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Monday 8:00 AM - 12:00PM / 1:00PM-4:00PM
Tuesday 8:00 AM - 12:00PM / 1:00PM-4:00PM
Wednesday 8:00 AM - 12:00PM / 1:00PM-4:00PM
Thursday 8:00 AM - 12:00PM / 1:00PM-4:00PM
Friday 8:00 AM - 12:00PM
Saturday Closed
Sunday Closed
Off Hours and Evenings By Appointment

Kayden Vaporis and Associates | 26 South 6th Street | Indiana, PA 15701 | Ph: 724-465-5653 | Fax: 724-465-5654

Kayden & Vaporis, LLC. © 2022 All rights reserved.

FREE 30 Minute Consultation

Criminal Defense through strength.

Kayden Vaporis and Associates will protect your rights every step of the way if you have been charged or think you might be charged with a crime.

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I received papers in the mail telling me that I have been charged with a crime. What should I do?

If papers were mailed to you explaining that you have been charged with a crime, do not panic. Call a criminal law attorney as soon as you can. Find an attorney who will offer you a free consultation. Bring to that consultation all of the documents that have been sent to you regarding the charges, and anything else that might be relevant.

How can I determine the possible penalties for the charges I have received?

Generally, the kind of penalty depends on the level of the charge. If your charge is a summary offense, the penalty is normally a fine – but can sometimes include incarceration depending on the specific charge. The penalties for misdemeanors and felonies can be predicted by calculating the crime’s Offense Gravity Score, determining your own Prior Record Score. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you with these calculations.

If I plead guilty or am found guilty, will the crime be public record forever?

If you are found guilty or plead guilty to a crime, this will be reflected on your record. However, some programs like ARD and PWV will result in the crime being expunged from your record after a period of time and the meeting of certain conditions. In other instances, you may be eligible to have your record expunged. An attorney can help you determine whether you are eligible for expungement and assist you with the process.

Can I get a DUI for using marijuana?

Yes. Although laws against cannabis use have become far less stringent in recent years, driving with cannabis’ active ingredient (THC) in your system continues to be against the law – and is actually punished with greater severity than are most alcohol related DUIs.

Furthermore, the procedure for testing whether a driver is “impaired” by marijuana is less forgiving than for alcohol. For cannabis, officers check for impairment by their own observations, just as with alcohol – they look for bloodshot eyes, lack of coordination, the smell of the drug, an admission of use, etc. Unlike with alcohol, however, there is no breathalyzer for marijuana. Therefore, a blood test alone must be relied upon.

If the officer finds probable cause to suspect you are under the influence of marijuana (which will definitely be present if you admit to smoking marijuana), you will be made to go to a medical center to take a blood test. The blood test for cannabis reports nanograms of THC. If a single nanogram is present, this could be enough to establish your intoxication and thus your guilt. If 5 or more nanograms are present, your case will be very difficult to fight.

Unfortunately, because different people process cannabis in different ways and over different periods of time, you could test in the range for a cannabis-related DUI even if you have not consumed the drug for many days. In such a situation, it will be the defendant’s responsibility to overcome the state’s scientific evidence of intoxication. This is a difficult thing to do.

The punishment for DUI with a controlled substance (including marijuana) is equivalent to that of a DUI with the highest level of alcohol intoxication. If it is your first ever DUI, you will most likely qualify for ARD. However, if you do not, it will be very difficult for you to avoid some brief period of incarceration or house arrest.

The upside is that you can get a DUI for marijuana, that a DUI for marijuana is harsher than most alcohol-related DUIs, and the state’s burden for proving that you were intoxicated is very low.

If you smoke marijuana, the best advice is to avoid driving altogether – but particularly for several days after you have consumed it. Short of this, if you are not intoxicated from marijuana, do not tell a police officer that you “smoked yesterday,” or “smoked 9 hours ago.” This will be enough to establish probable cause for a blood draw, and the blood draw will most likely be enough to convict you of DUI – even if you swear you were not high anymore.

Do I need an attorney if I plan to plead guilty?

We certainly recommend that you retain the services of an attorney even if you intend to plead guilty. While the court system generally tries to be fair, everyone involved in your case aside from your attorney has an agenda that may conflict with your best interests. Police officers want their cases to resolve favorably, as do district attorneys. It is not their job to help you if that means undermining their own case. Judges are restricted from offering advice to either side – thus, while they will be as fair as possible, they will not go out of their way to ensure that you are receiving the best possible outcome.

Thus, you should retain an attorney even if you plan to “be cooperative.” An attorney can determine whether you should plead guilty to all charges, or ask that others be dropped in exchange. An attorney can help to mitigate your punishment, determine whether you qualify for leniency programs, and just generally attempt to reduce the damage to you. Finally, an attorney can answer the questions that will inevitably occur during the life of a criminal case.

Finally, judges and prosecuting attorneys will generally encourage you to get an attorney throughout the process. It may seem strange, but they see a defendant who retains an attorney as more cooperative and responsible than those who do not. This is so even if you openly plan to plead guilty. Judges and prosecutors know that their jobs are different from that of a defense attorney, and worry that a defendant who refuses to hire an attorney will later argue that the judge or prosecutor misled or tricked them, once they realize that they are still going to receive a harsh punishment.

