Our Philadelphia criminal lawyers have over 25 years
of combined legal practice – handling some of the
toughest cases in the country.
SKA Law is a premier, Philadelphia criminal defense law firm, founded by professional criminal attorneys. We take on cases other law firms turn down, because we know how to fight – and when to negotiate. Our goal is to get you the best outcome possible. No fluff. No nonsense. Our focus is results.
SKA Law takes on fewer clients than other firms – it’s because we believe that taking on fewer clients means we can provide more service, and better results.
Our firm has over 25 years of combined legal practice. Our Philadelphia criminal attorneys have been recognized by the top lawyer ranking services.
Our Philadelphia criminal attorneys are available 24/7- regardless of the holiday, or time of week. We are always available to help you.
We take on fewer clients than other firms. Each client works 1:1 on with one of our senior attorneys.
At the law offices of Amato T Sanita, Esq, this is more than just a slogan – it’s our philosophy, and belief. Our goal is to protect your freedom, and to ensure your future is protected. By working with our firm, you get legal representation when you need it the most for your criminal case in Philadelphia. We understand that dealing with the criminal system is overwhelming – the consequences cannot be underestimated. Regardless of whether it’s a small misdemeanor, or a severe federal crime, you need to understand the legal process – how it impacts you – and a Philadelphia criminal defense attorney, who will work for you. Our Philadelphia criminal lawyers treat each case as it’s own unique situation, and work hard to uncover evidence that will get you the best possible outcome. Founding partner Amato Sanita, understands that you’re very concerned about possible sentences, and issues in the future you might face. There are many aspects to a criminal defense case. Our goal is to show the court you didn’t commit the crime and/or don’t deserve the maximum sentence for the crime you’re accused of committing. Regardless of whether it’s a drug offense, assault charge, or bank fraud, our Philadelphia criminal lawyers work tirelessly to represent your interests in court.
Will I get a harsher sentence if I lose at trial after declining a plea offer?
Possibly, but not necessarily. The prosecutor could recommend a harsher sentence after a conviction at trial, rather than the one they proposed in the initial plea offer. Sometimes during the course of their investigation they may discover additional evidence since the plea offer which has changed their view of the case. They may decide they are able to prove more serious charges.
Can a no contest plea come back to haunt me?
The purpose of no contest, instead of guilty, is to avoid the automatic consequences of a guilty plea. Someone in a civil case cannot use the no contest plea to prove you are liable, which they could if you pled guilty.
What do I do if I am sure that I am innocent of the charges?
If you’re innocent, you should hire a Philadelphia criminal lawyer to help you as soon as possible in your case. The Philadelphia criminal attorney can call attention to the errors in the police report, or other misunderstood facts. In some cases, a Philadelphia criminal defense attorney can even contact the police before the charges are filed. In some cases, your attorney can seek a dismissal through a pre-trial motion. It’s important you proactively work on getting rid of the charges before trial.
Does the prosecution need to prove a motive?
No, a motive isn’t necessary. It can help show why defendants might have an intent to commit a crime, but the essential element is intent, rather than motive.
Can I be convicted if I did not know that I was committing a crime?
Yes. Not knowing the law is not a defense in most situations.
Can I be convicted if I misunderstood the situation?
It depends. Mistake of fact can be a defense to a crime – it if it negates the mental state required for the conviction. Mistakes usually must be reasonable if the crime requires intent. Mistake of fact isn’t an affirmative defense, so the prosecution has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt.
Can two states prosecute a crime that occurred in both states?
Yes, as long as essential part of the crime happened in each state.
What is criminal negligence?
Negligence is a state of mental of mind. It is equated with recklessness in the criminal world. It is a mental state lower than intent, or knowledge. Negligence and recklessness arise when a defendant disregards risk of harm.
What is premeditated conduct?
Premeditated conduct is an essential issue. It often is a factor murder charges – due to the fact murder is often a deliberate act. Premeditation involves thinking about an act before committing it. This excludes situations in which an individual acted in the heat of passion.
What is malice?
Malice is viewed as a higher level of intent, which can involve cruelty, or a high degree of deliberation. It happens in the context of violent crimes, in which someone suffered seriously, or died. Malice can be defined as an intent to cause death, or bodily harm to someone.
