If you have been arrested for a crime in Pennsylvania, it is one of the most stressing situations in life. Your rights, honor and name in the community can be tarnished, and you are often clueless about what would happen next. At the Law Office of Logue Law, our Pittsburgh criminal defense attorneyswould take every possible measure permissible under the law to offer you strongest defense and representation. The following information would give you a generalized idea of the criminal process in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.Preliminary Arraignment
Typical criminal proceedings start with the preliminary arraignment. Here, the person arrested for felony or misdemeanor would have to undergo an arraignment in front of a Magistrate at the local district court. The Magistrate reviews your credentials including employment history, criminal history, and ties to the community, and then determines the bail amount that would secure your future appearance in court if released from custody.
In the case of lower grade misdemeanor, your strong involvement in the community may secure an ROR (released on your own recognizance) or an unsecured bail. You need not deposit any money to secure release from the custody pending outcome of the trial and need not be monitored by the bail agency. In the case of an unsecured bail, you would have to adhere to certain conditions set by the Magistrate.
In the event of more serious offense or a felony such as Aggravated Assault or Sex Crime, you would have to post money to secure release from custody. There are chances that bail may be denied by the Magistrate if you pose any threat to other individuals or community till the charges are dismissed or he/she has been sentenced during the trial. The preliminary arraignment ends with the Magistrate setting a date for a preliminary hearing.Preliminary Hearing
At this stage of the criminal process, the Commonwealth (Police or District Attorney) would present evidence about the crime committed and have to directly link you to the crime. The Magistrate would closely examine the evidence to bind the case for a trial if there is sufficient evidence. If there are discrepancies in the evidence produced all or some of them can be dismissed. However, this hearing shouldn’t be confused with a trial as there are strict limitations on the evidence that a criminal defense lawyer in Pittsburgh is allowed to present.
The preliminary hearing serves as an opportunity for your Pittsburgh attorney to evaluate the evidence presented and plan a counter strategy. Your attorney would also have the opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses before the trial. This stage also allows reduction of charges where misdemeanor or felony charges can be reduced to the summary (citation) offense.Formal Arraignment
When the Magistrate sees sufficient merit in the evidence, he/she would send your case to trial and schedule formal arraignment at the Court of Common Pleas in the country where you had been arrested. It is a stage where the case moves onto a trial level court from the lower courts. Here, you would be advised of your rights and would have to plead.Pretrial Conference/Call Of The Lists
The next stage in the criminal process is the Pretrial Conference or Call of the Lists depending on county of your arrest. Here, the Judge is advised on the status of the case to make him/her aware of whether the case needs to proceed immediately to trial, delayed for the discovery of new evidence, or there is a plea deal in the works. In some instances, your defense attorney can work on a plea deal and prevent the case from going to trial.Trial
Your case would go to trial if no plea deal is worked out. In most cases, the case goes to full trial and court secures a jury panel for your case. At the trial, Commonwealth must prove beyond reasonable doubt that you are responsible for the crime. If the jury has reasonable doubt about the evidence presented, they may declare you as not guilty. The trial doesn’t require you to testify or present evidence, though it is well within your rights to do so. There must be a consensus among all the jurors that you are guilty or not guilty.Sentencing Hearing
The sentencing hearing takes place only if you are convicted of the crime either through trial or guilty pleading. In the event of guilty pleading, the sentencing hearing would take place on the same day or on the following day. If convicted through the trial, the sentencing hearing takes place on a later date.
After a sentencing hearing, you or your attorney can present argument on why you feel the sentence is unwarranted with respect to the offense. This can help you get a lighter sentence when you present a proper rehabilitation plan or sentencing memorandum.
Once you have been arrested, you should prepare for a determined and strong fight. I, along with my team at Logue Law, would offer you the best possible legal representation in the Pittsburgh area. For a free consultation, call me at 1-844-PITT-DUI, 412-389-0805 or contact me online.