If you or a family member has been arrested in the Philadelphia area, you are now involved in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s criminal process. Your case will work its way through Pennsylvania’s legal system, proceeding through multiple steps that begin with your preliminary arraignment.
The steps in this process go all the way up through a trial and sentencing. But it is likely your case will not proceed through every level. At any time during this process, your case can be settled.
A preliminary hearing, one of the first steps in the legal process, will be crucial to your case.
What Happens In A Preliminary Hearing
After you are arrested and have gone through a preliminary arraignment, your next step is a preliminary hearing, often called a prelim. This hearing is usually held 3 to 10 days after the preliminary arraignment. It is an adversarial hearing but not a trial.
The preliminary hearing is the most important hearing on your case.
Its purpose is to protect you from unlawful arrest and detention. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has the burden of proving a prima facie case — that the crime was committed and that you were probably the one who committed it.
At this part of the process, the Commonwealth does not have to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. They simply have to meet a very low burden of proof.
All of the testimony from the Commonwealth’s witnesses will be accepted as the truth no matter how dubious. The defense can’t suppress any evidence.
The judge will not accept a guilty plea at this stage. You will be asked to choose between waiving your rights to a preliminary hearing or holding the hearing.
If you waive your rights, your case will go directly to Common Pleas Court.
If you choose to hold the hearing, the prosecution will present its evidence for each part of the charges against you and call its witnesses.
If the Commonwealth does not meet its burden to prove a prima facie case, your judge will dismiss some or all of the charges.
If they do meet their burden of proof, the judge will schedule an arraignment date for the next step of your case. The case will then go to Common Pleas Court.
It is crucial that your attorney be present with you at your preliminary hearing. Charges against you can be dismissed or they can be dropped in exchange for a hearing waiver.
Questions? Contact us today.
As your case moves through Pennsylvania’s legal system, you need an experienced attorney to defend you. Fienman Defense provides honest communication and gives you the solid guidance you need to avoid severe penalties.