What is strict liability?
It means a defendant can be punished for a crime, regardless of their mental state. These crimes are usually minor, such as traffic violations.
What are the elements of a crime?
The prosecution has to prove certain points beyond a reasonable doubt. These are the elements of a crime.
Can a defendant be convicted based only on a confession?
No, a confession is not enough. Due to concerns about false confessions, there has to be corroborating evidence beyond the own statements. This evidence doesn’t need to be substantial.
Is involuntary intoxication a defense?
This can be a defense in very rare situations. It applies only if the defendant was forced or tricked into consuming alcohol/drugs against their will. Sometimes, it can apply if medication caused severe side effects. The defendant has to show a high degree of intoxication. You cannot use this as a defense if it was voluntarily consumed.
What is the statute of limitations, and how is it tolled?
This is the period in which the prosecution can bring charges after a crime is committed. Tolling the statute of limitations means it is suspended, and the clock isn’t running. The circumstances under which this can happen are rare.
Can I use self-defense if I was defending someone else?
Yes, there is a defense called defense of others. Your Philadelphia criminal lawyer can use this defense if they have a belief that someone else is imminent danger of harm. Your Philadelphia criminal attorney can use this defense stating that force used was reasonable to deal with the danger.
Can I use self-defense if I started the fight?
Possibly. Your Philadelphia criminal lawyer is the best person to help with this. You can use self-defense in a situation in which a reasonable person would believe that someone else was about to use force. You don’t need to wait to be physically struck.
How is murder different from homicide?
Murder is a type of homicide. Homicide is a category of killing where it wasn’t intentional, such as self-defense. Murder occurs when someone recklessly kills another person with degree of intent or recklessness.
Can I get an arrest off my record?
In some states, you can get an arrest from your record automatically if you are not charged. Sometimes, an individual may need to file a formal petition to get a finding of innocence. If the petition succeeds, the record can be sealed.
Can I see the criminal record of someone else?
Yes. They are public. You can search conviction databases online. They consolidate data from conviction records in courts throughout the country.
Can I own a gun after a conviction?
People who have been convicted of certain crimes, like felonies, and domestic violence crimes, are banned from owning guns. There are some exemptions, and sometimes an individual can get their rights restored if they have received a pardon, or if the conviction has been expunged.
Do juvenile defendants have a right to a trial by jury?
No. Thee constitution doesn’t provide a right to a trial by jury to juvenile defendants.
Is there a difference between sealing and expunging juvenile records?
Not really. Courts use the terms interchangeably.
When do I need a lawyer for a criminal case?
You should hire a Philadelphia criminal lawyer always. When so much is at stake, having a professional Philadelphia criminal attorney can make a huge difference. They can recognize problems with the prosecutors case. Even if you plead guilty, a Philadelphia criminal attorney can negotiate a better plea bargain because the prosecution will take you more seriously if you have a Philadelphia criminal lawyer on your side.
Do I need a lawyer even if the prosecution offers a standard plea bargain?
Probably yes. Even if you are offered a standard plea bargain, you should discuss your issue with a lawyer.
Can I change my lawyer? What about a public defender?
You may be able to change you lawyer if you are hiring a private Philadelphia criminal lawyer. You will need permission from the court. You are not allowed to make a change if it’ll cause an unreasonable delay, or undermine the prosecutions ability to make its case. Defendants don’t have the right to change their defender unless they ask the judge for permission.
Is a public defender a real lawyer?
Yes, they are fully licensed lawyers. There is no difference between them, and a private attorney in terms of their license.
What do I do if my lawyer does not communicate with me?
Your lawyer has a duty to respond to you and keep you informed about the status of your case. You can try to address concerns in this area through your agreement.
Will the prosecutor talk to my Philadelphia criminal lawyer or to me?
The likely will talk to your Philadelphia criminal lawyer. Lawyers are required to communicate with lawyers of opposing parties when they are represented rather than talking to clients directly. The prosecutor will give plea offers to your Philadelphia criminal attorney, and your attorney will act as a conduit.
Should I tell my Philadelphia criminal lawyer the truth, even if I may be guilty?
