An Overview of the Pennsylvania Criminal Trial ProcessMarch 21, 2017
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, between 90-95% of all criminal offenders plead guilty to a qualifying offense. Although an experienced Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney can help you determine whether it is in your best interest to plead guilty, you have the constitutional right to request a public trial by jury, and it should not be neglected when weighing your options.
Timeline of Criminal Charges
If a criminal case is filed against you, it generally begins with an arrest. An arrest can take place in the presence of police officers who witnessed the criminal activity first-hand, i.e., you were caught in the act of burglary, or an arrest can be pursuant to an arrest warrant, which is a document signed by a judge that authorizes the police to take you into custody for a specific criminal charge. If you are taken to jail, you may be permitted to post bond, which would allow you to remain out of custody until your arraignment. An arraignment typically takes place within a month of arrest and it is a hearing at which you will plead guilty or not guilty to the charges against you, and the judge may appoint you an attorney if you cannot afford one. However, before pleading guilty or not guilty to a charge, it is important to contact an experienced Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney to discuss the implications of your decision.
The Criminal Trial Process
Even if you plead not guilty to the charges against you, during the course of the criminal proceedings, you can generally still choose to plead guilty and accept an offer of punishment from the prosecuting attorney. However, if you believe you have a strong defense to the charges against you, then your attorney may recommend going to trial, which encompasses the following steps:
- Jury Selection – the attorneys for either side will question potential jurors and select a panel;
- Presentation of the Prosecution’s Evidence – the prosecuting attorney will begin by presenting her witnesses and evidence against you;
- Presentation of Defense Evidence – your criminal defense attorney will then present witnesses and evidence in your favor;
- Rebuttal – The prosecution may have a chance to rebut certain defense evidence;
- Jury Deliberation – the jury will decide whether you are guilty or not guilty of the charges;
- Sentencing, if applicable – if you are found guilty of the charges against you, the judge will typically determine your sentence, and
- Appeal, if applicable – if either your attorney or the prosecution disagrees with the jury verdict or sentencing, you have the right to appeal to a higher court.
Contact Philadelphia Criminal Defense Attorney Brian Zeiger to Discuss your Options
Especially for first-time offenders, navigating the criminal justice system can be a scary and daunting task. However, attorneys such as Brian Zeiger have dedicated their careers to helping you make the best decisions for your future, and if that decision is going to trial, then he is here to fight for you. If you live in the greater Philadelphia area and are facing criminal charges, contact attorney Brian Zeiger immediately at 215-546-0340 or online.