Pennsylvania Criminal Lawyer

Being charged with a crime may seem scary. The key to getting matters under control is to obtain guidance from an experienced counselor who can explain the procedures involved and options available and help make the choices needed to make the process go as smoothly as possible.

Criminal offenses all have a range of severe penalties as well as common defenses, and a Pennsylvania criminal lawyer with thorough knowledge of criminal law can help build a case arguing for the best outcome based on the circumstances. If you have been charged with a crime, contact an experienced criminal lawyer to get an advocate working for you as soon as possible.

Types of Criminal Offenses

Crimes are divided into misdemeanors and felonies. Misdemeanors are the crimes treated less severely under the law, with penalties that include smaller fines and less prison time or possibly no jail time at all. Pennsylvania criminal lawyers can assist in building a strong defense, no matter the severity of the charge.

At the less serious end of this range are what are known as summary offenses. Felonies have more onerous penalties that include heavy fines and lengthy jail terms.  Within these broad divisions, there are different degrees of severity.

Some crimes can be treated as either a misdemeanor or felony depending on the circumstances such as the use of weapons or the value or type of property involved. It is worth noting that some crimes classified as misdemeanors in Pennsylvania are treated as severely as felonies in other states, with prison time of up to five years.


Pennsylvania criminal law classifies misdemeanors into three separate categories, first, second and third degree, with first degree being the most serious and subject to the strictest punishment.

Examples of misdemeanors include:

  • Shoplifting
  • Fraud
  • Simple assault
  • Disorderly conduct
  • Marijuana possession
  • DUI
  • Prostitution


As with misdemeanors, felonies are also divided into three general classes with the addition of separate penalty classifications for first and second-degree murder. Besides murder, other examples of felonies Pennsylvania criminal lawyers have seen include:

  • Aggravated assault
  • Arson
  • Drug trafficking
  • Firearm offenses
  • Burglary
  • Sexual assault
  • Drug distribution
  • Major theft

Penalties for Criminal Offenses

The circumstances involved in a case usually play a key role in determining the classification of a crime and therefore the penalty prescribed under Pennsylvania criminal law. A simple assault, which is inflicting or attempting or threatening to inflict an injury on another person, is treated as a first-degree misdemeanor.

On the other hand, if the assault results in serious injury or involves the use of a deadly weapon or is acted against a public official, the crime becomes a first or second-degree felony, and the penalties are greatly increased, as seen below.

Pennsylvania criminal law sets forth the maximum prison sentence and fines for criminal offenses as follows:

  • Murder of the first degree:  Mandatory death or life imprisonment
  • Murder of the second degree:  Mandatory life imprisonment
  • Felony of the first degree:  20 years — $25,000
  • Felony of the second degree:  10 years — $25,000
  • Felony of the third degree:  7 years — $15,000
  • Misdemeanor of the first degree:  5 years — $10,000
  • Misdemeanor of the second degree:  2 years — $5,000
  • Misdemeanor of the third degree:  1 year — $2,000
  • Summary Offense:  90 days — $300

How a Criminal Lawyer Can Help

An attorney familiar with the practical details of criminal law can help guide clients through the process, help build the finest possible defense, and provide advice on the steps to take to work toward the best resolution of the case. If you have been charged with a crime, contact a Pennsylvania criminal lawyer today to get an experienced advocate on your side. If you are facing charges in Philadelphia, an experienced Philadelphia attorney can help you understand local laws and regulations.