Yes, your Philadelphia criminal attorney needs to know the details of your case in order to make an effective defense. You should be honest with your Philadelphia criminal lawyer unless they tell you that they do not want to know what happened, due to ethical rules.
Are some cases harder than others?
Virtually every single criminal case has its own unique challenges. Some criminal charges are harder to defend than others. It’s in your best interest to speak to a Philadelphia criminal attorney as soon as possible so you can understand your circumstances. Some are more difficult than others. Some of the simplest cases don’t really require an attorney. If you face them – it’s possible to handle them on your own.
Murder Charges: These are some of the most serious charges anyone can face. Although every murder charge is serious, first degree carries the most severe penalties. This is because it involves premeditation, which means the defendant is being accused of planning the murder of his victim. First degree murder charges can be challenging due to the amount of evidence submitted. Attorneys will need to hire experts who can help poke holes in the opposing prosecutor’s case. Finding an attorney to defend you can be difficult because most have little to no experience with such cases.
Crimes Against Children: These are difficult to defend. These are very emotional cases, since they involve young victims and the prosecutor will use the emotional component of the case to win. The jury will find it hard to put aside their feelings.
White Collar Crimes: White collar crimes – such as fraud, and embezzlement, can be more challenging to defend than others. The investigation of these crimes is very difficult, and there’s a lot of evidence to analyze. The evidence is very difficult for jurors to understand. It means your attorney must find a way to simplify the evidence in order to win.
Can I be charged with a crime without being arrested?
Police officers can sometimes issue a citation, rather than making an arrest. This prevents overcrowding in jails. Sometimes it could pose a danger to the community, by allowing a suspect to remain at large. By signing the citation, you agree to appear in court as specified. You may be subject to arrest if you fail to appear.
How probable is probable cause?
The probably cause standard doesn’t require proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
Can an officer make an arrest for a misdemeanor without witnessing the crime?
An officer can typically not make an arrest for a misdemeanor unless the crime occurred in their presence. An officer can also rely on the observations of other officers, or admissions by a suspect. When a misdemeanor did not occur in the presence of the officer, they still can pursue an arrest warrant by submitting an affidavit to the judge.
What is a bench warrant?
This is a type of warrant which a judge issues when a defendant fails to show up in court. It can act as an arrest warrant, since the police can use the bench warrant to arrest the defendant and bring them back to court.
What is a bail hearing?
Bail hearings allow a defendant to ask the judge to a lower amount of bail. Or, it can result in the defendant being released on their own recognizance without paying any bail. The bail hearings are usually informal, and the judge can also hear witness testimony. The judge generally will not hear evidence from one side, without the other side being present.
What is a detention hearing?
Detention hearings are held in federal court. Prosecutors can bring a motion for this hearing if they believe the defendant should be held without bail. It can arise when a defendant is accused of a serious crime, such as violent crimes, terrorism, etc. Usually, a detention hearing occurs at the first court appearance. The defendant has the right to an attorney at a detention hearing, and they can present evidence and cross-examine prosecution witnesses. The judge will decide whether the defendant would pose a risk to the greater community if they were released.
Should I just stay in jail until my trial if the prosecution has a strong case, since it will be counted as time served?
Probably – no. You may not know whether you are guilty or not. Even if you are guilty, you may not get jail time as a part of your sentence. Jails aren’t pleasant places to spend time. Staying in jail means that the defendant will be under the supervision of law enforcement. States that a defendant makes while under supervision can be used against them. In some cases, people who take bail have an opportunity to impress prosecutors/judges by improving their conduct – getting into rehab, etc. They can help reduce any sentence which is eventually received. IT can even help convince the prosecution to drop the case.
What is the difference between an acquittal and a not guilty verdict?
There is no meaningful difference. An acquittal happens when at trial, the judge/jury finds the defendant isn’t guilty because the prosecution failed to prove its case. Sometimes, a judge/jury might offer a partial acquittal because they find the defendant is guilty of some charges, but not others.
How can someone be liable in a civil lawsuit but not guilty in a criminal case?
