The criminal prosecution process in Delaware County starts when a police report is filed by the arresting officer. Based on these reports, a prosecution (the Commonwealth) will determine if the case should be charged, or if the charges shouldn't be pursued. If the former option is chosen, the charges will be filed and the process will begin.
If you've been charged with a crime and don't know what to do next, your first move should be to retain a skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney. It's also important to understand the basics of the system. In this article, we'll address the process, and what to expect now that charges have been filed against you.
In the event that charges are filed, a preliminary hearing will be scheduled. It's usually scheduled within 30 days of an arrest in the district where the alleged crime occurred. Since this hearing will set the tone for the rest of the criminal prosecution process, it should not be attended without representation.
At a hearing, the prosecution is tasked with proving that there is enough evidence to put a defendant on trial. They have a burden of presenting evidence that could convince a reasonable person that a crime was committed and that there's a possibility that you are the one who committed it. The standard of proof in the preliminary hearing is “probable cause” - which is substantially lower than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard used in trials.
If the judge decides that this burden has been met by the prosecution, the case will progress to the Court of Common Pleas. If the judge determines that there isn't enough evidence to proceed, the case will be dismissed.
An arraignment will be scheduled within 30 to 60 days after a preliminary hearing. At an arraignment, a number of things will occur: the court will read you your official charges, the amount for bail will be set, and most importantly, you and your representation will be asked to enter a plea.
After an arraignment is a pre-trial conference. This conference is scheduled to fill the judge in on important details and the overall status of a case. A case can be in several stages: it could be going straight to trial, it could be delayed because of issues, or a plea deal may be in the works. Whichever state your case happens to be in will be discussed amongst your attorney, the prosecution, and the judge. This conference is scheduled a few weeks before a trial starts.
If a plea deal isn't negotiated, a trial is the next and oftentimes final phase of the criminal prosecution process. A trial can be held in front of a jury and a judge, or solely before a judge. But in the majority of criminal cases, a jury will deliberate and propose a verdict. 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
Delaware County Criminal Defense Attorney
If you've been arrested for the first time, you should consult with a Montgomery 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.