Misdemeanors are more serious crimes than summary offenses, but not as serious as felony crimes. Convictions for misdemeanors can result in a sentence as long as five years in jail, and many misdemeanor offenses-like drug possession-can result in license suspension. Citizens of other countries, even those here legally, may be deported if convicted of certain misdemeanors, and most misdemeanors will result in the loss of the right to purchase firearms. Examples of misdemeanors include most theft offenses, simple drug possession, and simple assault. Unlike summary offenses (which are handled entirely in local magisterial district courts), misdemeanor offenses only begin in the magisterial district courts with a preliminary hearing; after the preliminary hearing, misdemeanors are tried in the Court of Common Pleas.
Many defendants who are charged with first-offense misdemeanors are eligible for the ARD or IPP programs, particularly in cases involving drunk driving, minor assaults or thefts. Other defendants can avoid jail time and license suspensions by charge bargaining their misdemeanor into a lesser offense, such as summary disorderly conduct. Because summary offenses usually carry no jail time, and often come with no license suspension, bargaining a misdemeanor to a summary offense has a large impact on outcomes.
In other cases, ARD and IPP are not available and the district attorney is unwilling to offer an acceptable plea bargain. In those cases, it is necessary to go to trial, either before a judge or a jury. Gawthrop Greenwood has experience handling misdemeanor prosecutions, including misdemeanors that are resolved by ARD, by summary plea or by trial in the Court of Common Pleas.
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