Criminal Court Procedure in Pennsylvania
What to expect
1. Preliminary Hearing:
The first hearing is an evidentiary hearing before the local District Justice where the crime was alleged to have been committed.
It is a very important stage in the process and should not be attended without an attorney.
At this hearing, the prosecution must demonstrate to the District Justice that there is enough evidence to bind the charges over to the Court of Common Pleas. The District Justice does not determine guilt or innocence, nor does he or she impose the punishment for the offense; the judge simply determines if there is enough evidence in the case.
This hearing usually occurs within 30 to 45 days after the charges are filed and can usually be postponed to allow for investigation and/or extra time for our payment plan.
Approximately 30 to 60 days after your preliminary hearing is the formal arraignment which occurs in the Court of Common Pleas.
This hearing is a procedural hearing in which “not guilty” pleas are entered and you are served with the formal charges against you as well as your trial date.
In Bucks and Montgomery Counties
Your attorney can “waive” your appearance at this hearing which excuses you from attending this formality.
In Lehigh and Philadelphia Counties
You must appear at this hearing with your attorney to formally enter your “not guilty” plea. After the arraignment, we are permitted to file Motions for Discovery in which the District Attorney must provide to us all of the police reports, witness statements and other evidence in your case.
At this point, you are permitted to file a Motion to Suppress in which the prosecution must prove the police acted constitutionally. If the Judge decides after a hearing that the police acted improperly, then all of the evidence in your case is suppressed (thrown out) and the charges against you are dropped.
3. Pre-trial Conference:
In Montgomery and Lehigh counties:
A pretrial conference is the 3rd hearing scheduled, usually within 45 – 60 days after the formal Arraignment.
Also known as a status hearing, the judge “conferences” the case with the Defense Attorney and the Prosecutor in an attempt to resolve any outstanding issues. If a plea bargain is offered, it usually occurs at this hearing.
In Bucks County, the trial date occurs approximately 30 days after the formal Arraignment.
In Montgomery and Lehigh counties, it occurs approximately 45 days after the Pre-Trial Conference, if necessary. On this hearing date, the case usually is resolved with a first-time offender’s program, if eligible, a guilty plea, or a trial by a judge or by a jury.
A majority of individuals are sentenced on this date, if found guilty. At sentencing, defendants are permitted to introduce evidence (character witnesses, AA sponsors, medical records) to assist the judge in deciding punishment.
NO JAIL TIME
Commonwealth v. "H" (DUI case)
Client was charged with three separate DUI cases calling for mandatory minimum imprisonment of 90 days on each case. Client was advised to seek immediate intensive alcohol counseling. Client was sentenced to 1 year of house arrest after serving 3 days in the county prison.
Commonwealth v. "C" (Felony drug/Firearms case)
Client was charged with felony Delivery of drugs and illegal gun possession and was facing a mandatory 3-6 year prison sentence in the State prison system. Client was sentenced to one year of house arrest.
Commonwealth v. "S"
Client was charged with simple assault, domestic. After a hearing where evidence and testimony was presented, the entire case was dismissed by Judge Leonard Brown.
State of New Jersey v. "H"
Charges for young man charged with second degree aggravated assault were downgraded to third degree and he was accepted into the County Pretrial Intervention program with charges to be dismissed and record expunged after one year of misconduct free behavior.
OUR CRIMINAL DEFENSE TEAM INCLUDES TWO FORMER DISTRICT ATTORNEYS
We have decades of experience dealing with local police departments, prosecutors, and judges throughout southeastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Anyone facing charges involving a criminal offense can expect to experience a heightened degree of emotional turmoil, for themselves, as well as their family members. Our team of highly qualified criminal law attorneys and expert legal support staff are committed to providing each of our client’s with the compassion and understanding they deserve, as well as an aggressive plan for representation at an affordable price.
As former prosecutors, we have a balanced and in-depth understanding of the criminal justice system and how the prosecution prepares cases. In addition, we have long-standing experience dealing with local police departments, prosecutors and judges throughout southeastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
At Young, Marr and Associates, when we say “experience matters,” we mean it. Our lawyers, which include two former prosecutors and a former senior deputy district attorney bring more than three decades of criminal law experience, handling more than 10,000 criminal cases. It is precisely that experience that allows us to achieve outstanding results for our clients facing DUI, traffic, felony and misdemeanor charges in state, federal and juvenile courts.