When facing the criminal justice system in Philadelphia for the first time, you should familiarize yourself with what to expect during the process and the rights you may have at each phase.
Understanding Pennsylvania Arrest Procedures
An arrest is the detainment by police of someone suspected of having committed a crime. Police must have an arrest warrant or a valid exception to the warrant requirement for a legal arrest. For example, police do not need a warrant when they witness a suspect commit a crime. Obtaining an arrest warrant requires presenting a judge or magistrate with sufficient evidence to prove probable cause. Upon your arrest, you have two critical rights – the right to remain silent and the right to legal counsel.
Navigating Pretrial Procedures in Pennsylvania
Following your arrest, you can expect to go through the following Philadelphia pretrial procedures:
- Booking: During the booking process, officers will search the arrestee and confiscate any property, record the arrestee’s personal information, take photographs and fingerprints, and perform a criminal database search to see if they have any active arrest warrants. If the arrestee’s offense does not permit immediate release, officers will place the arrestee in jail.
- Bail: An arrestee may be able to be released from jail pending trial by paying money as a security to ensure they return for all pretrial hearings and the trial. If they fail to appear when required, they forfeit their bail money.
- Preliminary hearing: The trial court will hold a preliminary hearing following an arrest to inform the defendant of their charges and confirm whether they have already secured legal counsel.
- Arraignment: At the arraignment, which may occur during the first preliminary hearing, the court will advise the defendant of the charges against them and take the defendant’s initial plea. The court may also explain certain rights the defendant has.
- Pretrial Procedures: The trial court may hold one or more pretrial conferences to discuss plea negotiations and resolve motions filed by the parties, including motions to exclude or admit evidence.
- Discovery: During discovery, the parties will exchange copies of evidence they have found during their respective investigations. Prosecutors must turn over any exculpatory or favorable information in their possession.
- Trial: Eventually, a criminal case not otherwise resolved will reach trial, where a jury or the judge will hear evidence and issue a verdict.
Importance of Legal Representation
The criminal justice process moves quickly, and you have many critical decisions to make soon after your arrest. A criminal defense attorney can investigate the charges against you, advise you of your rights, and advocate on your behalf to pursue a favorable resolution to your case, whether that means a plea deal, a dismissal, or an acquittal at trial. Without legal protection, you leave yourself exposed to the full force of the law.
Contact a Criminal Defense Lawyer in Philadelphia Today
If you’ve been arrested or charged with a crime in Philadelphia, get the aggressive and experienced legal representation you need to fight for your freedom. Contact The Zeiger Firm today for a free, confidential case review with a Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer to discuss your legal options.