The burden of proof in civil and criminal are different. Plaintiffs in civil lawsuits have to prove their case by the preponderance of the evidence. In a criminal case, the prosecution have to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a much higher standard to meet. As a result, the same evidence in a civil liability might not be enough for a criminal conviction.
Can I postpone a civil case while resolving my criminal case?
Criminal cases usually take priority over a civil case, that resulted from the same events. Defendants can try to delay the civil case until the criminal case is resolved so that the prosecution cannot use the information from the civil case to support the charges.
How long does a criminal case take?
It all depends on how complex the case is. Simple misdemeanors are quick, and can be resolved in a few weeks or months. Felony cases can last several months, or a year. If the prosecution makes a reasonable plea offer early in the process, then the case might end sooner than if it goes to trial.
Does it Make a Difference if My Attorney is Familiar with the Courts?
Having an experienced DUI attorney who is familiar with the courts can be beneficial for defendants in a number of ways. Rather than going with a lawyer who will just go through the motions, an experienced trial lawyer has the edge in being able to anticipate certain situations and offer clients a more favorable outcome.
Here are a few of the reasons you want a DUI attorney familiar with the courts;
Knowledge of this Complicated Law
Depending on the severity of your DUI arrest, your attorney has been able to see from court experience what happens when a driver is just under or over the legal limit. While a recording over the legal limit certainly qualifies as a DUI, your attorney has seen judges and other lawyers plea bargain cases down a few points so that it becomes a reckless driving case. The reckless driving carries far less in the way of serious penalties, and could even result in the defendant being able to keep their driver’s license.
A DUI attorney who is familiar with the court has been able to see what circumstances it took to be in a position to get the charges lessened or dropped. If your case has similar circumstances, your attorney will draw on that experience and try to negotiate a deal that will rule more favorably in your case.
Professional Courtesy with Court Personnel
Unlike the lawyer who has not stepped foot in the courts, your DUI attorney has gained more than just experience seeing many of these cases play out. Each time that your attorney was in the court, they become more familiar with the judges, other lawyers, and the prosecutors. Trying these cases allows your attorney to see exactly how each of these individuals does their job. There could be some judges who tend to rule in favor of the defendants, while others with a more iron fist who need to be convinced to change their ruling.
The one advantage to having a DUI lawyer familiar with the courts is they tend to get a degree of professional courtesy from the rest of the courtroom personnel. Although this does not indicate favoritism, it does mean that these professionals have more respect for your attorney and that passes on to the defendant in these particular cases.
Knowledge of the DUI Recording Equipment
The complexities of DUI cases makes them some of the hardest to defend because the arresting officers have to many times make judgement calls. Although your attorney gets to see which testing was used to determine the level of sobriety in the driver, it helps to be able to see these cases and discover that sometimes the equipment was faulty. If the officer did not calibrate the device correctly, has little experience with a new device, or has a history of making mistakes, your attorney can draw on that experience to see if it applies in your case.
One of the advantages to being in the courts on a regular basis is that your attorney is seeing how other cases played out and what was effective when it comes to cross-examining the arresting officer. Your attorney will be seeing many of these officers in the court frequently, and if one officer happens to be involved with your case, it could allow your lawyer to use a successful strategy to weaken their case. Asking the officer why they choose one particular field test over another could reveal information that could allow the judge to dismiss this case.
Understanding the Needs of the Judge
There are only so many judges in this jurisdiction that are assigned to DUI cases. If you attorney is in the court all the time, they not only build a rapport with the judges, they start to understand what each judge needs as far as ruling more favorable. One judge might put heavy weight into the fact the driver has a spotless record before the incident, so your attorney can work that angle. Another judge might be a stickler for specifics, and whether the police or the lawyers, if the paperwork is not in order, they will rule accordingly.
Being in the court all the time allows your DUI attorney to see the unique personalities of each judge and discover what it takes to get them to hand down more favorable rulings for the defendants. When you know the judge presiding over the case has no sympathy for mistakes but does play everything by the numbers, your attorney knows they need to find issue with the DUI recording device and numbers instead of trying for a sympathy strategy.
Retaining a DUI lawyer who is familiar with the court puts you in a better position to get a favorable outcome and to avoid an unforeseen circumstances that could derail the case and make matters worse.