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Frequently Asked Questions

We understand that if you’re facing legal trouble you’ll likely have questions and will have absolutely no time to waste in getting answers. While we always recommend hiring a private attorney as soon as possible, we like to provide quality answers to the commonly asked questions amongst our clients.

Below you will find answers to the frequently asked questions about our firm, preliminary hearings as well as general criminal information. Please note, the information provided is for the state of Pennsylvania and not case-specific.

If you have legal questions, please contact us to work with one of our experienced criminal defense attorneys. For additional resources you can view our video library, our blog or download one of our guides.

Questions About Firm

Where Can I Find You?

We are conveniently located at 124 West Bishop Street, Bellefonte, PA 16823, five minutes from the intersection of Interstate 80 and Interstate 99. You can get directions here.

What Are Your Available Hours?

Our offices are open Monday through Friday from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm. We can also schedule an evening or weekend appointment if you are not available during regular business hours. Please contact us directly to discuss and arrange this. In addition, we have a 24 hour 7 days a week phone line that you can call at 1-(814)-264-3445.

Where Does Your Firm Practice?

Manchester and Associates defends people against Criminal charges, DUI charges, and Professional License challenges throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. There is no area in the state that we will not go to serve our clients. Our firm is centrally located in Bellefonte, right beside State College, just 5 minutes from both Interstate 80 and Interstate 99. There are 67 counties in Pennsylvania, and our attorneys have represented clients in almost every one.

Do I Have To Meet My Attorney In Person Before My First Court Hearing?

It is preferable, but not essential, to meet in person before a hearing. Modern technology allows us to discuss your case over the phone, manage payments, and share important documents remotely by various means of communication.

How Will Manchester and Associates Contact Me About My Court Date?

As a client of Manchester and Associates, we will provide you with copies of any court notices or orders requiring your appearance through the mail. In addition to this, we also call all clients a week ahead of any previously scheduled Court dates, to remind them of their court date and to let them know which attorney will be present at the court hearing. Should you have any questions as to when or where your next court date is our staff will be happy to help you out.

General Criminal Information

What is the difference between a Felony, Misdemeanor and Summary?

PA separates its criminal offenses into four main categories. Murder, Felony, Misdemeanor and Summary. Murder, Felony, and Misdemeanor also have subcategories called degrees. As 1, 2, 3 and ungraded. A 1st degree is the most serious with the 3rd degree ungraded as the less serious.

What is the difference between ARD, Probation and Parole?

ARD is a form of probation where you serve a period on supervision without a conviction. Once the supervision is complete the charges are dismissed.

Probation and Parole are supervision that occurs after a conviction.

Probation is when you are sentenced to just supervision without any jail time. If you have a violation on probation, you can be resentenced to more probation or to a jail sentence with parole.

Parole is a form of supervision after serving a period of incarceration. If you violate your parole, it is likely that you will be re-sentenced to additional jail time. This resentenced jail time can be up to what is referred to a max sentence in jail. This is when you must serve your entire sentence in jail until your sentence maxes out.

Some Standard conditions on any supervision are: to stay out of trouble, regular reporting to your supervisor, no alcohol or non-prescribed drugs, remain employed or in school, you may not change residence without approval from your supervisor, a drug and alcohol assessment may need to me completed and then you must comply with any treatment that is recommended.

I am being Investigated, should I give a statement to the police?

It is normal for the police to ask you for a statement. You have the absolute right to not speak to the police and the right to request an attorney. These rights are guaranteed under the 5th and 6th amendments of the US Constitution.

There are situations when you should talk to the police. However, you should not do this without an attorney. At the bare minimum you should at least speak with an attorney first before you give your statement.

When giving a statement you should be mirandized by the police officer before the interview takes place. You should also have your attorney with you for the interview. These interviews may be recorded either by audio only or by video. It is usually in your best interest to have the interview recorded this way nothing can be taken out of context and the questions and answers can be reviewed later if needed.

Giving a confession during one of these interviews does not mean you will get a lenient or favorable sentence. The police have no control over your sentence. All they can do is tell the District Attorney that you co-operated and gave a confession. The plea offer is up to the District Attorney and the sentencing is ultimately determined by the sentencing Judge.

My Family Member/Friend called the cops on me, now they want to drop the charges, can they do that?

The short answer is no, only members of PA law Enforcement, be it PA State Police, local police, or the Attorney General’s Office can charge criminal offenses. Once the police are called whether or not charges are filed is up to the police and the District Attorney or Attorney General. Once charges have been filed only the prosecuting attorney be it the District Attorney or Attorney General can withdraw or dismiss charges.

The Prosecutors do not need the person who called the cops to be a cooperating witness they can continue to pursue charges without them. They can also treat them as a hostile witness and call them to testify with a subpoena. This makes the Prosecutors’ case harder but can and does happen.

