Pennsylvania Criminal Charges + Sentencing, Hearings & Statute of Limitations

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Someone who has been charged with a federal crime in Pennsylvania will be prosecuted in one of the federal districts in the state. You will first be told of the charges that are against you and you will be held in custody until you have your preliminary hearing and your bond hearing.

About the Preliminary Hearing

The preliminary hearing in Pennsylvania will be held within three days of your arrest. However, your lawyer may decide to ask for an extension from the court so they can have more time to prepare your case. At this hearing, you and your lawyer will have the first chance to present a challenge to any evidence the feds have. Note that the burden of proof here is very low for the prosecutor. All they must show is probable cause, and witnesses can testify to hearsay, so in most cases, the government will have the evidence it needs to hold you.

But note that this hearing is a great time for your lawyer to obtain early discovery, obtain reports from the police, and probe for weaknesses in the prosecutor’s case. Another benefits is that the witnesses for the government may give testimony that can be used against them later.

About the Bond Hearing

This hearing occurs in Pennsylvania federal court when you ask the court to release you while the case is pending. Several questions will be asked to determine if you are qualified to be released on bond. If you are an illegal alien or a non citizen, you are less likely to be freed. Also, if you have an outstanding warrant or any pending state charges, you will probably not get bond.

The federal judge also will ask what ties you have to the community and the extent of your criminal history. Also, the judge will  want to determine if you are dangerous, and the severity of the charge against you. Last, he or she will determine if there was a victim of your alleged crime. All of these questions will answer if you will get out of jail.

Your chances of getting bond will increase if your lawyer has witnesses testify for you in the hearing. They should be able to talk about your character in a positive light. They also should be able to answer questions about where you will live and that that place is a safe and crime-free environment. Also, if you have any other pending criminal issues, those have to be resolved.

Note: You should talk to your lawyer before any information about pending criminal matters is brought up in federal court. Those charges could affect the federal charge for which you are being held.

Federal Jurisdictions in Pennsylvania

This state has these federal jurisdictions: Eastern, Western, and Middle.

Sentences for Federal Crimes in Pennsylvania

Whatever the charges are against you in Pennsylvania federal court, make sure that you have a very good criminal lawyer at your side. He or she can ensure that the feds are not overcharging you so that they can get you on a more serious charge than warranted. This could add years to your sentence. Also, your lawyer will make sure that your sentence will be in complete compliance with the federal sentencing guidelines.

Some of the factors that the judge will consider when making your sentence include:

  • Do you have a family and children?

  • Do you come from a tough background?

  • What is your previous criminal history?

  • Do you have any character witnesses?

  • Did you try to get drug and alcohol treatment, if you have a problem with them?

Top Pennsylvania Federal Crime Issues

Top federal crime charges the state in 2013 included immigration violations and white collar crimes.

Statute of Limitations in Pennsylvania

In the state of Pennsylvania, there is a  statute of limitations in effect for various types of federal crimes.

The purpose of this policy is to make sure that people are not prosecuted many years after a crime may have occurred. This ensures that you have the possibility of defending yourself against a charge. Evidence may have disappeared and witnesses may have passed away or not remember exactly what happened.

Typical statutes of limitations for civil and criminal violations are:

Civil Violations

  • Assault – 2 years

  • Contract – 10 years

  • False imprisonment – 2 years

  • Fraud – 5 years

  • Judgements – 20 years

  • Libel – 1 year

  • Personal injury – 2 years

  • Property damage – 5 years

  • Slander – 1 year

  • Wrongful death – 2 years

Criminal Violations

  • Arson – No limit

  • Assault – 3 years

  • Burglary – 3 years

  • Murder – no limit

  • Manslaughter – no limit

  • Rape – no limit or 3 years, depending on case

  • Kidnapping – 3 years

  • Robbery – 3 years