Testifying at the Preliminary Hearing and Trial: A Personal and Strategic Decision. #CriminalDefenseLawyer

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A decision that has to be made at every preliminary hearing or trial on criminal charges is the decision of whether to take the stand and testify.  You have the right to remain silent and do not have to testify if you do not wish to. However, you also have the right to testify on your own behalf, and at trial, your attorney can not prevent you from speaking. Whether you ultimately do speak at your preliminary hearing or trial is an important decision that you should decide with your attorney.

At the preliminary hearing, the temptation is almost overwhelming to tell your side of the story. The police or witnesses may present a story that you may know to be factually untrue, and you’re going to have an intense desire to call them out on it and tell the real story of what happened. However, testifying at your preliminary hearing is almost always a mistake. Its important to remember that at a preliminary hearing, the rule is that credibility of the Commonwealth’s witnesses is not at issue. Anything the Commonwealth’s witnesses say at this time will be taken at face value for purposes of establishing a prima facie case. Any testimony you give can not disprove their story at this time, and it can be used to impeach you at trial if anything you say ends up being able to be shown as potentially  inaccurate. Instead, its important to tell the real story to your lawyer, and allow him to build a record out of the Commonwealth’s witnesses that enables you to attack the merits of their case.

At trial, the analysis about whether to testify on your own behalf is entirely different. The pitfall of testifying on your own behalf at trial is that it opens you up to an intense cross examination from the prosecution that can draw out many facts that cast you in a bad light.  Also, if you have ever been convicted of prior crimes involving dishonesty (known as crimen falsi), all of these crimes may potentially be submitted into evidence against you.  As a legal matter, your decision not to testify can not be held against you. As a practical matter, testifying may be the only way to get your version of facts into evidence, and the jury may judge you in their own minds if you do not.  The decision about whether to testify is a personal and strategic decision that should be discussed at length with an experienced attorney.

Thats where Attorney Frank Walker comes in. With years of experience defending the accused at trial, Attorney Walker can help you make these important decisions, and build a sound legal defense to attack the charges. Call Walker Law today at 412-532-6805! Lines are open 24/7 365 to better serve you.

Attorney Frank Walker of Frank Walker Law is a National Top 100 Criminal Defense Lawyer and Personal Injury Attorney with offices in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania and Morgantown West Virginia. Attorney Walker is also a member of the National College for DUI Defense and qualified as a Pennsylvania Death Penalty Defense Attorney.

If you or someone you love are facing criminal charges or seriously injured in an accident in WV or PA, contact Attorney Frank Walker immediately at 412-532-6805, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for aggressive and experienced Criminal Defense or Representation following a serious accident or injury.

Should I talk to police about my case without a lawyer?

Should I speak to police?

The right to remain silent in a criminal prosecution is so important that our founding fathers enshrined it in the fifth amendment of the Bill Of Rights.  Many people have heard from crime drama TV shows that when being interrogated they should exercise their right to remain silent and to request their attorney to be present immediately.  There are many levels of an interaction between police and a defendant in a criminal case, and the right to remain silent applies to all of them. Police, however have many psychological tactics and procedures in their repertoire to get you to forgo this right and to give them the evidence they need to convict you.

Many police encounters do not begin with handcuffs. Instead, they may ask you to voluntarily come down to the police station just to talk, or they may arrive on your doorstep, and inform you that you are not under arrest and they just want you to answer a few questions, and that in doing so you may avoid a formal investigation. Even in these casual encounters with police though, its important to remember your right to remain silent. Anything said in these encounters can potentially be used against you in a court of law.  In many of these “casual encounters” the police have already begun their investigation and are merely attempting to gather additional information while your guard is down. 

