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Pennsylvania, like all other states, utilizes certain procedures when it comes to arresting and booking criminal defendants. In order to make a valid arrest in Pennsylvania, police officers must ordinarily have probable cause to believe that a crime occurred. A police officer may also arrest someone if the one of the following is true:

  • The officer observed the crime taking place
  • The officer has a valid arrest warrant

In order for a police officer to effectuate a proper arrest, the defendant must also be properly Mirandized. This means that the police officer must inform the defendant of the following:

  • That the defendant has the right to remain silent
  • That anything the defendant says could be used against the defendant in a court of law
  • That the defendant has a right to representation by a criminal defense lawyer
  • That if the defendant cannot afford a criminal defense lawyer, one will be provided for the defendant


Once the defendant arrives at the detention facility, the booking process begins. This process usually involves fingerprinting, obtaining all of the defendant’s personal information, taking booking photographs, confiscating the defendant’s personal items, medical screening, and placing the defendant in a holding cell. While the booking process is ongoing, the prosecutor prepares a complaint.


In Pennsylvania, all criminal defendants have a right to bail within twelve (12) hours after the complaint is issued by the state’s attorney. If the defendant posts bail, the defendant’s release is processed and he or she must appear for the scheduled court date. If a defendant fails to appear for the scheduled court date, the judge will almost certainly issue an arrest warrant for the defendant’s arrest.

Instead of a bail, the defendant may be released on his or her own recognizance. In making a bail/release determination, the following factors may be considered:

  • The defendant’s ties to the community, including employment status
  • The defendant’s level of potential danger to the community
  • Whether or not the defendant is a potential flight risk
  • The defendant’s prior criminal record – especially whether the defendant was recently arrested or convicted for the same offense
  • Whether or not the defendant has any open cases or upcoming court dates
  • Whether the defendant is currently on probation or parole
  • Whether the defendant has previously been convicted of any crimes of violence
  • Whether the defendant is a registered sex offender
  • Whether the defendant failed to appear in court on prior occasions

Preliminary Hearing, Arraignment, Pretrial, and Trial

In felony cases, a defendant may request a preliminary hearing. A preliminary hearing is an opportunity for the court to make a final determination on probable cause. The preliminary hearing generally occurs 3-10 days following the defendant’s arrest.

At the preliminary hearing stage, an experienced Philadelphia criminal defense attorney may be able to have the pending charges reduced or obtain a dismissal of the case altogether.

At an arraignment, the defendant will either plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest. The case subsequently proceeds forward to a pretrial conference, at which point a judge sets deadlines for jury selections, instructions, and pre-trial motions. After plea bargaining – and assuming that no plea deal is reached – the case proceeds to trial. In Pennsylvania, a criminal defendant may select either a jury trial or a bench trial.

The Pennsylvania arrest and pretrial processes are complex, and an experienced Philadelphia criminal defense attorney will be able to assist you with navigating the process and working toward a favorable result.

Contact a Philadelphia Criminal Defense Attorney for Help Immediately

If you have been arrested, it is critical that you have representation by a skilled criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. At The Zeiger Firm, we can provide immediate assistance, so please call today at (215) 546-0340 to learn more about how we can help.



Brian J. Zeiger, Esquire, is an experienced and successful criminal defense and civil rights attorney. He is a seasoned trial lawyer with significant experience before juries and judges. Brian understands civil rights cases, including Taser, Wrongful Death, Excessive Force, Police Brutality, Police Misconduct, Malicious Prosecution, Monell Claims, Sexual Assault, Prisoner’s Rights, Time Credit, Medical Malpractice, and Medical Indifference.