Being arrested in Bucks County is the beginning of a long and arduous journey to justice. If you haven't been in this predicament before, the process can seem like a whirlwind of confusing events, making the situation even more difficult than it already is. But once you understand the basics of what to expect following an arrest, you'll be able to gain some clarity about the gravity of your situation and get some peace of mind.
Before we get into the process, here are a couple of tips you still have time to consider after an arrest:
Immediately contact an attorney. It's important you understand the significant role of an attorney throughout this process. Choosing to not obtain the services of an experienced Bucks County lawyer at the earliest possible time is risky. They can help you avoid mistakes and pitfalls that could potentially hinder a successful outcome in the long run.
Don't say anything to law enforcement that you don't have to. You'll be asked to speak to law enforcement and investigating authorities about your incident. If you say the wrong thing, it could jeopardize your case, your attorney's defense, and ultimately your future. The police are given the authority to trick you, to lie to you, and to take things out of context. Don't be afraid or find it offensive to ask for your attorney's help prior to any kind of questioning.
Don't panic, you most likely will be released. An arrest in Bucks County doesn't guarantee that you'll have to remain in police custody. In fact, a large number of defendants are released shortly after being arrested. If you've been arrested for a misdemeanor or a minor crime, you'll only be held until your information is obtained.
The Criminal Prosecution Process
After an arrest in Bucks County, you'll be taken to the nearest police district for processing. Around this time a criminal complaint will be filed with the district justice. The complaint will detail your identity, the crimes charged, and a brief summary of the incident.
Once this complaint has been processed, a preliminary hearing will be scheduled. This hearing will give the prosecution (the Commonwealth) an opportunity to present evidence that justifies putting you on trial. Basically, they have to provide evidence that is sufficient enough to convince the district justice that a crime was committed, and there is a reasonable likelihood that you could've committed this crime. If a judge concludes that the burden of proof was met, the case will progress to the next phase. If not, you will be discharged.
The next step is a formal arraignment. You'll be given a copy of the formal charging document and advised of your rights. But most importantly, you'll be asked to enter a plea. Your attorney will advise you of which plea - guilty, not guilty, or no contest - is most suitable in your case.
At this phase, the judge will be filled in on the state of your case, and you'll get the chance to file pretrial motions. Some of these motions include a continuance, a request for an extended discovery period, severance or joinder and more.
A trial will be held in front of a jury and a judge, or solely before a judge. If you aren't familiar with how a trial is conducted, here's a general order of events:
- Opening statements
- Presentation of prosecution's evidence
- Presentation of defense's evidence
- Closing arguments
Bucks County Criminal Defense Attorney
If you've been arrested for the first time, you should consult with a Bucks County criminal defense attorney to discuss your options. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has successfully represented numerous clients who've acquired misdemeanor and felony charges and has helped them get their sentence reduced, and their charges dismissed. For a case evaluation, contact him today online or by phone at (215) 535-5353.