Public Defender’s Office
Meet our Department
Lawrence J. Keith, Esq., Chief Public Defender
Dennis A. Elisco, Esq.
Darrell Haeberle, Esq.
Nick A. Turco, Esq.
Jean K. Perkins, Esq.
Daniel S. Soom, Esq.
Cathy Wigton, Public Defender Investigator
Monica Jones, Legal Assistant
Andrea Dicola Sunseri, Legal Assistant
The “Public Defender Act” 1968, Dec 2, P.L. 1144, No. 358, Section I, effective January 1, 1969.
The Public Defender Act provides for the establishment of a Public Defender for each county. The Public Defender is appointed by the Board of County Commissioners for each county. With the approval of the Board of County Commissioners, the Public Defender may hire assistant public defenders, investigators, and other personnel deemed necessary to the performance of his job.
A Public Defender must represent any person whose indigency prevents him from obtaining counsel for the following proceedings:
- Juvenile delinquency proceedings;
- Critical pretrial identification proceedings;
- State habeas corpus proceedings;
- Common Pleas Court Trial, from pre-trial motions through post-trial motions;
- Superior Court and Pennsylvania Supreme Court appeals;
- Post conviction proceedings at both the trial and appellate levels;
- Preliminary hearings;
- Criminal extradition proceedings;
- PFA contempt hearings;
- Probation and parole proceedings, including revocation thereof; and
- Any other situation where representation is constitutionally required.
The Public Defender and Assistant Public Defenders shall be attorneys at law admitted to practice before the Supreme and Superior Courts of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
*The Public Defender’s Office will only discuss a case with the client. No information will be given to anybody except a hearing date*
Information regarding your case is available at https://ujsportal.pacourts.us/.
If any of the following things should happen, you are to notify our office immediately:
- Your address changes;
- Your telephone number changes;
- You are unable to attend a court hearing or an appointment for any reason;
- Your income changes; and
- You retain private counsel at any time before your case is complete.
** Please contact us as soon as possible if any of the above should happen, preferably within 48 hours.
PLEASE DO NOT WEAR SHORTS, HATS, TANK TOPS, OR SANDALS TO COURT. YOU WILL NOT BE PERMITTED IN THE COURTROOM.
CELL PHONES ARE NOT PERMITTED IN THE COURTROOM.
PLEASE DO NOT BRING CHILDREN TO COURT.
Our office does not get court orders until 3:00 p.m. daily. If you are waiting for a court order to be signed, please do not call until 3:30 p.m.
You must apply for a Public Defender each and every time you receive a new charge. Please call at least two weeks before your preliminary hearing is scheduled to be held.
BOND REDUCTIONS – Once a bond is set, the court will not consider a bond reduction unless there is a significant change in circumstances. There is NO rule that a defendant is entitled to a bond reduction every 30 days, and there is NO rule a defendant is entitled to a certain number of bond reductions.
CONTINUANCES – Continuances are granted only if approved by the court. A defendant is not entitled to a certain number of continuances.
For a defendant to request a continuance for medical or work related reasons, we must have documents to support the request.
Below are some definitions of proceedings that may help you to understand “what will happen next”.
The first proceeding that you will attend is the preliminary hearing.
PRELIMINARY HEARING – This hearing will be held at Central Court. You must attend this hearing. If you have qualified for a Public Defender, one will be at this hearing to represent you. At this hearing, three matters must be decided:
- If a crime was committed;
- If the crime occurred within the jurisdiction of the Court where your hearing is held;
- If there are reasonable grounds to believe that the Defendant committed a crime.
*At this hearing, your case will be dismissed, settled, or bound to court. If it is bound to court, the next proceeding you will have is Arraignment.
ARRAIGNMENT – This is a hearing before the court in a criminal case in which:
- The identity of the Defendant is established;
- The Defendant is informed of the charges against him.
*You may waive arraignment at the preliminary hearing, or any time before the date is scheduled. If you choose to do so, you will not have to attend arraignment. The next proceeding will be the Call of Trial. Your attorney will enter a not guilty plea on your behalf pending trial or plea arrangement.
CALL OF TRIAL – You must attend the Call of Trial. It will be scheduled approximately one month after your arraignment was scheduled. You will receive notice by mail. If you decide to enter a plea of guilty and accept a plea bargain, you will do so in front of a Judge a few days after your Call of Trial. If you are incarcerated at the time of Call of Trial, you will not be transported to court until it is time to either pick a jury or enter a guilty plea. Trials begin the following Monday after Call of Trial.
PLEA – A Defendant’s formal answer in Court to the charge(s) against him/her. The plea may be answered in one of four ways:
- Not guilty;
- Not guilty by reason of insanity;
- No contest
Incidentally, if you choose to accept a plea bargain, you must plead guilty, or no contest.
*All DUI charges are classified as Misdemeanors.
*All sentences are MANDATORY MINIMUM SENTENCES.
*Sentences include mandatory attendance at an approved alcohol safety school and suspension of license for one year, plus costs incurred by the courts in connection with your prosecution.
*If this is your first DUI within 10 years, you may be eligible for Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition. To get ARD, you had to have a valid license, not be charged with fleeing and eluding, reckless driving or hit and run.
Prior offenses defined for purposes of determining consequences (§3806(b)):
- Any prior conviction, adjudication of delinquency, juvenile consent decree, or acceptance into ARD within the 10-year period before the present violation was committed for any offense under §3802, former §3731, or a substantially similar offense in another jurisdiction.
ACCELERATED REHABILITATIVE DISPOSITION – If you are eligible for ARD, you will not be subject to the mandatory fine of not less than $300, and the minimum imprisonment of 48 hours.
ARD is used to handle first-time offenders and may include the following:
- A CRN (Court Reporting Network) evaluation to determine the extent of your involvement with alcohol or controlled substances and to assist the Court in determining what conditions of ARD will benefit you, at a cost of $60.00 which you are responsible to pay.
- Attendance to Alcohol Highway Safety School (AHSS), which includes 12.5 hours of classroom instruction to educate the offender on the DUI law and drinking and drug effects on the body and driving. This school costs $150, which you are responsible to pay.
- Court ordered drug and/or alcohol treatment or further education, depending on the results of a drug and alcohol assessment. Instructions on how to complete this assessment are given at time of CRN.
- A mandatory suspension of driving privilege for a period of not less than 30 days nor more than 12 months.
- Court ordered restitution to any person who incurred financial loss as a result of your actions.
- Court supervision for a period of not less than 6 months nor more than 24 months.
You will be contacted by the Lawrence County DUI Program with an appointment date and time for your CRN Evaluation. Failure to keep this appointment, complete a drug and alcohol assessment if required, or to complete AHSS will result in the revocation of your ARD and your case will be listed for trial. If you need to contact the DUI Center, please call 724-656-8900.
Contact Info for Department:Lawrence County Public Defender’s Office
430 Court Street
New Castle, PA 16101
(724) 656-2162 or (724) 656-1902
(724) 656-1905 (Fax)