimum, which was a miracle in itself! No jail. No license suspension. Minimal probation and that’s it! He is worth EVERY dime! Do not hesitate to call and ask for Chris to represent you! He answered all questions I had, eased my mind, and worked with every obstacle we had! I HIGHLY RECOMMEND!!! Chris, you’re amazing and I cannot begin to thank you enough!! You saved my little family from a whole lot of heart ache!!!
-Faith Ann, Criminal Defense Client