Being arrested can be the most stressful event in a person’s life. We here at The Shelton Firm understand that knowing the process can assist in relieving the anxiety of arrest. This article will explain the criminal court process and explain how an experienced criminal defense lawyer can assist you through this process.
Please feel free to contact The Shelton Firm today and request a free consultation. The Shelton Firm is a criminal defense law firm representing clients in Lancaster County, Lebanon County, Chester County, York County, and Berks County.
The first official event after arrest for a misdemeanor or felony is the preliminary arraignment. Arraignment happens at a Magisterial District Court (local district court) and you are arraigned by a Magistrate. During the arraignment the Magistrate will review your criminal history, work history, ties to the community to determine your bail and also set a date for your preliminary hearing. Bail is a subjective standard for each individual and is an amount of money that will secure your future appearance in court.
A judge can give you ROR (released on your own recognizance) or unsecured bail. ROR means that you don’t have to post any money in order to secure your release from custody pending the outcome of your trial. It also means that you would not be required to check in or be monitored by a bail agency. Unsecured bail is different. With unsecured bail, while you also don’t have to post any money, you would be required to adhere to certain bail conditions which are set by the Magistrate.
If you have been charged with a serious offense or felony, such as Possession with Intent to Distribute (“PWID”) or Aggravated Assault, the Magistrate may require you to actually post money to secure your release from custody. Or, in the extreme case, the Magistrate could deny bail altogether which means you would be required to remain in custody until the charges are dismissed or until your sentence has been concluded.
It is always a good idea to have a criminal defense attorney represent you at a preliminary hearing. Before you proceed to a trial in front of a jury the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania constitutionally guarantees you the right to a preliminary hearing. At the preliminary hearing, the Prosecutor must present evidence to the Magistrate to prove that (1) a crime was committed and (2) you were responsible. The standard of proof at the preliminary hearing is by a preponderance of evidence, meaning that something was more likely than not. If the Magistrate finds there is sufficient evidence he will hold the case over for a jury trial at the court of common pleas. If the judge finds the evidence lacking he could dismiss the case completely or dismiss some charges and allow the case to proceed.
A preliminary hearing is an extremely valuable tool to a criminal defense attorney because it gives them an opportunity to evaluate the evidence against you and cross-examine witnesses before the actual trial. Your defense attorney can also be successful by having some of the charges dismissed at the Preliminary Hearing.
A suppression hearing is a court appearance where both sides can argue about whether evidence against a defendant should be thrown out because the defendant’s constitutional rights were violated. It is instituted by your defense attorney filing a Motion to Suppress the evidence. Evidence being suppressed means that it can no longer be used at trial and often times this is devastating to the Prosecution’s case. The Prosecution begins the hearing with testimony that explains why the evidence should be allowed. This is another chance for a criminal defense lawyer to be able to question the witnesses before trial. In addition the defense attorney gets to put on evidence of its own explaining why the evidence should be suppressed.
Typical motions to suppress include (1) physical evidence illegally obtained by the police through an illegal search; (2) identifications by show-up or line-up or photo line-ups or (3) suppression of statements of the accused taken by the police. After the hearing the case proceeds to trial.
When your case is put on the trial list, it is expected that your case will proceed to a full trial and the court will take steps to secure a jury panel to hear your case.
At the time of trial, the Commonwealth must prove that you are guilty of the alleged crime beyond a reasonable doubt. A reasonable doubt is a doubt that would cause of reasonable prudent person to pause or hesitate before making an important decision in their life. You would not be required to present any evidence or to testify but you have the right to do both if you wish. All 12 jurors would have to agree that you are either guilty or not guilty.
If your case ends with a conviction, either due to a guilty plea or a finding of guilt after trial, the next step will be a sentencing hearing. If you have pled guilty, the sentencing hearing can either take place on the day of the plea or on a subsequent date.
At your sentencing hearing you, or your attorney, will be permitted to present arguments for the sentence that you feel is warranted based on your criminal offense. Often times, this is your chance to explain why the crime was committed, how you plan on rehabilitating yourself and apologize for your conduct in hopes that you receive a lighter sentence.
Allow the Shelton Firm to represent you today. Use our criminal Defense attorney to fight those charges and make sure you get the best outcome possible. The firm represents clients in all phases of a criminal matter and we make sure you get the best possible outcome. Call us today at 717-823-0899.
At The Shelton Firm we offer legal services ranging from Criminal Defense, Personal Injury, Automobile Accidents, DUI, Divorce and Separation Issues, Expungements and Sealing of criminal records, and Traffic Ticket defense. Our goal is to bring quality and affordable representation to the residents of Chester, York, Lebanon and Lancaster County.