Philadelphia County Criminal Court
Court of Common Pleas. When someone is accused of committing a felony crime in Philadelphia County, they must answer to the Court of Common Pleas. This court has jurisdiction over all felony cases and appeals from the Municipal Court. The court has three main divisions, including the Trial Division, Family Division, and Orphans Division. The Trial Division is where criminal matters go and covers case types like homicide, capital PCRA cases, and other felonies. The Trial Division Criminal Section of the Court of Common Pleas also includes the probation department and pretrial services.
Here's some key information about the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas:
- Address: 1400 John F Kennedy Blvd
- Phone number: 215-686-7000
- Business hours: Monday-Friday, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm
- 101 judges
- Three divisions: Trial Division, Family Division, and Orphans Division (criminal cases are handled in the Trial Division)
- Hears appeals on misdemeanor cases from the Municipal Court
Municipal Court. For those accused of committing misdemeanor crimes in Philadelphia County, their case will be in Municipal Court. This court also handles felony charges with a sentence of up to five years of incarceration. The Criminal Division of the Municipal Court also deals with non-traffic summary charges for both adults and juveniles.
- Address: 1301 Filbert St
- Phone number: 215-686-7000
- Business hours: 8:30 am to 5:00 pm
- 27 judges
- Three divisions: criminal, civil, and traffic
- Processes every criminal arrest in Philadelphia
- Holds misdemeanor trials and preliminary hearings for felony cases
Philadelphia County Criminal Procedures
Arraignment. If you are arrested in Philadelphia, the first court you deal with is the Municipal Court, which handles preliminary arraignments. The arraignment usually takes place within 24 hours of an arrest. At an arraignment, you can expect the following:
- The bail commissioner reviews the complaint
- Your charges are read to you
- Bail is set
- The next court date is set
Once bail is set, you can pay it on any day, around the clock, at the Criminal Justice Center (1301 Filbert St). If your bail is less than $250,000, you may qualify for Early Bail Review (EBR), moving your hearing up to within five business days of your arraignment.
Preliminary Hearing. If your case is a felony charge, the preliminary hearing takes place at the Municipal Court. This hearing is to determine if there's enough evidence of a case to go to trial and if yes, it is transferred to the Court of Common Pleas. If not, the judge dismisses the case.
Pretrial Discovery Hearing. At this hearing, your lawyer and the District Attorney's Office present the evidence they plan to use at the trial.
Trial. If your case is a misdemeanor charge, you will have a misdemeanor trial heard by a judge without a jury. If you are found guilty, you can appeal to the Court of Common Pleas. Felony cases do not have trials in Municipal Court but transfer to the Court of Common Pleas.
ARD Program. Philadelphia County participates in Pennsylvania's Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program, which allows some first-time offenders charged with certain non-violent crimes to complete a rehabilitation program and have their crimes expunged afterward. You have to accept responsibility for the crime you are charged with, however, and the ARD program isn't the best option for everyone who qualifies. The terms of the program—which you must complete—can be expensive or time-consuming, and some program participants are unable to complete them.
Local Rules. The Municipal Court in Philadelphia County has adopted rules of criminal procedure that your criminal defense attorney should know. It helps if you have a basic idea of what these rules entail, as well.
- Bench warrant: If you do not show up for a hearing, the court can issue a bench warrant for your arrest.
- Electronic filing: Philadelphia County Rule 576 allows for the electronic filing of some court documents, though there are restrictions. Your attorney should be aware of how to file the legal papers needed for your case.
The Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas also has a set of local rules, and some you should be aware of are:
- Pretrial conference: If your case is in the Court of Common Pleas, the pretrial conference usually takes place 60 days before the trial.
- Deposit of 10% bail: Once a defendant has been properly granted bail, they can be released from custody by depositing 10% of the amount of the bail, or $25.
Criminal Defense in Philadelphia County
Protection from Abuse Orders
In Pennsylvania, the Protection from Abuse Act allows the Philadelphia courts to issue a protective order between family and household members. This restraining order offers legal protection to victims of repeated sexual assault, domestic violence, or stalking. A protection from abuse order can also unreasonably interfere with the alleged assailant's child custody or access to housing and personal belongings.
Crimes related to property don't seem like such a big deal, but they can have serious consequences. From burglary to vandalism, property crimes should be dealt with by a skilled attorney who can potentially negotiate a better resolution for you.
Being charged with a crime related to firearms and weapons can have several consequences beyond just the penalty for the crime. It can also lead to job loss, loss of security clearance, or difficulty finding housing.
Student Disciplinary Hearings
Student misconduct, while not a crime, can lead to devastating consequences. A qualified student defense attorney can help you defend yourself in these situations.