Also, despite its notoriety from crime dramas, the “good cop, bad cop” routine is not only real, it is very effective.  People that get arrested are often drunk or high and their mental faculties may be impaired.  Also, the inherent stress of being arrested weighs further on the mind of an offender.  Add in one officer being rude and aggressive (the bad cop), and you will find an offender looking for someone to cut him a break. Enter the good cop. The “good” cop will treat you with more respect, and seem far more willing to listen. He may inform you that the current charges are no big deal, and he understands where you’re coming from. He may also tell you that if you cooperate, he can put in a good word for you with the district attorney. You may also be promised that if you just give a statement, or write an apology letter, that the charges wont go any further. None of these promises are binding. Instead, any statements or letters provided by you will be taken in as evidence against you in a criminal prosecution.

If you have been arrested, or have received a call or visit from the police, its important that to remember that you do have the right to remain silent. You also have the right to obtain an attorney who can deal with the police on your behalf. That’s where Attorney Frank Walker comes in. As an experienced criminal defense attorney serving the citizens of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Morgantown, West Virginia, Attorney Walker can be with you every step of the way in dealing with police and the District Attorney’s Office. Don’t wait until its too late, call Attorney Walker for advice today.

To set up a consultation call: 412-315-7441 for our office in Pittsburgh, PA and (304) 712-2089 for our office in Morgantown, WV.


Should I represent myself for a Summary Trial?

Do I need an Attorney for a Summary Case

In Pennsylvania, crimes are divided into 3 categories, felonies, misdemeanors, and summary offenses. Misdemeanor and felony charges are the more serious offenses, while summary offenses have less serious consequences. In light of that, many people believe that its not worth it to spend the money to retain an attorney for a trial on a summary offense.  They could not be more mistaken.

First of all, many summary offenses carry with them the possibility of jail time of up to 90 days imprisonment in the county jail.  In cases with multiple summary offenses, you may receive an additional 90 days in jail for each summary offense you are convicted of. Each offense also carries with it the potential for a $300 fine in the case of most summary offenses. In the case of habitual offenders, you can find yourself paying fines of up to $1,000 cash for each offense. And again, these fines are cumulative in the case of conviction on multiple offenses. Certain offenses, such as a violation of 1543(b) Driving on a Suspended License (Alcohol Related) carry mandatory jail time.

Due to the traffic nature of most summary offenses, the possibility for a suspension of your driving privilege is a possible outcome attached to many summary trials.  You can get your license suspended either for a few months, or even an additional year depending on the offense and the status of your driver’s license.

Summary trials, especially those related to traffic are often very document intensive, including records from the Department of Transportation, employer’s records, financial records, and other documents. For these to be admissible in trial against you, they will be needed to be admitted pursuant to the rules of evidence. In many cases, a summary trial is prosecuted solely by the affiant, that meaning you are facing a police officer and not an attorney from the District Attorney’s office.  With an experienced criminal defense attorney at your side, you may have the advantage you need to challenge the Commonwealth’s evidence and get the case dismissed.  Also, due to the working relationship and experience a good attorney has with law enforcement, you may be able to strike a better plea bargain than you would be in the position to make on your own.

Even in a summary trial, its important to be prepared with a good attorney. Attorney Frank Walker can help. With experience in trials ranging from the most serious felonies, to lower grade summary offense, Attorney Walker fights to the utmost to receive the most advantageous outcome for his clients.

Attorney Frank Walker of Frank Walker Law is a National Top 100 Criminal Defense Lawyer and Personal Injury Attorney with offices in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania and Morgantown West Virginia. Attorney Walker is also a member of the National College for DUI Defense and qualified as a Pennsylvania Death Penalty Defense Attorney.

If you or someone you love are facing criminal charges or seriously injured in an accident in WV or PA, contact Attorney Frank Walker immediately at 412-532-6805, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for aggressive and experienced Criminal Defense or Representation following a serious accident or injury.

Getting Ready: How to Fight Your DUI Arrest

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After a night of drinking, you drive home, and on the way you see flashing red and blue lights in your rear view mirror. Its your worst fear: a police officer is pulling you over under suspicion of DUI.  After a field sobriety test, breathalyzer, and /or blood draw, you find yourself facing DUI charges.  The question on your mind is: what do I do now?