How does the Clean Slate Law work?

Pennsylvania passed a law that allows for criminal records to be sealed from the public and employers. This law became active on June 28, 2020. Should the law apply to your matter, then you will be entitled to have your charges sealed Automatically or by Limited Access Petition if certain conditions are met. All Summary Convictions are to be sealed after 10 years of the conviction if all the cost and fines for the conviction are satisfied. All Non-Conviction offenses are to be sealed automatically after 60 days if the charges were dismissed, non-prosed, or a finding of not guilty.

Automatic Sealing of your record, if any of the following conditions apply then your matter will not be sealed automatically and will either have to be done by Petition or your matter does not qualify for any sealing.

  • If you were convicted of a Felony or a Misdemeanor 1. If you have had other convictions within the past 10 years other, then the charges you are attempting to seal.
  • If you owe any court cost or fines for the charges you are attempting to seal.
  • Is it specifically stated that the charge you are attempting to seal cannot be sealed? Some of those are crimes against another person or family, firearm offenses, sexual offenses, cruelty to animal, or corruption of minors.
  • Were you convicted of any Misdemeanor 1 or Felony or any of the specifically stated offense that is prohibited for sealing during the same incident for the charges that you are attempting to seal?
  • Have you ever in your life been convicted of a Felony, two or more Misdemeanor 1s or higher, four or more Misdemeanor or Felony convictions, or been convicted of indecent exposure, sexual intercourse with an animal, failure to comply with registration requirements, weapons/implements to escape, abuse of a corpse, or prohibited paramilitary training.

If none of these conditions apply to you then your matter should be eligible for automatic sealing of your record.

If you are not eligible for Automatic sealing you maybe eligible for sealing by Limited Access Petition.

Pennsylvania allows for sealing of Misdemeanors if the following conditions do not apply and upon Court approval. If any of the following conditions apply you are not eligible for a sealing of your record.

  • Have you ever been convicted of Murder, a Felony 1, or any offense punishable by more then 20 years.
  • In the last 10 years have you been convicted of any Misdemeanor or Felony?
  • Do you owe any court fees or fines for the case you are trying to seal?
  • If the offense you are trying to seal a Misdemeanor 1 of any of the following categories. Crimes against another person or family, firearm offenses, sexual offenses including registration offenses, or corruption of minors.
  • Within the past 15 years have you been convicted of two or more Misdemeanor 1s or higher or any of the following: indecent exposure, sexual intercourse with an animal, failure to comply with registration requirements, weapons/implements to escape, abuse of a corpse, or prohibited paramilitary training.
  • Within the past 20 years have you been convicted of four or more Misdemeanor 2s or higher or been convicted of a Felony for any of the following: Crimes against another person or family, firearm offenses, sexual offenses including registration offenses.

If any of these conditions apply you are not eligible for your record to be sealed.

There are a lot of offenses that fall into the different categories of offenses that will disqualify your offense. These are listed in different areas of the law. It is important that you talk to an Attorney that understands this law and can tell you if your conviction will qualify. This Attorney should also know how to file the Limited Access Petition. As there are different processes and procedures in every county to get this Petition properly filed.

Preliminary Hearings

What Is A Preliminary Hearing?

A preliminary hearing is normally the first step in the criminal justice system in Pennsylvania. Depending on the crime(s) charged there may have already been a Preliminary Arraignment; if not this will be part of the Preliminary hearing. At a preliminary hearings, the commonwealth’s District Attorney needs to convince the Magisterial District Judge that there is enough evidence for your case to proceed to the next level of court. The level of proof required is very low: The DA only needs to show that it is more likely than not that a crime occurred and that is more likely than not that the person charged is the person who committed that alleged crime. Despite the low level of proof necessary for the case to move forward, this is an important proceeding where an experienced attorney can learn many things about the case and possible defenses against the charges.

Should I Hire An Attorney For The Preliminary Hearing?

Once you receive charges in the mail the Criminal Court process starts very quickly. It is our opinion that you should always hire an attorney to represent you any time you have been charged with a criminal offense. No one should go into a criminal case unrepresented. Our team of attorneys know the laws and defenses and how to apply them to the particular facts of your case.

What Can I Expect At a Preliminary Hearing?

The preliminary hearing is the first time that you have the opportunity to challenge the evidence the police are alleging in your case to justify the filing of criminal charges against you. It allows a defendant or their counsel to cross-examine the witnesses and present evidence in their defense.

What Happens Next?

Generally, the next Court date that you will be given is called the Formal Arraignment. This is the first time that you will be required to go to the main Court of Common Pleas courthouse in the County. You may have already been there depending on how that specific county handles their preliminary hearing. From this point forward you will not return to the Magisterial District Court office. Your case will always be handled at the Court of Common Pleas.