How much does it cost to fight a case?

The answer to this question depends on the strength of the prosecution’s case and on the wishes of the client.

If the prosecution’s case is weak and the charges are not very serious, “fighting the case” may be as simple as pointing out the case’s defects to the prosecution, and either having the case dismissed or agreeing to plead to a minor charge, like a summary offense.

If the prosecution will not acknowledge a case’s obvious weakness, then a trial will be necessary for a just outcome. Although no trial is simple or predictable, if the prosecution’s case has obvious errors, pointing these out to a judge or jury may be relatively straightforward, and thus not so costly in terms of time and money.

If the prosecution’s case is strong, more work must be done by the defense. This means gathering evidence to support the defendant’s side of the story – which could require conducting interviews, analyzing police and medical reports, and even hiring our own private investigators and experts to counter the narrative offered by the state.

This is where the wishes of the client come into play. If the charges are not very serious, it may not be worth the money to make such extensive preparations. For instance, if you are accused of possession of drug paraphernalia and are eligible for Probation Without Verdict, and the only way to effectively fight the charge would be to hire an expert that charges $5,000 for a report on whether a certain kind of pipe is actually used for marijuana, the client may wish to apply for PWV – even though the client is not actually guilty. The outcome of PWV is dismissal and expungement, which is pretty close to the consequence of acquittal, but for a few thousand dollars less.

If, however, the client is accused of possession with intent to deliver and is facing the possibility of spending several years in state prison, then the client may be more interested in spending the money necessary to build a solid defense case.

Our office offers a free consultation to discuss your case. Once we have spoken to you and have an understanding of your specific needs and circumstances, we will quote you a retainer fee in the event that you would decide to hire us.

Criminal Defense

Criminal charges can have a negative impact on your life – they can result in fines, restrictions of your freedom, a permanent and public record, and incarceration. We can help to minimize these impacts. We have experience with DUIs, drug cases, thefts, assaults, and many others.

We can begin to assist you from the moment you are charged with a crime, or that you suspect you may soon be charged with one. To avoid missed opportunities and irreversible mistakes, it is very important to secure the services of a criminal defense attorney early in the criminal process.

If you or a loved one have been charged with a crime and are considering obtaining the services of a criminal defense attorney, you know that the process can be overwhelming and confusing. The following is a basic outline of the process, and the ways in which a criminal defense attorney can help:

Arrest / Charges

You do not have to be handcuffed and taken by a squad car to be charged with a crime. Many crimes do not involve immediate incarceration. However, the details of your arrest or of the situation that led to your being charged can be crucial to your defense moving forward. Police officers sometimes make mistakes and violate rules when arresting and charging defendants. An experienced attorney can spot these issues and use them to fight for you.

Preliminary Hearing

The first major step in the criminal law process is the preliminary hearing. This is held at one of the several magisterial district courts in the county. This hearing does not determine guilt or innocence. Rather, the magistrate judge simply determines whether the case has any reasonable basis at all. If there is any real possibility that you could be convicted, the magisterial district court will advance your case to the Court of Common Pleas, which is located in the County Courthouse.

It is very important that you have a criminal defense attorney at the preliminary hearing, because it is your first opportunity to examine the prosecution’s evidence, to speak with the police officer or other witnesses, and to negotiate a possible deal with the district attorney’s office. This is also your first opportunity to apply for pretrial diversion programs, which are explained in more detail below.

The formal preliminary hearing can be very useful for placing on the record the basic outline of the prosecution’s case, and for establishing a basis for pretrial motions to suppress evidence. If your attorney determines that the best course of action is to pursue a pretrial diversion program or a plea deal, it is possible that you might “waive” (or skip) the formal preliminary hearing itself. You still must go to the magisterial court in order to waive, but the formal hearing will not be held. If the prosecution is willing to offer an acceptable deal, waiving the hearing saves time and is a sign of goodwill.

Pre-Trial Diversion Program

Pretrial diversion programs allow lenient treatment for first time offenders. These programs generally result in your charges being dismissed and / or expunged from your record in exchange for your completion of a program designed to address any underlying drug and alcohol problems that may have contributed to the charges being brought against you.

The two most common programs are Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) and Probation Without Verdict (PWV).

ACCELERATED REHABILITATIVE DISPOSITION (ARD)

ARD is typically used for first time DUI cases, but it can apply to other offenses as well. The exact details of the program vary because it can be tailored to individual cases. Generally, it includes attendance of classes about alcohol abuse, meetings with the probation office, and the payment of monthly fees. Successful completion of ARD will result in the offense being dismissed, but generally you are only eligible for ARD once.

PROBATION WITHOUT VERDICT (PWV)

PWV is a similar program, but it specifically applies to minor drug related offenses. More serious drug offenses (like possession with intent to deliver), or even minor ones if accompanied by more serious charges, are not eligible for PWV.

Both ARD and PWV involve the payment of fines that may exceed one thousand dollars. However, both programs are unquestionably preferable to a regular guilty plea, or to being convicted by a judge or jury. The penalties for those situations can be significantly higher.

