The Blanch Law Firm’s attorneys have diverse backgrounds, covering all aspects of the criminal justice system. We apply our collaborative knowledge and resources to every criminal defense case in state and federal courts in Pennsylvania and across the country. We defend clients facing all manner of charges, from drunken driving to running elaborate drug operations or frauds, and even murder. A widely respected firm, we craft defense strategies tailored to the facts of each case. We never present a one-size-fits-all defense. Our attorneys strongly believe that an informed client has a better chance at a positive outcome. You can fully participate in your defense if you understand the process. We keep clients informed of the process and the status of their case until it is completed. The Blanch Law Firm is licensed in New York, but is able to defend clients in Pennsylvania through the Pro-Hac-Vice admissions process. To get started, here is a summary of the arrest process in Pennsylvania:
Police investigate a crime and either make an immediate, warrantless arrest, and then file a complaint with the local District Justice, or they file the complaint first. The complaint lists the defendant, the charges and a brief summary of the probable cause for the complaint. The District Justice then issues an arrest warrant or, in the case of less-serious offenses, a summons stating when to appear in court.
Regardless of whether a warrant was issued, every arrest requires a preliminary arraignment before the District Justice. At this first court appearance, the District Justice provides you with a copy of the complaint and advises you of your rights. At the arraignment, bail is set based on the severity of the crime, your prior record and the ties you have to your family and community. Bail is designed to guarantee that you appear for future court dates. A date for the preliminary hearing is set — between three and 10 days. You are not required to have an attorney at your arraignment or preliminary hearing, but we strongly advise it. The earlier we become involved in a case, the more we can control how it proceeds, and, hopefully, effect a positive outcome.
The preliminary hearing also takes place before the District Justice. At this hearing, the commonwealth must demonstrate that there is sufficient evidence that a crime was committed and that you are likely the person who committed it. If that is shown, the case is sent to the county Court of Common Pleas for trial or other disposition.
State and local police and federal agencies in Pennsylvania each have their own process for arrests. You may be held in custody at the police station or barracks or in county jail pending arraignment. All state charges must be filed in the District Court in the area of the county where the alleged crime occurred. Federal courts in Pennsylvania are in Philadelphia, Allentown, Easton, Scranton, Harrisburg, Williamsport, Wilkes-Barre, Pittsburgh, Erie and Johnstown. Federal arraignments take place in these courts.
Once a case has been bound over to Common Pleas Court for trial, the hard-core defense work begins. A pretrial conference is held. Generally, you, your lawyer and an assistant district attorney appear in court before the assigned trial judge. At this conference, the judge may rule on any pre-trial motions we have filed regarding discovery, dismissal of charges, preclusion of evidence and other issues important to how the case proceeds. You and your attorney have an opportunity to review the evidence against you and discuss any plea agreement with the prosecutor.
- Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane on April 25 announced the arrest of Sherwin Collingwood Jr. and Lynnasia Webb, both of Orange, N.J., who are accused of trafficking heroin from various Allentown motels for distribution throughout the Lehigh Valley. Agents from the Office of Attorney General’s Bureau of Narcotics Investigation made an undercover purchase and controlled buy prior to the arrests. About 892 bags of heroin were seized with an estimated street value of $9,000. Each is charged with one count of delivery of heroin, one count of possession with the intent to deliver heroin, two counts of possession of heroin, one count of criminal use of a communication facility, one count of criminal conspiracy and one count of dealing in proceeds of unlawful activity.
- On April 28, the Attorney General announced the arrest of Jacob Meadows, 21, of East Palestine, Ohio, who allegedly traveled to Pennsylvania to meet who he believed was a 14-year-old girl for the purpose of sex. Agents and local police discovered evidence on a girl’s cell phone that she was being sexually exploited. They assumed her identity and exchanged about 500 text messages with Meadows, most of which were sexual in nature. He arranged to meet the girl for sexual activity and was arrested. Meadows faces one count of unlawful contact with a minor, one count of criminal attempt/involuntary deviant sexual intercourse, one count of unlawful contact with a minor and one count of criminal use of a communication facility.
- On April 1, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced the filing of a criminal information charging Jeremiah Anderson, 29, of Port Jervis, New York, with the attempted robbery of a convenience store in Milford, Pennsylvania. Anderson and Daviandra Green entered the Hilltop Sunoco / Extra Mart, in Milford, Pennsylvania on October 5, 2011, and attempted to rob it without success. Green was also charged with the offense and pleaded guilty on January 8, 2014. She is awaiting sentencing.