- AREAS OF PRACTICE
- ATTORNEY PROFILES
- NEWS + PRESS
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
CRIMINAL LAW / CRIMINAL DEFENSE
- What should you do if you have been arrested?
- What is the difference between a criminal and a civil case?
- What are your rights if you have been accused of a crime?
- What should you do if you get a call that a loved one has been arrested?
- How do you get out of jail after an arrest?
- Why should you hire a criminal defense attorney?
- What is the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor?
- What types of punishments do you face if convicted of a crime?
- Can a person be guilty of drunk driving after having only one drink?
- What is the role of state government versus federal government in criminal law?
- What is the difference between probation and parole?
- How does a district attorney decide which criminals to go after?
- What is the difference between rape and sexual assault?
What should you do if you have been arrested?
There are no hard and fast rules, but there are some excellent guidelines to follow. Don’t panic or get defensive. Remain calm even if you believe you are being wrongfully arrested.
The police are required to advise you of your “Miranda” warnings, i.e. that you have the right to remain silent and you have the right to consult with an attorney. Listen carefully to the explanation of why you are being arrested. While you are not required to answer any questions related to your guilt or innocence you will be required to answer questions regarding your identity, such as name, address and date of birth. Lying to an arresting officer in this regard makes defending your case that much tougher and could jeopardize reasonable bail.
Remember that you have the right not to answer any questions and if at all in doubt simply ask to speak to an attorney.
When you have the opportunity to make a phone call, contact your criminal defense lawyer or call a family member and ask them to contact an experienced criminal law attorney. Experience (and geography) are important factors in choosing the appropriate criminal law firm because criminal lawyers know the right questions to ask based on your situation and know the local laws, processes and even the authorities (police officers, district attorneys, judges, etc.) that you may be dealing with. At Greenblatt, Pierce, Funt and Flores, our criminal law attorneys have over 100 years of combined criminal law experience, and have consequently defended all types of criminal cases, in state and federal courts in southeastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey. We will discuss all aspects of your situation, including how your circumstances relate to your personal and professional life, and give you the reassurance you need during this stressful and frightening time. You will have ample time to ask questions and express your concerns, and if appropriate, involve your family and friends.
[ Back to Top ]
What is the difference between a criminal and a civil case?
A criminal case results from an alleged violation of federal or state law and is brought against an individual, business, or other entity by a state or federal government agency representing the alleged victim. For example, criminal cases handled by the criminal law attorneys at Greenblatt, Pierce, Funt and Flores range from minor traffic violations to violent offenses. For state criminal cases, the District Attorney’s office takes legal action; while an Assistant United States Attorney (or AUSA) prosecutes federal criminal cases. In criminal cases, a guilty verdict can result in incarceration, fines, probation or a combination of penalties.
A civil case stems from a lawsuit filed by an individual, business entity, or other party (the plaintiff) against a person, group, organization, or business entity (the defendant). Civil rights cases are typically brought when someone’s freedoms and rights have been violated, or there is a dispute of money, personal injuries or employment actions to name a few. In a civil action, a plaintiff may claim that another person or entity (the defendant) has not carried out a legal responsibility owed to the plaintiff. Both the plaintiff and the defendant are referred to as “parties” or “litigants.” Civil cases handled by the attorneys at Greenblatt, Pierce, Funt and Flores include employment discrimination law violations, class or collective actions, police abuse of power and violations of civil liberties protected by state and federal law. Civil cases typically seek monetary awards including compensatory damages (out of pocket monies spent as a result of a defendants unlawful conduct), punitive damages, (awards calculated to deter future unlawful conduct by the defendant) or other forms of relief including restraining orders or injunctions.
[ Back to Top ]
What are your rights if you have been accused of a crime?
In the United States, anyone accused of a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty. This means the government has the responsibility to prove beyond a “reasonable doubt” that you committed a criminal act. The United States Constitution guarantees certain rights to individuals accused of a crime. Among these rights are the right to remain silent, the right to legal representation, the right to reasonable bail, and the right to a fair and public trial. In addition, search and seizure laws protect your rights by insisting that the only evidence that can be used against you in a criminal trial is that which has been obtained consistent with constitutional protections.
[ Back to Top ]
What should you do if you get a call that a loved one has been arrested?
First and foremost, reassure your loved one that everything is going to be okay and that you will get in touch with an experienced attorney. Then find out as much detail about the arrest as possible. Ask what the charges are, which law enforcement agency made the arrest, where he or she is being held, and whether bail has been set and the amount. As quickly as possible, contact a law firm that specializes in the area of law related to your loved one’s arrest.
[ Back to Top ]
How do you get out of jail after an arrest?
