When you or a loved one are accused of a crime in Pennsylvania, you may have questions about the arraignment process. While uncertainty and fear may have you skeptical of getting legal help, having a trusted criminal defense attorney on your side can make all the difference in your arraignment proceedings.
The Pennsylvania Criminal Process
The first step in the Pennsylvania criminal case process is that an arrest has been made. At this stage, it is important to remember your constitutional right to remain silent and to have an attorney present. Once the arrest has been made, the case moves to the District Court.
Following the arrest is the preliminary arraignment, which in essence is the reading of specific charges that have been filed against you. This portion is relatively fast depending on the charge and will be used to establish bail; this happens within two days of the arrest.
The Magisterial District judge will gather your personal information and the opportunity to reduce bail will be given. This is due to the Bail Reform Act which gives a defendant the right to request a hearing to reduce bail based upon the case and other personal details.
If facing serious charges, the opportunity to hire a lawyer to surrender yourself to the court will improve your ability to reduce bail and reduce a sentence.
Once a bail amount has been set, it is the hope that someone will post bail, keeping you, the defendant, out of jail during the trial. If you have a criminal defense attorney, you may even have bail reduced or eliminated based on character references, community support, employment, etc. that the attorney gathers for you.
Forms of posting bail include:
- Unsecured Bail: If you are deemed not a risk to the public, you may be released as long as you attend your next court hearing.
- Cash Bail by Defendant: Be it you or your family, if you should have the resources to post your own bail, you can do so at this point, and at the conclusion of the case, you should receive that money back.
- Surety Bond Through Bondsman: When bail is high, you may hire someone to post bail for you, under the understanding that you must pay them a percentage of the bail at the conclusion.
At this point, you will prepare for the preliminary hearing with or without an attorney.
At the post-arraignment stage, you will need to ensure you have legal representation, have questions prepared to ensure they are answered, understand all options available to you, and be open to all possibilities. You cannot forget that you are innocent until proven guilty.
At the preliminary hearing, you will meet with your attorney and the prosecutor. With the right criminal defense attorney, you will have prepared plea bargains and well as found holes in the prosecution’s case.
It will be imperative that you have a court reporter present to record all testimony at the preliminary hearing. Should the case go further, you will need the testimony to find any flaws in the accusations.
During this time, the Magisterial District judge will determine if the case is Prima Facie, meaning:
- There is probable cause the crime was committed
- There is probable cause that you in fact committed the crime
At the conclusion, you will either enter a plea bargain, which is often less costly than continuing the trial for all parties involved. This can leave you with a shorter sentence.
Court of Common Pleas, Formal Arraignment
If the case is waived and moved to the Common Plea Court, your charges are filed by the district attorney into criminal information that factually states the charges. This then becomes the lead document in the filing.
This leads to formal arraignment. Here the court will hear the case before the Court of Common Pleas, where you are expected to address all information and charges filed. This is where a plea of guilty or not guilty is listed. You will also receive timelines for the discovery of evidence, pre-trial motions, and all upcoming court dates.
You’ve entered your plea and know all information presented to the court. Now, in the pre-trial setting, you have the opportunity to negotiate the terms of the trial or plea. This can include additional hearings that you may or may not need to attend with your attorney.
Then, you will be able to accept a deal including the potential admission into an Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) Program. If more time is needed to come to an agreement, the court can also motion for this.
At the conclusion of the Court of Common Pleas hearings, you will enter an agreement including ARD, or plead guilty with or without a plea agreement.
If no agreement is reached, you will then go to a jury or bench trial. With the right criminal defense attorney, you will walk away as a free person, or with a favorable sentence for your case. But if you represent yourself or have a state-appointed representative, you run the risk of staying behind bars.
However, some rare cases end in dismissal but don’t expect that to happen as it is not the norm.
Whether you enter a guilty plea or are found guilty, you will learn what the sentence and fine you have received are. Sentences consist of incarceration, probation, fines, etc. can all be imposed upon you. You will also receive your post-sentence rights at the conclusion.
Pennsylvania Arraignment Process: Kalinoski Law Offices
As your legal advocate, Attorney Craig Kalinoski is committed to protecting you in and out of court using his knowledge of the community, extensive knowledge of the law, tenacious negotiation skills and commitment to your thorough trial preparation.
Attorney Kalinoski will advocate for inclusion in diversionary programs such as the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program for first-time offenses as our goal is to achieve the best possible situation so you can put your legal concerns behind you and get on with your life.
If you are in need of a criminal defense attorney, contact the Pennsylvania arraignment professional, Attorney Craig Kalinoski at (570) 207-4000 or use our contact form today to schedule an appointment and discuss your case during a free consultation.