Besides the obvious advice that you shouldn’t drink and drive, there are other things you can do to help your case.  The first thing you need to do is to remember that you have the right to remain silent, and to use it.  The police are doing everything they can to build a case against you, and any statements you make (such as “I only had 2 beers”) can and will be used against you at trial.  Also, remember, that the field sobriety tests as well as breathalyzer tests are evidence gathering tools used by the Commonwealth and are for the most part completely voluntary. Pennsylvania has an implied consent law which mandates that you must consent to a blood draw or face increased penalties, but you are not required to do the field sobriety or breathalyzer tests.

Next step, and probably the most important step is to lawyer up. You need a competent attorney to help you fight the case. Someone who can teach you about the strengths and weaknesses of your case. You need someone experienced in criminal defense and specializes in handling DUI offenses.

Finally, remember to do the work. From here on out you need to comply with court rules and help build a case for a lighter sentence if you are eventually convicted. This means you need to do any counseling that is ordered, show up to your court dates on time, and help present the case that you are a strong contributing member of the community. This may include maintaining a good job, being active in the community, and strengthening family ties.  DUI proceedings are expensive, so you will want to make sure that you can build up some money to contribute towards any future fines or restitution.

If you have been charged with a DUI, getting an experienced criminal defense attorney is the best way to build a strong front line defense. Attorney Frank Walker has years of experience defending those charged with DUI offenses in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as well as West Virginia.  Call 412-532-6805 to set up a consultation today!

Attorney Frank Walker of Frank Walker Law is a National Top 100 Criminal Defense Lawyer and Personal Injury Attorney with offices in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania and Morgantown West Virginia. Attorney Walker is also a member of the National College for DUI Defense and qualified as a Pennsylvania Death Penalty Defense Attorney.

If you or someone you love are facing criminal charges or seriously injured in an accident in WV or PA, contact Attorney Frank Walker immediately at 412-532-6805, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for aggressive and experienced Criminal Defense or Representation following a serious accident or injury.

Should You Tell Your Job About Your #DUI?

Pittsburgh Criminal Defense Attorney

When someone gets in trouble with the law, one of the first things to cross their mind is “am I going to lose my job because of this?” The answer to that question is a resounding “maybe.” This depends on the nature of your job and the steps you take after you’ve been arrested.

One of the first things to do after hiring a competent DUI attorney to handle your criminal case, is to see if your company’s human resource department has a handbook or guidelines on what to do in cases where you’ve been arrested and/or convicted of a criminal charge. Some workplaces may mandate that you report an arrest within a short period of time of its occurrence. This may be a period as little as one to three days depending on the company. Others may only require that you report a conviction, and that reporting an arrest is unnecessary. For those with professional licenses, your state’s board may require you to report a conviction for DUI or risk facing a suspension or losing your license to practice altogether. Doctors, lawyers, nurses, teachers, and several other professions all have requirements on what must be reported and when.

If you have employment where driving is an integral part of the job, sooner or later a conviction for DUI is going to come to light. Convictions for DUI or admission into an ARD program are going to come with a driver’s license suspension that may range anywhere from two months up to an entire year.  Those with commercial driver’s license will be facing further consequences to the status of their license. Professional drivers usually have provisions in their contracts requiring the immediate reporting for a DUI arrest.

Your decision to tell your employer about a DUI arrest or conviction requires sensitive consideration.  You need to review contract rules, union rules, professional licensure rules, state laws, and factor in the specter of potential jail time in your future resulting from your conviction. Even if its your first offense, how you handle yourself professionally following a DUI arrest can shape the rest of your professional future.   This is why its important to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney.

Attorney Frank Walker has specialized experience handling DUI cases for professionals from all walks of life.  Attorney Walker can help you figure out your employer and state board’s reporting requirements, and of course help you fight the underlying criminal case.  Its time to trust a true professional! Call Attorney Frank Walker today at 412-532-6805.

