Can a Lawyer Help You Avoid a Criminal Conviction?January 15, 2018
Having a criminal record can have many effects on your life. A conviction for a crime can make it difficult to do the following and more:
- Keep your job
- Find a new job
- Hold a professional license
- Participate in educational programs
- Be approved to rent housing
- Keep custody rights of your children
Because a conviction can adversely impact so many areas of your life, it is critical to avoid a conviction whenever you can.
Just because you have been arrested and charged with a crime does not mean you will automatically be convicted. An experienced criminal defense attorney has many tools and strategies to help prevent a conviction in many cases. The following are only some ways that a defense lawyer can do so.
Fighting for Dismissal of Your Charges
In some situations, an attorney can convince a prosecutor to drop your charges completely before your case ever goes to trial. A skilled defense lawyer will investigate the circumstances surrounding your arrest and the allegations against you to identify any evidence that your charges should be dismissed.
For example, if you are charged with possession of drugs, your lawyer may discover that the drugs were found in violation of your 4th Amendment rights. Your lawyer may then argue that the drug evidence should be kept out of your case and, if the prosecutor has no other evidence against you, they may have to dismiss your case. This is only one example of situations in which your attorney may get your case dropped.
There are several different programs called “diversion programs” in Pennsylvania for which a first-time offender of certain offenses may qualify. A diversion program allows you to put your case on hold while you participate in the program. Upon successful completion, your case can be dismissed without a conviction.
Some examples of Pennsylvania diversion programs include:
- ARD (Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition) Program
- Drug Court
- Section 17 or Section 18 Drug Program.
- SAM (Small Amount of Marijuana) Program
- Summary Diversion Program
- AMP I (Alternative Misdemeanor Program I)
- AMP II (Alternative Misdemeanor Program II)
These programs involve many requirements that must be met for a period of time before your case can be over, however, if you are able to abide by the conditions of the program, you can avoid a criminal record. Your lawyer can work to convince the prosecutor that you should be given a chance to complete a diversion program instead of having a conviction pursued.
Negotiating for a Suspended Sentence
Even seemingly minor crimes may come with a jail sentence. However, courts in Pennsylvania have the discretion to suspend a jail sentence for a period of time. During this time, you will instead be on probation and if you can successfully complete your probation, your case can then be dismissed without a conviction. Not every offense is eligible for a suspended sentence, however, your attorney can determine whether this may be an option in your case. They can then negotiate a suspended sentence as part of a plea bargain or argue to the sentencing judge that you deserve a suspended sentence as a way to avoid time in jail and a conviction on your record.
Acquittal at Trial
Some criminal cases go to trial for a variety of reasons, such as you were wrongfully accused of the crime. An experienced criminal defense attorney will know how to carefully build the strongest case possible in your defense. In order to convict you, the jury must believe that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, which is an extremely high standard. If your defense attorney can cast any reasonable doubt on any elements of your crime, the jury should acquit you of your charges.
There are many ways to cast reasonable doubt in a criminal case, including:
- Presenting an alibi
- Proving self-defense
- Proving lack of intent to commit a crime
- Demonstrating that an eyewitness identification was unreliable
- Proving forensic lab mistakes
- Challenging the evidence or witnesses presented by the prosecution
Your lawyer should carefully evaluate all possible trial defense strategies in your case to best fight for an acquittal at trial.
Contact a Philadelphia Criminal Defense Lawyer for More Information Today
If you are facing criminal charges, all hope is not lost and a conviction is not inevitable. At The Zeiger Firm, we vigorously defend clients faced with a wide variety of charges – from traffic violations to homicide. If you would like to discuss your situation for free and learn how our Philadelphia criminal defense attorney can help, please contact us online or call 215-546-0340.