It’s not easy to face criminal charges in Pennsylvania. A criminal justice system that is unfamiliar to you can be a real challenge.
While a lawyer can assist you through the nuances of the Pennsylvania criminal justice system, this overview should give you a sense of what to expect if you’re ever accused of wrongdoing.
An Attorney’s Duty as a Defendant
Defense attorneys are criminal defense lawyer who represents defendants in criminal cases. Criminal defense attorneys are hired to act as their client’s representatives and advocates from pre-trial proceedings through sentencing.
A defendant who hires a defense attorney can count on receiving the following benefits:
- Defendants can benefit from legal counsel because attorneys can explain their options, including the advantages and disadvantages of each.
- An attorney will look into the details of the case, gather evidence, interview witnesses, and formulate a solid defense strategy based on what they find.
- A defense attorney may attempt to negotiate with the prosecution in order to get charges or penalties reduced or to obtain a plea bargain agreement.
- Defendants in criminal cases who retain legal counsel will have that counsel present during their arraignment, any pre-trial conferences, and the trial itself.
How to Work the Criminal Justice System in Pennsylvania
A police officer needs probable cause to suspect you committed a crime before they can arrest you. An officer can arrest you if he or she has reasonable suspicions that you committed a crime. But, you could be arrested if authorities follow up on a report of criminal activity.
Remember that resisting arrest might result in extra criminal charges and that the scene of your arrest is not the place to question the validity of your arrest. Arrest legitimacy is a matter for your criminal defense attorney, the prosecution, and the court.
An arrest will result in you being taken to a police station for processing and the writing of a police report. After reading this report, the prosecutor has several options.
- Not going forward with the charges
- Bring formal charges before the trial court by filing a criminal complaint.
Initial Appointment Counsel
The next step in the legal process following an arrest is a preliminary arraignment before a magistrate. Before deciding on bail, the magistrate takes into account the defendant’s criminal record, employment history, community links, and the specifics of the case. The preliminary hearing date is also determined by the magistrate.
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