Dauphin County Criminal Court
Court of Common Pleas. The Dauphin County Court of Common Pleas is the highest court in the county, other than the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania and the Superior Court of Pennsylvania. This court handles more serious criminal cases as well as appeals on criminal cases from the Magisterial District Courts. The Court of Common Pleas in Dauphin County handles jury trials for criminal and civil matters, juvenile hearings, and a whole host of civil issues like custody and adoption hearings. This court also manages Dauphin County's Probation Services. In addition, the Court of Common Pleas has several programs aimed at helping specific individuals, such as the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program for first-time offenders, the DUI Repeat Offender Program (DROP), Drug Court for helping offenders with drug dependency issues, Mental Health Court for keeping those with serious mental illness safe and accountable while seeking treatment, Veterans Court, Team Mental Illness/Substance Abuse (MISA) to assist offenders with mental health diagnosis case planning, and Recovery Connections Court for those with substance use disorders.
When you are first brought into the criminal justice system in Dauphin County, it's possible you may be able to participate in one of the special courts or programs the Court of Common Pleas has established to help people with recovery and treatment, rather than simply incarcerating them. Knowing if you are a good candidate for one of these programs isn't straightforward, so it helps to have an attorney to assist you.
Here is some practical information about the Dauphin County Court of Common Pleas:
- Address: 101 Market St, Harrisburg
- Phone number: 717-780-6620
- Business hours: Monday-Friday 8:00 am – 4:30 pm
- Ten judges
Magisterial District Court. In Pennsylvania, the Magisterial District Courts are usually the first court you come in contact with in the criminal justice system. In most counties, including Dauphin County, the Magisterial District Courts hear cases involving traffic violations, minor criminal matters, disputes between landlords and tenants, and civil matters with damages claimed up to $12,000. These courts also have initial jurisdiction for all criminal cases, meaning that they are the ones issuing arrest warrants and determining sufficient justification to send misdemeanor and felony cases on to the Court of Common Pleas for further action. In Dauphin County, there are 15 Magisterial District Courts, and each has its own judge. As there are multiple courts located throughout the county, you should always check in advance of your court proceedings to ensure you're going to the right location.
Dauphin County Criminal Procedures
The Court Handling the Stage of Your Proceeding. As previously mentioned, Dauphin County splits the stages of criminal proceedings between the Magisterial District Courts and Court of Common Pleas, depending on the case. When you go through criminal procedures in Dauphin County, here's what you can expect:
- Preliminary arraignment (Magisterial District Court): You will learn of the charges against you, and the court will decide whether to permit you to post bail.
- Preliminary hearing (Magisterial District Court): At this hearing, the prosecution has to prove that there is sufficient evidence to take your case to trial.
- Transfer to trial court and arraignment (Court of Common Pleas): If the judge at your preliminary hearing decides there is sufficient evidence for a trial, your case moves to the Court of Common Pleas, and you have a formal arraignment, where the court asks you to plead guilty or not guilty.
- Pretrial hearings (Court of Common Pleas): Pretrial hearings are for gathering evidence such as witness statements, photos, videos, and police reports.
- Trial (Court of Common Pleas): You can request either a jury or judge hear your case at trial.
- Post-Trial (Court of Common Pleas): If you are found guilty at your trial, the judge will determine your sentence.
Criminal Defense in Dauphin County
Violation of Probation/Parole
If you get convicted of a crime, you may have a probation or parole period that comes with it. Failing to follow the rules of your probation or parole can lead to incarceration or other harsh consequences. There's a separate hearing process for violating probation or parole, and you can have an attorney represent you in these hearings.
A crime is considered violent if it endangers or inflicts harm on another person. If weapons were involved, it could lead to a heavier sentence as well. The court takes violent crimes very seriously and is not likely to go easy on you. Having an experienced defense attorney by your side can help you handle the charges better.
A “white collar crime“ is typically an offense that involves embezzlement, fraud, forgery, and large sums of money being gained. These types of crimes are usually complex, with many factors to consider, and are better handled by a defense attorney.
Charges involving a weapon or firearm tend to have steep consequences. They can lead to a loss of job, loss of security clearance, and many other complications. A skilled attorney helping you with your firearm or weapon charges improves the chances of a more favorable outcome for you.
Attitudes about marijuana use have shifted considerably in the last several years, but you can still be charged with a crime for using it in Pennsylvania. This type of charge can, unfortunately, lead to negative outcomes for your job, career, education, or other important opportunities. A defense attorney can help you deal with marijuana charges and potentially avoid those negative outcomes.
Student Disciplinary Hearings
Getting accused of student misconduct at a college or university isn't a crime, but the stakes are still high enough that working with a defense attorney is a good idea. You could end up getting suspended or expelled from your institution, not only setting back your progress toward your degree but also costing you dearly financially.