Felony charges can be damaging to your reputation and career as well as your private life. You’ll have questions and may even be unsure who you can trust and turn to. That’s why you need a criminal defense attorney who can guide you through the trial process.
At Kalinoski Law Offices P.C. in Scranton, we help people throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania who need legal guidance during this uneasy time.
In Pennsylvania, there are three degrees of felony charges, each having common crimes.
A first-degree felony charge may include crimes such as rape, arson endangering persons, kidnapping, and murder.
A second-degree felony charge includes crimes such as sexual assault and certain types of burglary.
A third-degree felony charge may include crimes like sexual assault of a minor, and carrying a firearm without a permit.
In Pennsylvania, some of the most serious felony charges include:
As one of the first degree felony charges, arson is defined as the criminal act of deliberately setting fire to property. However, in Pennsylvania, arson law is actually pretty complex.
Arson and arson-related crimes in Pennsylvania are broken into categories:
- arson that endangers a person;
- dangerous burning;
- reckless burning or exploding;
- arson that endangers property;
- failure to control or report dangerous fires; and
- possession of material that is explosive or incendiary with the intent to cause arson.
According to 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Sec. 3301 (a)(1), “A person commits a felony of the first degree if he intentionally starts a fire or causes an explosion, or if he aids, counsels, pays or agrees to pay another to cause a fire or explosion, whether on his own property or on that of another, and if:
(i) he thereby recklessly places another person in danger of death or bodily injury, including but not limited to a firefighter, police officer or other person actively engaged in fighting the fire; or
(ii) he commits the act with the purpose of destroying or damaging an inhabited building or occupied structure of another.”
Each variation of arson has its own set of requirements that must be met for sentencing and in turn, will also determine the severity of the penalty. In almost all cases, arson is a felony charge. If someone is killed as a result of arson, you can be charged with murder and in some cases, serve life in prison.
Burglary: One of the First Degree Felony Charges in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania law defines burglary as entering any building or occupied structure with the intent to commit a crime. With intent being the key component of the charge, there is no need to break and enter a facility for a burglary to be committed as long as there was intent to commit a crime.
In general, defense to a burglary charge may be:
- The building or structure was abandoned.
- The premises are open to the public.
- The individual is licensed or privileged to enter.
In Pennsylvania, burglary is a first-degree felony in many cases.
Under Pennsylvania law, “A person is guilty of conspiracy with another person or persons to commit a crime if with the intent of promoting or facilitating its commission he:
(1) agrees with such other person or persons that they or one or more of them will engage in conduct which constitutes such crime or an attempt or solicitation to commit such crime; or
(2) agrees to aid such other person or persons in the planning or commission of such crime or of an attempt or solicitation to commit such crime.”
It is important to know that if you are found guilty of conspiracy, you are subject to the same penalties as those who committed the underlying offense.
There are defenses to criminal conspiracy, however. They are:
- Abandoning the conspiracy
- Lack of specific intent
- Renouncing the criminal enterprise
The Uniform Firearms Act (Section 6101) addresses all matters pertaining to the use, transfer, sale, and maintenance of firearms in Pennsylvania. There are also federal firearm laws in place which prohibit certain individuals from legally purchasing a firearm.
Prohibited purchasers include convicted felons, minors, individuals with a history of drug use or mental illness, and certain domestic violence perpetrators, misdemeanor convictions, mental illness, domestic violence, drug and alcohol offenses, and juvenile adjudications.
The following are common gun charges in Pennsylvania which may result in a felony charge:
- Carrying a concealed weapon without a permit
- Providing a minor a firearm illegally
- Removing identification numbers from a firearm
Under Pennsylvania’s criminal law, kidnapping occurs in one of two ways.
- Kidnapping occurs when a person “unlawfully removes another a substantial distance under the circumstances” from the location where the individual is found. This also includes the risk of harm in the act.
- A person may be found guilty of kidnapping when they “unlawfully confines another for a substantial period in a place of isolation.” The elemental of time is determined on a case by case basis and will ultimately depend on the mental state of the victim. However, know that a person need not be alone to be isolated as the kidnapper may be present.
To be found guilty of kidnapping, the defendant must have had the intent to:
- hold the victim for ransom or reward, or as a shield or hostage;
- facilitate the commission of any felony or flight thereafter;
- inflict bodily injury on or terrorize the victim or another person; or
- interfere with a public official’s performance of any governmental or political function.
A kidnapping conviction can result in a 1st-degree felony and prison sentence of up to 20 years.
When we think of stalking, we think the guy lurking in your window, or showing up in random places. In general, stalking is not a singular event but rather a pattern of malicious and determined behavior.
Under Pennsylvania’s stalking law, the crime occurs when there is repeated harassment which causes substantial emotional distress. A conviction can result in a misdemeanor except when there are prior stalking convictions with the same victim as it becomes a felony of the 3rd degree.
Robbery occurs when the perpetrator threatens to use or uses force against another while committing a theft. Under Pennsylvania robbery law, all robberies are a felony offense but vary in degree.
It is important to know that a robbery need not have been a completed theft to result in the charge.
Terroristic Threats: One of the Most Serious Felony Charges
Under 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 2706, a person communicates a threat to commit a crime of violence with the intent to terrorize another either:
- Directly, such as a verbal threat to kill or harm
- Indirectly and nonverbal, such as pointing a gun at a person’s head
While some terroristic threats are misdemeanor charges, if a threat causes the occupants of a space to be diverted from their normal actions, then the severity of the charge may be increased to a felony of the third degree.
While defenses exist, a spur of the moment decision or inability to carry out the threat is not a defense you’ll want to use in court.
Aggressive Criminal Defense From Felony Charges From A Trial Lawyer
As your advocate, Craig Kalinoski is a criminal defense attorney who is committed to protecting you in and out of court using his knowledge of the community, extensive knowledge of the law, tenacious negotiation skills and commitment to thorough trial preparation.
Our goal is to achieve the best possible situation so you can put your legal concerns behind you and get on with your life. Call (570) 207-4000 or use our contact form today to schedule an appointment and discuss your case during a free consultation.