Generally it may take approximately 12-48 hours after an arrest for a judge to set bail in a case, but every situation is different. Before a person can be released from jail, a bail bond must be paid to the court. The bail amount is based on the type of crime or violation, the person’s criminal record, and the likelihood the person may not appear for their court date. The bail bond ensures that the arrested person will return to court on the specified date. If the person appears in court as required, the court refunds most of the bail bond minus an administrative fee at the conclusion of the case. However, if the person fails to appear on their court date, the court keeps the bail bond money and issues an arrest warrant.
With some crimes, a judge may not set bail or may set an excessively high bail amount, making it unlikely that a defendant would be released prior to trial. At Greenblatt, Pierce, Funt and Flores, we make certain your right to bail rights is not violated. Our criminal defense lawyers are extremely conversant in the standard bail bond schedule that courts use to determine the bail amount for specific crimes. Our attorneys ensure that your Eighth Amendment rights which prohibit the government from imposing excessive bail, excessive fines or cruel and unusual punishment are honored when a judge sets the bail bond amount.
An effective criminal defense lawyer should also assist in figuring out the logistics of how to pay the bail or even if monetary bail is required at all. For those people who have never been in trouble before, an effective attorney may be able to secure a defendant’s release, on an unsecured bail bond, or simply on the defendant’s signature (known as a Signature on Your Own Recognizance “OR”). Your criminal defense attorney should also inform you about how to obtain the necessary bail bond and explain how bail bond services work.
[ Back to Top ]
Why should you hire a criminal defense attorney?
Simply put, an attorney that lacks the specific knowledge or experience as it relates to your legal situation could mean the difference between freedom or prison… life or death. Being charged with a crime is an extremely serious matter. You need an experienced aggressive advocate by your side that excels in the field of criminal law to ensure the best outcome for you and to protect you and your family throughout the entire process. Criminal defense attorneys have the experience and trial courtroom expertise (if a trial is needed) to protect you. It does not make sense to hire a lawyer who deals mostly in civil matters to defend you in a criminal case. At GPF&F we know the criminal laws inside and out. We spend countless hours in the court and are familiar with the criminal court practices in state and federal court. But our advocacy does not end in the courtroom. Rather we are committed to making sure that we see your case through the entire process and do not abandon you after we leave the courthouse. Indeed there are many issues that relate to a criminal case well after a case is considered “closed”. These issues include parole, probation, expungement (when you seek to have any evidence of your criminal record erased), as well as family issues, drug programs, housing assistance, and anger management programs. We endeavor to assist our clients with these “after care” issues so that we provide them with all the tools and support systems they need to get back on their feet after following the trauma that a criminal allegation can cause.
[ Back to Top ]
What is the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor?
This is a common question we hear from clients. Felonies and misdemeanors are the two main types of crimes in Pennsylvania, with statutes defining which crimes fall under which category. In New Jersey these are more commonly known as indictable and disorderly person’s offenses. A felony is the most serious, in Pennsylvania the most serious felonies or felonies of the first degree carry a maximum penalty of twenty years of incarceration. A misdemeanor crime is less serious, where a conviction could result in much less jail time, or in many cases results in probation. As experienced criminal lawyers in the states of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Greenblatt, Pierce, Funt and Flores knows how each state defines felony crimes and misdemeanor crimes. If we get involved early enough, we can often help avoid any criminal charges from being filed at all. In cases where charges are a certainty, we work towards getting the crime charged under the lesser offense which then provides us with additional leverage to prove your innocence. The process can be extremely complicated and it is critical that you work with a veteran attorney committed to protecting your rights under the law.
[ Back to Top ]
What types of punishments do you face if convicted of a crime?
It depends on the state, the type of court hearing the case, the criminal offense, the judge and, in some instances, the jury. Typical punishments for criminal convictions include incarceration in an inpatient drug and alcohol facility, a local jail, a state or federal prison or some other detention facility, punitive fines, restitution paid to the victim, community service or probation. Some crimes fall under federal sentencing guidelines, restricting the judge on determining punishment. For other crimes, punishment is left to the judge’s sole discretion after taking into consideration the facts of a case and the specific circumstances of an accused defendant. There are also crimes, such as certain drug offenses or crimes committed with a firearm that require specific mandatory penalties including substantial incarceration. Even some DUI or DWI convictions require the court to impose mandatory incarceration treatment programs and the imposition of driving sanctions including mandatory license suspensions.
The extent of your punishment also depends not just on how well your criminal law attorney represents your case but on the experience, knowledge and preparation that goes into sentencing can dramatically help when it comes to determining punishment for a particular crime. This is where the experience and courtroom savvy of the law firm you have engaged, has a major impact on the outcome of your case. Simply put, having a well-qualified criminal defense attorney at your side who is well respected by judges and their peers cannot be overstated.
[ Back to Top ]
Can a person be guilty of drunk driving after having only one drink?
It depends how impaired that one drink makes you and each set of circumstances is unique. To be convicted of drunk driving, it must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that your blood alcohol content (BAC) level was above the legal limit (.08 percent in most states). It doesn’t matter how many drinks you had if your BAC registers above the legal limit.
