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Steps in the Pennsylvania Criminal Process

Have You Been Arrested In Pennsylvania?

Pittsburgh Criminal Process Plea Bargain Attorney

If you are facing criminal charges, it helps to have an idea of what to expect in the days, weeks and months to come. Here, you can find a brief, substantive overview of criminal procedure in the State Courts of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. For a summary of the procedure in a Federal criminal case, see our Steps in the Federal Criminal Process page.

The criminal defense lawyers of Joyce & Bittner each have more than 25 years of legal trial and litigation experience. We are ready 24 hours a day to respond to phone calls and fight for you in the criminal justice process.

For a free consultation, call 412-281-9919 or toll free at 1-800-299-5530 or contact our offices online. Find out about criminal procedure in Pennsylvania below …

Arrest and Arraignment: A criminal case is normally started by an arrest. However, there are some cases, such as Driving Under the Influence charges, certain theft charges, and other misdemeanors that can be initiated by criminal charges being mailed in a summons to court. If an arrest is made, you will be taken to a preliminary arraignment before a local magistrate. The magistrate will inform you of the charges being brought against you, your preliminary hearing will be scheduled and any bond required for your release will be set. Because of the importance of a reasonable bond to secure release, having an experienced attorney involved, even at this early stage, can be critical. If a case is started by summons, the arraignment and bond hearing will be often be conducted at the time of the preliminary hearing.

Preliminary Hearing: Next, you will have a preliminary hearing. If you were able to post bond, the hearing will be weeks or sometimes a month away. If you are not released on bond, the preliminary hearing is required to be scheduled within three to ten days. At the preliminary hearing, the judge determines whether or not the prosecution has enough evidence to warrant taking the case further. If evidence is insufficient to support a “prima facie” case, your charges can be dismissed. If there is a prima facie case presented at the preliminary hearing, the criminal justice process will continue and your case will be held over for the trial division. Even in these circumstances, the preliminary hearing testimony and evidence produced by the government can be a tremendous help in revealing the case against you and its strengths and weaknesses. In other words, even where the case is not thrown out at the preliminary hearing we will at least have seen what cards are in the prosecution’s hand.

Formal Arraignment: This is a brief criminal court process at which your case will be scheduled for a pretrial conference. Often you will find out which Judge will hear your case. You will also be given notice of your rights to discovery and rights to file pretrial motions.

Pretrial Conferences: At the pretrial conference, you will schedule either a trial date or a plea date.

Trial Date: This is the date on which your trial will begin. Once a trial begins, it continues each day until it is over.Typically, pretrial motions filed are heard before the trial begins.

If you decide you want to make a plea bargain and avoid trial, an experienced and knowledgeable lawyer can help you find a plea bargain that is beneficial to you, but also acceptable to the prosecution. Sometimes, the prosecution will not negotiate, and trial becomes inevitable.

If you are found guilty at trial, there is a right to file an appeal to the higher court. The attorneys at Joyce & Bittner have the experience needed to provide representation throughout the criminal process — including the appellate courts. As former government attorneys, Anthony M. Bittner and Richard J. Joyce understand how the prosecution works and can evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the case against you in order to guide you toward reaching that most advantageous outcome. We can also review those cases where other attorneys have handled the trial and appeal is the only option.

For a free consultation, call 412-281-9919 or 1-800-299-5530. We are ready to respond 24 hours a day.

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