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.
In Philadelphia, two courts — the Court of Common Pleas and Municipal Court — exercise trial jurisdiction in civil and criminal cases. As it pertains to criminal matters, Municipal Court has a limited role. However, that does not diminish the potential seriousness of the consequences of being charged with offenses that pass through or may be resolved in Municipal Court.
Philadelphia Municipal Court is the forum for any person charged with a criminal offense in Philadelphia. What happens in Municipal Court depends on the crime in question.
In most criminal cases, defendants in Municipal Court undergo a preliminary arraignment. This initial step informs you of the charges against you and your right to have an attorney, including one appointed by the Court if you can’t afford to hire your own. At the arraignment, you or your attorney receive a copy of the complaint with the charges. The Municipal Court Judge cannot ask you about the circumstances, facts or evidence that may be involved in the charge.
The Municipal Court in Philadelphia tries misdemeanor cases. In Pennsylvania, crimes that carry a maximum punishment of five years’ confinement fall under the misdemeanor umbrella.
Pennsylvania statutes classify a number of offenses as misdemeanors. Below are some of these crimes:
*Theft where the property involved has a value between $50 and $200
*Identity theft where the amount involved is less than $2,000
*Worthless checks of less than $75,000
*Possession of marijuana
*Prostitution (Pennsylvania treats this offense as a felony if the offender knew of his or her HIV-positive status or exhibited AIDS.)
*Most driving under the influence of alcohol offenses
Misdemeanor trials in Municipal Court are bench trials. That means a judge, rather than a jury, will hear the evidence and render a verdict. If the judge finds you guilty, you may “appeal” the decision. Commonly, this appeal is actually a request for a trial de novo in the Court of Common Pleas. There, you may exercise your right to a jury trial. As de novo suggests, the trier of fact in the Court of Common Pleas hears the case anew and is not bound by the decision by the Municipal Court judge.
If you plead guilty in Municipal Court or do not appeal, a Municipal Court judge will sentence you.
Felonies include crimes that carry punishments of more than five years in prison. These include murder, arson, sexual assaults and theft of property valued more than $2,000 or of a vehicle. In Municipal Court, the judge does not try you on these charges. Instead, the judge conducts a preliminary hearing to determine if there is sufficient evidence — if believed by a trier of fact — that you committed the felony. This is otherwise known as a “probable cause” hearing.
As such, a preliminary hearing normally does not involve the credibility of witnesses, unless no reasonable jury could believe the prosecution’s witnesses. A Municipal Court judge may dismiss a charge at the preliminary hearing if the facts, taken as true, do not constitute or prove a crime.
Felonies go to the Court of Common Pleas for trial if the Municipal Court judge finds the presence of probable cause or you give up your right to a preliminary hearing.
Thanks to 2013 legislation, Municipal Court, rather than the old Philadelphia Traffic Court, disposes of traffic violations in Philadelphia. In this group of matters lie violations such as speeding, improper or illegal turns, disobeying red lights and unsafe movements. Generally, sanctions for traffic violations take the form of fines and license points. The latter, which serve as traffic demerits, can lead to restrictions on or the loss of driving privileges.
Whether you face a felony, misdemeanor or traffic charge, you can benefit from effective representation in Philadelphia Municipal Court. Contact us to explore the prospects of dismissals or pleas that can reduce the harm to you from conviction of a crime or traffic violation in Municipal Court.