Pennsylvania Criminal Law Information

The Criminal Process: What To Expect

The criminal process can be a very scary and intimidating ordeal for those facing charges. It generally begins with an arrest. The arrest can occur because the police allegedly saw you commit a crime or because they secured an arrest warrant. Anyone facing criminal charges or a police investigation should retain an experienced and aggressive criminal defense attorney.

Once arrested, you will either be brought in for a preliminary arraignment and placed on bail, or you will be let go and the charges will be mailed to you via a criminal summons.

After the preliminary arraignment, a preliminary hearing is scheduled. During this hearing, a District Justice will decide whether there is enough evidence to hand you over to the Court of Common Pleas for a trial.

Occasionally, in serious or complex cases, you won't receive a preliminary hearing. Instead, the case will be reviewed or investigated by an indicting grand jury (or, in federal cases, a federal grand jury). In the case of an indicting grand jury, a panel of jurors will be brought in to hear the accusations against you in a secret court. If the grand jury decides there is probable cause that you committed a crime, you'll be charged and your case will be sent to the Court of Common Pleas or Federal Court.

Understanding Your Options

After the criminal process begins, you should consult with your attorney about whether you're eligible for diversion programs such as Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition ( A.R.D.). Your attorney can also let you know if your case is subject to mandatory minimum sentencing. Mandatory sentencing laws frequently call for state prison sentences, whereas the ARD program gives you the opportunity to have the charges withdrawn.

Regardless of the charges you may be facing, take the time to read up on the District Justices and Judges who handle cases in Chester and Montgomery Counties: