Criminal offenses in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania are divided into two distinct groups - felonies and misdemeanors. Although felonies are more serious, misdemeanors themselves are also fairly serious offenses which can result in years of imprisonment and thousands of dollars in fines.
Misdemeanors are divided into three subsects: first, second, and third degree. These criminal offenses have varying penalties, all of which are significant enough to warrant the retention of a Criminal Defense Attorney. The Law Offices of Greg Prosmushkin, P.C. has decades of experience defending people just like you from similar and more serious offenses.
Misdemeanor Offenses in Philadelphia
A first degree misdemeanor is the most serious. The degree of seriousness descends as the numbers increase (first is most serious, second is next, and third is least serious).
A First Degree Misdemeanor:
•- Is punishable by up to 5 years in prison
•- May carry up to $10,000 in fines
•- Includes offenses such as stalking, illegally selling weapons, and endangering the welfare of children
A Second Degree Misdemeanor:
•- Is punishable by up to 2 years in prison
•- May carry up to $5,000 in fines
•- Includes offenses such as bigamy, the reckless endangerment of another person, and resisting arrest
A Third Degree Misdemeanor:
•- Is punishable by up to 1 year in prison
•- May carry up to $2,500 in fines
•- Includes offenses such as lewdness, loitering, disorderly conduct, and providing alcohol to minors
While judges in Pennsylvania typically have broad discretion in sentencing, allowing them to weigh the gravity of an offense and levy sentences as insignificant as community service and/or probation, this is not always the case. Mandatory minimums on some offenses will deny the judge flexibility, meaning that if a defendant is found guilty, the judge will be forced to impose a sentence in line with the prescribed minimums by statute.
For the majority, however, the judge will utilize their own judgment while factoring in both the Offense Gravity Score (OGS) and prior criminal history of the individual. The OGS is a number which is meant to indicate the severity of the offense (the higher being more severe). This score will be weighed by the judge in conjunction with the individual's criminal record, whereby the judge will decide upon sentencing within the legal limits.
The primary difference here lies in judicial discretion. Generally speaking, a judge is to use the law as a guideline and after factoring in all evidence and relevant information before them, including criminal record, mitigating factors, age, etc., will levy what is hopefully an appropriate sentence. Mandatory minimums allow for no such flexibility. The judge is strictly bound to the penalties prescribed by law.
Why Do I Need a Lawyer?
A criminal defense attorney can present the best evidence possible and discredit any unfavorable evidence in aggressively advocating the merits of your case in an attempt to protect your financial and physical freedom from penalty. In the event judicial discretion is unfavorable, your attorney will be able to help you with any appeal you wish to file and continue their fight for you.
This content was written on behalf of Greg Prosmushkin.