Bucks County Criminal Court
Court of Common Pleas. In Bucks County, the Court of Common Pleas handles the extent of criminal cases, from arraignment through to sentencing, expungements, and record sealing. This court is the highest in Bucks County, apart from the Superior Court of Pennsylvania and the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. The Bucks County Common Pleas Court has four divisions: criminal, civil, family, and orphan (probate). The criminal division includes the adult probation and juvenile probation services and supervises the Bucks County Youth Center. There are 15 judges, and the courthouse is located in Doylestown. This court serves as the issuing authority in all felony and misdemeanor cases, as well as summary cases.
Here's some practical info about the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas:
- Address: Bucks County Justice Center, 100 N Main St, Doylestown
- Phone number: 215-348-6000
- Business hours: Monday-Friday 8:30 am to 4:00 pm
- 15 judges
- Has jurisdiction over all cases not exclusively assigned to another court
Magisterial District Court. In Bucks County, Magisterial District Courts are minor courts that help the Court of Common Pleas process cases. These courts handle the early stages of cases, so after you have been arrested, your first contact with the criminal justice system will likely be in one of the county's Magisterial District Courts. Bucks County has 18 of these district courts spread throughout the county, and each has a Magisterial District Judge. These courts adjudicate all traffic and non-traffic citations, process criminal cases and private criminal complaints, and handle civil landlord/tenant complaints with a jurisdictional limit of $12,000. Because there are multiple district courts in Bucks County, you should always confirm at which location your proceeding is taking place.
You can find a list of the 18 Magisterial District Courts in Buck County with contact information here and a map of each court here.
Bucks County Criminal Procedures
The Court Handling the Stage of Your Proceeding. Bucks County is like most other counties when it comes to handling criminal proceedings. It divides the process between the Court of Common Pleas and the Magisterial District Courts.
The Bucks County Magisterial District Courts handle:
- Issuing arrest warrants
- Preliminary arraignment (where you formally hear charges against you)
- Determining bail
- Preliminary hearing (where the prosecution must establish that you more likely than not committed the crime)
- Dismissing your case if there isn't sufficient evidence to go to trial
- Transferring your case to the Court of Common Pleas if there is sufficient evidence to go to trial
The Bucks County Court of Common Pleas handles:
- Formal arraignment (where you must plead guilty or not guilty)
- Pretrial hearings or “calls of the list” (includes discovery requests and plea negotiations)
Diversionary Programs. A diversionary program offers supervision, treatment, and community service in place of automatic incarceration. One such program that is used throughout Pennsylvania is the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program. First-time offenders charged with non-violent crimes can qualify for ARD, but they must accept responsibility for the crime they are charged with, waive the right to a preliminary hearing, and complete program requirements. In return, they avoid going any further through the criminal process or getting jail time.
Participation in ARD can clear your record of your criminal conviction, but it may not be the best option for everyone who qualifies. The program usually requires you to pay fines that can be steep. It also typically includes community service, which can be time-consuming and interfere with your daily life. Also, once you complete the program, there's no guarantee your record is wiped clean as you still have to petition the court for expungement.
Having an attorney by your side can help you determine if ARD is the best decision for your situation.
Local Rules. The Bucks County Court of Common Pleas has adopted rules for the criminal procedure that you should be aware of. Your attorney will know these rules and which ones apply to your case, but it helps to know what to expect when you get to court.
- Arraignment: Rule 303 states that formal arraignment should take place no more than 20 days after the information has been filed.
- Juvenile dress code: The juvenile probation department has a dress code that all court participants must comply with to maintain the dignity, decorum, and professional atmosphere of the judicial branch of government.
Criminal Defense in Bucks County
If you are charged with a firearm or weapon crime, it can lead to several complications besides just the penalties for the crime. You could end up losing your job, security clearance, and much more. It's vital to get a skilled attorney to represent you so a firearm or weapon charge doesn't upend your life.
Since attitudes around marijuana use have changed in recent years, many people assume getting marijuana criminal charges isn't so serious. In fact, a conviction for this crime can still cause you to lose your job, jeopardize your career, or impede other opportunities for you.
Student Disciplinary Hearings
Student misconduct charges at colleges and universities aren't criminal matters, but the consequences can be just as serious. Expulsion from a university can prevent you from pursuing the career you wanted, force you to start your degree over, and ruin you financially with student loans. Having a defense attorney at your disciplinary proceedings can help you prevent these things from happening.