Attorney Frank Walker of Frank Walker Law is a National Top 100 Criminal Defense Lawyer and Personal Injury Attorney with offices in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania and Morgantown West Virginia. Attorney Walker is also a member of the National College for DUI Defense and qualified as a Pennsylvania Death Penalty Defense Attorney.

If you or someone you love are facing criminal charges or seriously injured in an accident in WV or PA, contact Attorney Frank Walker immediately at 412-532-6805, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for aggressive and experienced Criminal Defense or Representation following a serious accident or injury.

Fighting Back! The Use of Affirmative Defenses in Your Criminal Case

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Affirmative defenses, generally speaking, are defenses that if proven by the defendant, mitigate or excuse the conduct of the defendant on legal grounds, even though absent the defense the defendant could have potentially been found guilty of the underlying criminal charge. Affirmative defenses include self-defense, defense of others, defense of property, insanity, intoxication, mistake of fact or law, consent, accident, coercion and duress, execution of public duty, entrapment, and other offense-specific defenses.

Once an affirmative defense has been raised, it is up to the Commonwealth to disprove that defense (with exceptions).  This does not mean that in a criminal case the Commonwealth must disprove all potential affirmative defenses. Instead, affirmative defenses must be raised before they must be contested by the Commonwealth.

A thorough explanation of each defense could constitute the basis of their own post, but generally speaking, most affirmative defenses include a justification or excuse for the intent element necessary to convict of a crime.  For example, in a Simple Assault case, it is a necessary element that the defendant attempted to cause or intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly caused bodily injury to another.  With the affirmative defenses of self-defense or defense of others, the intent is to protect the self or someone else, not to cause injury to the one assaulted.

Not every affirmative defense puts the burden on the Commonwealth to disprove it beyond a reasonable doubt. For example, to establish the defense of entrapment, the burden is on the defense to show that the evidence demonstrates that the evidence shows that it is more likely than not (a preponderance of the evidence standard) that the defendant was entrapped.  Likewise in the case of an insanity defense, the burden is on the Defense to establish that a defense of insanity applies by a preponderance of the evidence.  Most affirmative defenses may be brought up for the first time at trial, with the exception of defenses such as insanity or mental infirmity which require notice to the Commonwealth in a timely manner.

If you or a loved one has been accused of a criminal offense it is important that you retain an experienced attorney who can assess your potential culpability and mount a serious defense to the charges.  Attorney Frank Walker of Frank Walker Law is a National Top 100 Criminal Defense Lawyer and Personal Injury Attorney with offices in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Morgantown, West Virginia. Call now for a consultation! Our number is (412) 212-3878 for our clients in Pennsylvania and (304) 712-2089 for those in West Virginia.

Guns + Drugs ≠ 5 anymore. The State of Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Statutes following Newman

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Several Pennsylvania mandatory minimum sentencing statutes are ripe to be struck down in the wake of the Superior Court’s ruling in Commonwealth v. Newman.  The decision in Newman is just the beginning of a cluster of appeals litigation following the United States Supreme Court Decision in Alleyne v. United States.

Many states have statutes requiring mandatory minimum sentences for offenders who are found guilty of a crime. When the judge finds certain aggravating factors are present (such as possession or use of a firearm or presence in a school zone), then the Court is required to sentence the offender to a mandatory minimum sentence that is often far more harsh and severe than the standard range sentence the offender may have been facing.

In those cases where a mandatory minimum is applicable, the Jury decides whether the offender was guilty of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt, and then the judge decides whether the mandatory triggering factors were present based on a preponderance of the evidence.  The holding in Alleyne found that this sentencing scheme was unconstitutional. Factors used to apply mandatory minimum sentences must be submitted to a jury.