You could also be found guilty of drunk driving if you exhibit behavior of driving under the influence of alcohol and/or narcotics, even if the drugs in question are legally proscribed. The judge or jury considers police evidence concerning your driving behavior, results of field sobriety tests and testimony from witnesses about your alcohol consumption. If the jury finds the burden of proof has been met, you can be found guilty of drunk driving, even if you only had one drink. But there are always special circumstances, and the DUI-DWI attorneys at Greenblatt, Pierce, Funt and Flores are experienced in recognizing them. We recommend contacting an experienced attorney who not only handles DUI / DWI cases, but also has an impressive track record in the state where your offense occurred.
[ Back to Top ]
What is the role of state government versus federal government in criminal law?
Historically, the federal government gives U.S. states authorization to protect its citizens from criminal actions by establishing and regulating laws and prosecuting criminals in state courts. However, the federal government retains limited jurisdiction over crimes that violate the U.S. Constitution, and establish and regulate federal legislation accordingly. For example, numerous drug crimes, gun crimes and internet crimes fall under federal law.
The federal government also ensures that U.S. states uphold the U.S. Constitution in criminal law cases. The Constitution gives individuals arrested for a crime certain rights, including the right to an attorney, the right to a trial by jury, and the right to treatment free of cruel or unusual punishment. Federal agencies oversee state prisons to ensure individual rights under the U.S. Constitution are met.
[ Back to Top ]
What is the difference between probation and parole?
Probation is a criminal sentence that is typically given to first-time offenders or used as an alternative to incarceration, although a judge may order it in addition to jail time. If you are given probation, you can continue to live and work in your community, undergo rehabilitative services, perform community work sentences, or make restitution, all under the supervision of a probation officer. Once the probation period is successfully completed, the criminal sentence is dismissed though the conviction stands.
Parole is the conditional release of an incarcerated offender after serving all or part of a criminal sentence. A parole board determines the parole option based on the seriousness of the crime committed the defendant’s behavior in prison, and whether they have a place to live upon release and overcrowding at the prison. If an inmate is granted parole by the designated parole board, they are released from prison and are supervised by a parole officer to complete the remainder of your criminal sentence in your community. However, if a parolee violates any conditions of parole, they are sent back to prison. When the parole period is successfully served, the criminal sentence is discharged but again the conviction stands.
[ Back to Top ]
How does a district attorney decide which criminals to go after?
In criminal cases, the police are charged with the responsibility of investigating criminal allegations. Once their investigation is completed, they and send their findings to the district attorney’s office who then make the decision whether to pursue criminal charges. At GPF&F we are well acquainted with many of the investigating agencies. When involved early enough in the case, we can provide crucial information to the investigator that often results in no criminal charges being filed. After the police have completed their investigation they submit their reports to the district attorney or prosecuting authority. These reports often include the police’s recommendation about whether or not a prosecution should be pursued. These recommendations carry significant weight, however in the end it is up to the district attorney’s office to decide whether the case is legally sound to pursue.
The decision of whether or not to prosecute is at the discretion of the district attorney or the prosecutor representing the state or federal government in criminal cases. All of the attorneys at GPF&F are intimately familiar with the inner workings of the district attorney’s office. This provides us with a major advantage when it comes to resolving your matter favorably. Because the district attorney is an elected official, Greenblatt, Pierce, Funt and Flores work diligently to ensure that the rights of our clients are upheld; and that a case is not pursued merely because of political aspirations. If a decision to prosecute is made, the district attorney may then offer a plea agreement to settle the case outside of a trial, or if the crime is a low priority for their office may elect not to pursue the case at all. If a deal cannot be negotiated, then the matter is set for trial before either a judge or a jury.
[ Back to Top ]
What is the difference between rape and sexual assault?
Both rape and sexual assault are classified as sexual crimes of violence. Rape is defined as non-consensual and forcible sexual relations that involve oral, vaginal or anal penetration. On the other hand, sexual assault is defined as non-consensual sexual contact, such as fondling or molestation. Some states have revised their criminal codes to classify any sexual act under the term sexual assault and have different levels of punishment depending on the crime. However, many states continue to define rape and sexual assault as two distinct categories. For example, in Pennsylvania, rape is defined as the use of, or threat of force, while sexual assault is any act of intercourse without consent. Additionally, a rape conviction in the state often carries twice as much prison time than sexual assault. In New Jersey, the words “sexual assault” replaces the term rape in its criminal statutes. Under these updated statutes, rape would be designated as a first degree sexual assault.
[ Back to Top ]
The materials available at this web site are for informational purposes only and should not be interpreted as or for the purpose of providing any legal advice in any manner. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. Use of and access to this website or any of the content, links, and related media or materials contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship between Greenblatt, Pierce, Funt & Flores LLC and the user or person browsing this website. The opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual author and may not reflect the opinions of the firm or any individual attorney.