Montgomery County Criminal Court
Court of Common Pleas. In Pennsylvania, counties have a Court of Common Pleas. The Court of Common Pleas is the highest court in Montgomery County, besides the Superior Court of Pennsylvania and the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. The Court has jurisdiction over criminal cases in Montgomery County and includes five divisions: civil, criminal, family, juvenile, and orphans. The criminal division of the court contains probation and parole departments as well as the main criminal court. This division handles criminal cases such as DUI charges, drug crimes, firearm charges, theft charges, assault charges, and sex crimes. The Court of Common Pleas is usually the final stop in the criminal court process unless there is an appeal to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania.
Here's some practical information about the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas:
- Address: 2 E Airy St, Norristown
- Phone number: 610-278-3224
- Hours: Monday-Friday 8:30 am to 4:15 pm
- Serve as Pennsylvania's main trial courts
- 22 judges
Magisterial District Court. In Pennsylvania, Magisterial District Courts help process cases for the Court of Common Pleas. There is usually more than one Magisterial District Court in each county—Montgomery County has 30, each with a Magisterial District Judge. The Magisterial District Courts are where you'll go for your first hearings in your case. These courts also handle summary criminal offenses, traffic offenses, municipal code violations, landlord/tenant suits, and small civil claims. Because there are 30 courts located across the county, you should always call the district court office you are supposed to appear at to confirm you are heading to the right location. If you're unsure, you can always contact the Magisterial District Courts administrative office and ask.
Here's some practical information about the Montgomery County Magisterial District Courts administrative office:
- Address: 1 Montgomery Plaza, 9th floor, PO Box 311, Norristown
- Phone number: 610-278-3058
- Hours: Monday-Friday 8:00 am to 4:15 pm
- Where preliminary hearings and conferences are held after an arrest
- List of Magisterial District Court offices here
Montgomery County Criminal Procedures
The Court Handling the Stage of Your Proceeding. Like most counties in Pennsylvania, Montgomery County divides the stages of criminal proceedings among the Court of Common Pleas and Magisterial District Courts.
The Magisterial District Courts usually handle the following:
- Warrant requests
- Authorization of arrest warrants
- Preliminary arraignment (usually within hours of the arrest)
- Setting bail
- Preliminary hearing (between two days and two weeks after the preliminary arraignment)
- Dismissing the case if the prosecution has not shown sufficient evidence
The Court of Common Pleas handles the following:
- Formal arraignment (30-60 days after the preliminary hearing)
- Pretrial conference (45-60 days after the formal arraignment)
- Discovery and pretrial conferences
- Sentencing defendants who plead guilty or suffer conviction after a jury or bench trial
ARD Program. The Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program is in effect throughout Pennsylvania, and Montgomery County courts also take part in it. This program allows first-time offenders to avoid going to jail and having their conviction expunged, as long as they plead guilty to the crime they're charged with and complete some rehabilitative steps. The program also helps dispose of the charges promptly, so there is no need for costly and time-consuming trials and court proceedings. First-time offenders must apply for the ARD and generally must waive their right to a preliminary hearing and formal arraignment.
Even if you qualify for the ARD program, it may not be the best option for you. Once admitted, you usually have to pay certain fines or costs and complete community service. Sometimes, these costs can be prohibitive, and the time spent doing community service can be significant. Then, once you've complied with the ARD requirements, you still have to petition the court for an expungement of your crime, which is granted on a discretionary basis. It's important to contact an attorney as soon as possible after you've been arrested to discuss how the process will go and if ARD is the right choice for you.
Local Rules. The Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas has adopted local rules for court procedures that your attorney should know but you should be aware of as well:
- Preliminary hearing recording: Rule 542 states that the defense counsel may make an audio recording of the proceeding, but not a video recording.
- Availability of Magisterial Court Judges: Rule 117 requires judges in the Magisterial Courts must be available to do arraignments and conduct business related to criminal matters within their districts during normal business hours. An after-hours judge must also be available to do arraignments until 10:00 pm on weekdays.
Criminal Defense in Montgomery County
Protection from Abuse Orders
In Pennsylvania, the Protection from Abuse Act allows Montgomery County to issue restraining orders against a family or household member of an alleged victim of domestic violence. The restraining order is supposed to prevent repeated violence and offer protection to the alleged victim, but a PFA can also wreak havoc with the defendant's life. It can force a defendant to vacate their home or prevent them from seeing their children.
Montgomery County takes sex crimes very seriously, and defendants facing such charges should be aware of the severe penalties they're facing. Sex crimes come not only with strict penalties but also require registration as a sex offender in Pennsylvania and possibly other states too. Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney if you're charged with a sex crime, as a conviction could have devastating impacts on your life.
Being charged with a crime involving a firearm or weapon is something a defendant should consider a grave matter. This kind of criminal conviction can lead to job loss, security clearance loss, and many other complications. A skilled attorney can help you defend yourself from such charges.
Attitudes around marijuana have shifted in the last ten years, and marijuana charges might not seem like a big deal. But they can still lead to a criminal conviction which affects your current job, future career, or other prospects.
Student Disciplinary Hearings
College students accused of misconduct can end up with a suspension or expulsion, putting their education in jeopardy. Although it's not a criminal matter, students still need legal defense when dealing with a disciplinary charge because the consequences of expulsion are immense.