Newman, applying the holding in Alleyne, found that Pennsylvania’s mandatory minimum sentencing scheme (codified in 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 9712.1) of 5 years to be applied in Possession with Intent to Deliver cases where a firearm is found in close proximity to the Defendant, to be unconstitutional. You may recall advertising for this sentencing scheme in Pennsylvania’s popular “Guns + Drugs = 5” campaign.  This mandatory minimum sentencing scheme as well as many like it have specific provisions that the factors mandating the application of a minimum “shall not be an element of the crime” and that application of the mandatory minimum “shall be determined at sentencing”  The court in Newman found that these provisions in mandatory minimum sentences are inseparable from the sentencing statute, and therefore the mandatory minimum sentencing statute that incorporates these is unconstitutional in its entirety.

This has wide reaching ramifications for Defendants facing charges in which a mandatory minimum may be applicable.  While “guns + drugs = 5” has been struck down, many more mandatory minimums are sure to fall on appeal in cases where they have been applied and the court’s analysis in Newman applies. If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges where mandatory minimums may apply, or have already been convicted or sentenced to a mandatory minimum sentence that is now illegal, you need an experienced attorney to guide you through the complicated process of handling your case in the wake of this new precedent.  Attorney Frank Walker is a Top 100 criminal defense attorney with experience handling even the most technical of criminal cases on appeal.  Call today to schedule an appointment! Our lines are open at all times, seven days a week at (412) 212-3878.

Paper Tails: Requirements of Probation & Parole

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A sentence of probation may seem like a slap on the wrist when compared to the alternative of jail time. However, probation can come with a slew of requirements that may potentially trip up even the most diligent of offenders.   Keeping in mind the potentially severe penalties for a violation of probation (as discussed in my recent post Probation Revocations: When Paper Goes Up in Flames), it is of the utmost importance to be familiar with the requirements of your probation or parole.

The potential conditions attachable to an order of probation are governed by Pennsylvania Statute 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 9754. There are several potential conditions and obligations attachable. These include rules regarding where you can live, who you can live with, when you can leave the jurisdiction, curfew times for returning home, and ordering the offender to meet their family responsibilities.  Probation may also have rules regarding your job, requiring you to maintain a specific job or order you to pursue a course of study or vocational training.

Offenders with substance abuse and/or mental health issues will be required to pursue treatment and be consistent in attending their counseling sessions, and will be subject to tests for the use of drugs and alcohol. Offenders may be forbidden from possessing firearms or other dangerous weapons (dangerous weapons including seemingly innocuous items such as slingshots or realistic looking fake guns). And finally, § 9754 c(13) has a catchall provision allowing the court to order “any other conditions reasonably related to the rehabilitation of the defendant and not unduly restrictive of his liberty or incompatible with his freedom of conscience”

It is the sole responsibility of the person on probation to be familiar with the terms and conditions of their probation.  It is not a defense to accusations of a probation violation that the defendant was not aware of the condition of probation they are accused of violating.  The Board of Probation and Parole may require you to sign a paper acknowledging the terms and conditions of probation.

Unreasonable and unduly restrictive probation requirements may be modified after a hearing. However, violations of these requirements prior to modification may still lead to a revocation.

With the high stakes involved, it is important that you know your rights and obligations while on probation.  Attorney Frank Walker has experience working with probation officers, the State board, and prosecuting attorneys to ensure that the requirements of his clients probation is not unduly restrictive. Attorney Walker will personally advise clients as to their obligations while on probation.  Don’t risk a potential revocation! Call Attorney Frank Walker for a consultation today! Our number is (412) 532-6805, lines are open 24/7!

You Get What You Give: How to Prepare for Your Sentencing Hearing


Whether you were convicted of a criminal offense as a result of a plea bargain or went to trial and were found guilty, the ultimate disposition of the case will come at a sentencing hearing. In some cases this may be done immediately after entering a plea or receiving a verdict, while in other cases it is scheduled a month or two after the conviction. The sentencing hearing is a hearing in which the sentencing judge will have broad discretion in imposing a sentencing (notwithstanding the terms of the plea agreement). It is important to know the possible consequences you are facing, and how to put yourself in the best position for a favorable disposition.

