CASE RESULTS – Successful Post-Conviction Relief Act Petition Vacates 30 Year Prison Sentence

Successful Results in PCRA, Aggravated Assault, Burglary, and Theft Cases

Philadelphia Criminal Defense Lawyers Zak T. Goldstein and Demetra Mehta continue to find success in the courtroom. In the last month, our criminal lawyers have obtained successful results in PCRA Petitions and cases involving assault, burglary, drug, and theft charges. If you are facing criminal charges, call 267-225-2545 for a free criminal defense strategy session with one of our defense lawyers.    

Commonwealth v. ZS – Attorney Goldstein recently obtained a new sentencing hearing for a defendant who had been sentenced to 15-30 years in jail for a direct violation of probation. The defendant was on probation for selling drugs when he was arrested and ultimately convicted of robbery. After receiving a sentence of up to 20 years for the robbery case, the probation judge sentenced the defendant to 15-30 years consecutive to the sentence for the robbery charges. This led to an overall sentence which could have kept the defendant in jail for up to 50 years despite his young age at the time of the conviction for the direct violation.

Philadelphia PCRA Lawyer Zak T. Goldstein, Esq.

Philadelphia PCRA Lawyer Zak T. Goldstein, Esq.

After reviewing the transcripts from the violation of probation hearing, Attorney Goldstein quickly recognized that significant legal errors had occurred during the probation sentencing to which the original lawyer should have objected. Mr. Goldstein filed a Post-Conviction Relief Act Petition amending the defendant’s initial pro se filings and arguing that the defendant should receive a new probation violation sentencing because defense counsel had been ineffective at the original hearing. Criminal defendants have a constitutional right to the effective assistance of counsel under both the Pennsylvania and United States constitutions, and an ineffective performance by counsel at the trial, appeal, or probation levels can lead to a new trial, appeal, sentencing, or probation hearing. In this case, defense counsel at the original violation hearing failed to object when the probation judge found on the record that the defendant’s expressions of remorse were hollow solely because the defendant refused to waive his right to an in-person probation violation hearing and allow the hearing to be conducted by video from the state prison. Further, defense counsel failed to file a motion to reconsider the sentence or appeal the excessive sentence. Attorney Goldstein argued that defendants have a constitutional right to be present for important hearings in their cases, and courts may not legally punish defendants for exercising those rights. Further, when courts rely on illegal sentencing factors such as the decision to exercise a constitutional right, the defendant is entitled to a new sentencing hearing.

The Commonwealth filed a Motion to Dismiss the PCRA Petition, arguing both that the Petition was untimely because Petitioner did not formally title his pro se petition as a PCRA Petition and that original counsel was not required to object or litigate the issues on appeal in order to be effective. The Court agreed with Attorney Goldstein, denied the prosecution’s Motion to Dismiss, and granted the PCRA Petition. The court ordered that the defendant receive a new sentencing hearing which, due to the passage of time since the original sentence, will occur in front of a different judge from the one who placed the defendant on probation. Although the outcome of the new sentencing is far from guaranteed, the defense will have the opportunity to argue for something less than the original 15-30 year consecutive sentence.    

Commonwealth v. JB – JB was charged with a domestic violence Aggravated Assault for choking his girlfriend. Aggravated Assault is one of the most serious felonies that a defendant can face in Pennsylvania, and if JB had been convicted of Aggravated Assault, he would have almost certainly been facing jail time. Our attorneys were able to negotiate a plea to Simple Assault as a misdemeanor of the second degree for one year of probation. JB will not become a felon as a result of this case, and he is no longer facing a significant jail sentence.   

Commonwealth v. RD – Burglary and Assault Charges dismissed at preliminary hearing.

Commonwealth v. DM – Our attorneys obtained entry into a diversionary program for a client who was charged with underage drinking. If the client completes a class and pays a small fine, the arrest will be expunged and the client will not lose their driver’s license.

Commonwealth v. DB – The client was charged with Aggravated Assault and DUI for nearly running over an acquaintance. Aggravated Assault is a serious felony which often results in jail time. Despite the fact that much of the incident was captured on surveillance video, our attorneys were able to negotiate a deal for simple assault and DUI with no jail time. Instead of facing jail time and a felony conviction, the defendant will spend five days on house arrest and six months on probation and be able to apply for an ignition interlock driver’s license when the new interlock law goes into effect in August.

Commonwealth v. BR – Our attorneys negotiated a fully mitigated sentence of 1.5 – 3 years in jail for a defendant who had pleaded guilty to committing the F1 Robbery and F1 Aggravated Assault of an off duty police officer while on probation.

Commonwealth v. JR – Attorney Goldstein obtained a probationary sentence with drug treatment for a defendant who entered into an open guilty plea to selling drugs while police watched. Although the Pennsylvania sentencing guidelines called for a state prison sentence, Attorney Goldstein convinced the sentencing judge that the defendant should be given a chance at treatment and job training instead of jail time.

Commonwealth v. JB – Obtained a dismissal of Unauthorized Use of Automobile charges prior to trial.

Commonwealth v. WB – Obtained a dismissal of F2 Aggravated Assault charges prior to trial.

Commonwealth v. TR – Defendant was charged with burglary. Attorney Goldstein obtained a dismissal of the burglary charges at the preliminary hearing.

Commonwealth v. IR –The defendant was charged with Theft by Unlawful Taking and Receiving Stolen Property as felonies of the third degree after police arrested him and alleged that he had been the passenger in a stolen car. Attorney Goldstein obtained a full dismissal of the charges following the preliminary hearing. Attorney Goldstein argued that the defendant had not been identified as the driver of the vehicle or done anything else incriminating like running or making any inculpatory statements. Likewise, there was nothing about the car which would indicate to anyone inside of it that it had been stolen. Accordingly, the evidence was insufficient to show that the client knew or should have known that the car was stolen or that the client was the one who stole or ever possessed the car.