If you or someone you know has been charged with a criminal offense in Pennsylvania that is a misdemeanor or felony you will be scheduled for a Preliminary Hearing. This is the first step in the criminal justice system in Pennsylvania. Depending on the crimes charged you may have already been through a Preliminary Arraignment; if not this will be part of your Preliminary hearing. Everyone who has been charged with a misdemeanor or felony in the state of Pennsylvania will have some type of bail set against them to ensure their cooperation with the criminal justice system. Bail will be set at your Preliminary Arraignment, this may have been done at the time in which you were arrested.
The preliminary hearing is the first time that you have the opportunity to challenge the evidence in which the police are claiming against you. The preliminary hearing allows the defendant to force the prosecution to put witnesses on the stand to testify. In addition, the defendant can cross-examine the witnesses and present their own evidence in your defense.
The burden is on the Commonwealth to show what is known as a prima facie case. A prima facie case consists of evidence read in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth that sufficiently establishes both the commission of a crime and that the defendant or accused is probably the perpetrator of that crime. To say that in non-legal terms, the Commonwealth must prove, by presenting evidence that if accepted as true establish, sufficient probable cause such that the Defendant committed the offense. They just have to show evidence that you likely committed this offense; not that you’re guilty, but that you are linked to these offenses. Ultimately, there are two takeaways necessary for understanding the prima facie burden of proof that the commonwealth must need at the preliminary hearing.
First, the prosecution must establish some evidence that the crime was committed and that the defendant committed it.
Second, the evidence presented must be accepted as true by the magistrate judge, which means that credibility of witnesses is not at issue at this stage. However, the magistrate is not determining your guilt or innocence at this period.
It is extremely important to contact an experienced law firm right away if you or someone you know is facing criminal charges in Pennsylvania. If you, your son, daughter, or loved one in Pennsylvania has been arrested for a crime in state or federal court in Pennsylvania you need legal representation. Here at Manchester and Associates, we represent people across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. For a free consultation we can be contacted at 1-800-243-4878.