An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you determine whether you are eligible for a pretrial diversion program, and can guide you through the process of being accepted into one.

Criminal Call

In Indiana County, the next major step following the preliminary hearing is called Criminal Call. At this point, a criminal case is presented to the Court of Common Pleas. The prosecutor, the defendant and the defendant’s attorney are called upon to inform the Court of their intentions. This essentially means telling the Court whether the defendant is applying for a pretrial diversion program, whether the defendant has decided to enter a guilty plea, has decided to go to trial, or whether we need more time to consider the options.

An experienced criminal defense attorney will have by this point discussed with the District Attorney’s office the chances for resolving the case without a trial. This includes plea deals, in which a defendant agrees to plead guilty to some offenses in exchange for the dismissal of other offenses, and possibly options like seeking mental health treatment or paying restitution to victims in exchange for dismissal or significantly reduced punishments.

Pre-Trial Motions

If you do not qualify for a pretrial diversion program, or if you and your attorney determine that the strength of your case outweighs the prosecution’s plea offer, the next step is to file pretrial motions. Based on the facts available at this point, these motions could be for additional discovery, to suppress evidence gathered in an unconstitutional search, and for other matters that can strengthen your case and undermine that of the prosecution.

Sometimes additional discovery and successful motions can lead to a better plea deal. If, however, the prosecution and defense remain unable to reach agreement, the next step is trial.

Trial

Trials are a major and risky undertaking, but sometimes they are the only way in which a defendant can hope to obtain an acceptable outcome. Arguing against the Commonwealth, with its resources and prestige, is no small project – the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney are crucial.

There are two kinds of trial: a bench trial, which is in front of a judge alone, and a jury trial, which is in front of a jury. If the trial is before a jury, you, your attorney and the prosecution will have the opportunity to select jurors from a large pool.

At criminal trials, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of the elements of the crime. If the trial is a jury trial, all of the jurors must be convinced of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If the trial is a bench trial, only the judge must be convinced.

Before and during trial, you and your attorney will strategize and plan for the best method of presenting your case. Your attorney may present evidence, call witnesses on your behalf, obtain the opinions of experts, and cross examine the Commonwealth’s witnesses and experts. Ultimately, the goal is to present to the judge or jury a picture of your case that clearly demonstrates the prosecution’s failure to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Sentencing

The decisions of judges and juries can be unpredictable, even for the most experienced attorneys. If the trial results in a conviction on some or all of the charges, the next step will be sentencing. Even if no trial has occurred, sentencing will follow the acceptance of any plea deal.

Sentences generally range from costs and fines, to costs, fines and probation, to costs, fines, incarceration and probation. The severity of the sentence depends on the seriousness of the crime, the defendant’s criminal history, and to some extent the judge’s discretion.

A few crimes in Pennsylvania still carry mandatory minimum sentences, where the judge is required to impose a term of incarceration. These crimes notably include certain kinds of DUI’s (especially beginning with a second DUI), and driving on a suspended license. Even in these instances, an experienced attorney may be able to find ways to mitigate the severity of the punishment.

For most crimes, sentences are determined by an Offense Gravity Score assigned to each crime, and by the defendant’s Prior Record Score. In addition, certain crimes carry with them “enhancements” that increase the severity of the punishment. Finally, the judge and a presentence investigator may conduct interviews and investigations into a defendant’s life circumstances to determine whether leniency or stricter treatment may be merited. An attorney can help you determine your likely sentence.

Appeals

After sentencing, your attorney may file appeals to the higher court, arguing that the trial court ruled incorrectly on motions or objections, allowed evidence to be presented that should have been excluded, or that the sentence was incorrect. Appeals are a complicated process, but they can be very important. If proper procedures were not followed at the trial court level, an order from the higher court is the only way to remedy this.

Expungement

Expungement is the process by which a crime can be removed from your records. Normally if you have been convicted of a crime, that crime stays on your record forever – employers, schools and other organizations that might check your record will find it. 

Under certain circumstances, a crime can be expunged from your record so that it can no longer be seen by the public. An attorney can help determine whether you are eligible for this, and can help to achieve it. A straightforward expungement case is relatively affordable, but it can be a long process – even in simple cases, it can take 3 – 4 months at least. But if a criminal record is causing you problems, and if it can be expunged, it is well worth the wait.

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Featured Services
Navigation
Contact Us / Find Our Offices

We're ready to help you.

Monday 8:00 AM - 12:00PM / 1:00PM-4:00PM
Tuesday 8:00 AM - 12:00PM / 1:00PM-4:00PM
Wednesday 8:00 AM - 12:00PM / 1:00PM-4:00PM
Thursday 8:00 AM - 12:00PM / 1:00PM-4:00PM
Friday 8:00 AM - 12:00PM
Saturday Closed
Sunday Closed
Off Hours and Evenings By Appointment

Kayden Vaporis and Associates | 26 South 6th Street | Indiana, PA 15701 | Ph: 724-465-5653 | Fax: 724-465-5654

Kayden & Vaporis, LLC. © 2022 All rights reserved.

FREE 30 Minute Consultation