The overwhelming majority of sentences received (not including sentences received upon revocation of probation and parole) fall into what is known as the standard range. Standard range sentencing is a topic worthy of its own post, however the basic idea is that the range available for your potential minimum sentence is derived from the use of a sentencing matrix. The X axis of this matrix is your Prior Record Score, which is calculated from prior criminal offenses you have been convicted of. The Y axis is the Offense Gravity Score, which is the seriousness of the current offense. This will give a range of minimums for the judge to choose from, but that range can carry potential sentences that vary by over a year in some cases.

That’s why it is important to be prepared for your sentencing hearing. Depending on the nature of the offense and your prior record, the court may order a pre-sentence investigation report (PSI). This report will be made available to the judge, and involve the results of an interview had with the defendant about the defendant’s home life, their version of events, prior record, substance abuse issues, and other relevant data. In addition to this PSI, at the time of sentencing, the attorneys may make argument about anything relevant that may influence the judge’s decision.

As a defendant, it is important you have positive evidence to present on your behalf. Gainful employment, proactive efforts made to address substance abuse and mental health issues, community involvement, payments of restitution, and good behavior on supervision or while incarcerated, are all positive factors to present on your behalf.

Attorney Frank Walker has the experience with Courts in Allegheny County and the surrounding areas and knows what you need to do to be in the best position at sentencing. He can prepare you for the PSI interview and tell you the potential consequences of your actions. If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges and need help tackling these complicated issues, call Attorney Frank Walker at (412) 315-7441. Don’t gamble with your liberty! Call today

Be Prepared From the Start: The Basics of Preliminary Hearings


The preliminary hearing is one of the first, most important steps in any new criminal case. If you or a loved one has been accused of a criminal offense you may be wondering what the role of the preliminary hearing is in the proceedings. You may be wondering what the potential outcomes of a preliminary hearing are, and you may have questions as to your rights and obligations in regards to the hearing.

At a preliminary hearing, the Commonwealth has the burden to show that they have what is called a prima facie case relating the charges alleged. Prima Facie is latin for “at first sight.” Generally speaking, the Commonwealth must present evidence and testimony that, if taken as true, would arise to a violation of the criminal code. The burden of proof is lower at a preliminary hearing, as hearsay is admissible as evidence. Also, the preliminary hearing is not the time for challenges based on the credibility of witnesses. Instead, the only assessment is whether, if what the Commonwealth is presenting is taken at face value, that those allegations would meet the elements of the crimes charged.

A majority of cases that reach a preliminary hearing are bound over for court. The preliminary hearing is not a trial. It is merely the beginning of your criminal case. In some cases the goal of the preliminary hearing is to have the charges dismissed based upon a finding of a lack of a prima facie case. However, a preliminary hearing serves other functions important to the defense. It is often the first opportunity to hear what the Commonwealth is offering as evidence against you. This is the first step to begin building a proper defense, figuring out who the witnesses will be and what potential evidence is out there ahead of discovery. Also witnesses for the Commonwealth will have testimony on the record that can be used against them at a potential suppression hearing or at trial.

In some cases, it may be a good idea to waive the preliminary hearing. Though a preliminary hearing is important in many cases, often times waiving a preliminary hearing can have benefits as well. An attorney may at times negotiate a reduction in bail or potential recommendations for programs such as ARD in which the waiver of the preliminary hearing is used as a bargaining chip.

If you or a loved one has an upcoming preliminary hearing, now is the time to retain an experienced criminal defense attorney. The preliminary hearing is the first of many strategic moves for defense counsel to handle that will begin to shape your entire case. Attorney Frank Walker has defended hundreds of criminal cases in Allegheny County and the surrounding areas and can aid you in building the best legal defense possible. Call the offices of Frank Walker Law at (412) 315-7441 to set up a consultation today!

Pittsburgh Criminal Attorney – 412-532-6805

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