What happens after an arrest in Pennsylvania?
Here is how the court process works following an arrest in Pennsylvania. First thing that happens is you are arraigned. When you are arraigned, the charges are read to you. It is not guilt or innocence. The magistrate tells you what you are charged with and then they set bail. Next thing, you are given is a court date for the preliminary hearing. That is the first appearance where there is a hearing to determine if there is enough evidence for the charges to move forward. The burden of proof is much less than beyond reasonable doubt. Some people waive their preliminary hearing, which means they agree that there is enough evidence to go forward, but they still plead not guilty.
After the preliminary hearing, you go to an arraignment at the Court of Common Pleas of whatever county you have been charged in. That is the main courthouse in the county. There a judge will read the charges and ask how you plead. After that the next court appearance depends on what county you are charged in. Some counties have pre-trial conferences where they discuss the cases among the lawyers and the judges and the district attorney to determine if it is going to go to trial or will be a plea. There are some counties where you can automatically set a plea date. There are many different variations of types of hearings depending on the county, but there is generally one type of court appearance where you go before the court to say what you are going to do.
Going to Trial.
If you go to trial, there will be a jury selection. Some counties start the trial immediately after the jury is picked. In some counties you pick a jury then come back on another day for the trial. If you are convicted, there is a sentencing. If you plead guilty, there is a date to plead guilty and then you come back for sentencing. So, this process can take up to three to eight months on average, some cases go out a year or more depending on the complexity. If pretrial motions are filed, then there will be hearing for those.
Do you have to see a probation officer before preliminary hearing?
Generally speaking, no, except some counties have what is called a supervised bail program. In those counties, you see a probation officer who monitors you while you are on bail. Some counties will have you wear an alcohol monitor with GPS tracking. Some counties will just have you check in with the bail agency which is generally a probation officer. Bail agents are different than bail bondsman. Agencies work for the court. It is just another layer of monitoring.
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