Being arrested in Chester County is the beginning of a drawn-out and arduous journey to justice. If you haven't been in this situation before, the process can be very confusing. But once you understand the basics of what to expect following an arrest, you'll be able to get some peace of mind.
Before we address the process, here are a couple of useful tips you can apply to your situation at any point after an arrest:
Contact an attorney, pronto. Failing to obtain the services of an experienced Chester County attorney at the earliest possible time is risky. A legal professional can help you avoid serious mistakes that could potentially hinder favorable outcomes in the long run.
Don't say anything to law enforcement that you don't have to. You'll eventually have to speak to law enforcement and investigating authorities about your incident. Saying the wrong thing will jeopardize your case, your attorney's defense, and potentially your future. Don't be afraid to ask for your attorney's help prior to any kind of questioning.
Don't panic, you'll most likely be released. An arrest doesn't guarantee that you'll have to remain in police custody for long. Many defendants who have been arrested for a misdemeanor or a minor crime will only be held until their information is obtained.
The Criminal Prosecution Process
After an arrest in Chester County, you'll be taken to the nearest police station in the district for processing. At this time, a criminal complaint will be filed and reviewed by the district justice. The complaint will detail things like your identity, where you were arrested, the crimes charged, and a brief summary of the incident.
Once this complaint has been processed, a preliminary hearing will be scheduled. This hearing is an opportunity for the prosecution (the Commonwealth) to provide evidence that justifies putting you on trial. Basically, the opposition has the burden of providing evidence that is sufficient enough to convince a reasonable person that a crime was committed and that you are somehow linked to this crime. If a judge concludes that the burden of proof was met, the case will progress to the next phase. If a judge decides that the evidence provided is too weak to continue, you will be discharged.
The next step is a formal arraignment. You'll be provided with a copy of a formal charging document and advised of your rights. But most importantly, you'll be requested to enter a plea. Your attorneys 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 notified of the state of your case. You'll also get the chance to file pretrial motions, like a continuance, a request for a discovery period, severance or joinder and more.
A trial will be held before a judge and a jury, or solely before a judge. If you aren't at all familiar with how a trial is conducted, the following is a general order of events:
- Opening statements
- Presentation of prosecution's evidence
- Presentation of defense's evidence
- Closing arguments
Chester County Criminal Defense Attorney
If you've been arrested for the first time, you should consult with a Chester 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.