The criminal court process in Pennsylvania can be confusing when you are facing criminal charges for the first time. There are intricacies and formalities you must abide by despite having little knowledge of legal proceedings. The arraignment is a perfect example. If you are arrested for a crime, you will need to go through both a preliminary and a formal arrangement. While similar in some respects, they are also a bit different. The best course of action is to have a Pittsburgh criminal defense lawyer at both of these hearings.
You have the right to obtain an attorney at any time during the criminal court process. To learn more about arraignment and other hearings prior to trial, call the experienced Pittsburgh criminal defense attorneys at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC at (412) 281-2146 to schedule a free initial consultation.
The Preliminary Arraignment
An arraignment is a brief hearing in court held before a magistrate in Pennsylvania. This is the first time you will attend court after an arrest. You must attend a preliminary arraignment when you are arrested without a warrant or based on a warrant. You may be lawfully arrested without a warrant if the police have reasonable suspicion of your involvement in a crime, such as if you were pulled over for a DUI or involved in a public fight. You can also be taken into custody if an arrest warrant was issued based on evidence you were involved with a previously committed crime.
Your preliminary arraignment should take place within 72 hours after your arrest. In general, you will be arrested, booked into jail, and then must wait to be released from jail until after your arraignment.
It is also nothing like a trial. Your innocence or guilt is not at issue yet. However, you should still have a lawyer there to protect your rights. If you have been arrested, you should contact a Pittsburgh criminal defense attorney at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC or have your family call as soon as possible.
What You Can Expect at a Preliminary Arraignment
At your arraignment, you will appear before a magistrate. You will be told the criminal charges against you and provided a copy of the complaint outlining these charges. If you were arrested based on a warrant, you will also be given a copy of this warrant and any supporting affidavits. The court will then advise you of your rights, including your right to a Pittsburgh criminal defense attorney, a preliminary hearing, and to be released on a bail bond.
You will learn at this arraignment whether you will be released on your own recognizance or detained by the police, and whether you can be released on a bail bond. Your release depends on a number of factors, including the offense with which you are currently charged, your criminal history, your employment and financial status, and your ties to the community. The magistrate has some discretion in allowing your release on your own recognizance or on bail. The magistrate can also determine whether you can be released on unsecured bail, which does not require paying any money up front. If you are charged with a felony or violence offense, you will likely be required to pay bail to be released or bail may be denied.
Lastly, your preliminary hearing will be scheduled for within the next 14 days. If you do not have an attorney at your preliminary arraignment, then you should ensure you have one by the date of your preliminary hearing. This hearing is very important as the district attorney will present evidence against you to a magistrate who must decide whether there is sufficient evidence that you committed the offense to let it move forward to trial. This is not the same as trial, however, this is your first opportunity to argue your innocence, attack the evidence against you, and have the charges reduced or dropped. With the help of an experienced Pittsburgh criminal defense attorney, you may be able to put an end to this difficult time.
The Formal Arraignment
If the magistrate determines there is enough evidence to send your case to trial during the preliminary hearing, then a formal arraignment in the Court of Common Pleas will be scheduled. At this formal arraignment, your criminal case will be transferred from the local district court to the trial court. Once again you will be informed of the charges against you and your right to have a Pittsburgh criminal defense attorney.
You will also be told your right to file motions in regard to the proceedings and that if you fail to show up at any future court dates, the proceedings can move forward without you. The information regarding pretrial motions is important because there are deadlines for certain pleadings. Some motions must be filed within 30 days of your arraignment – something you should speak with your attorney about. If you do not file these motions within the deadline, you lose your right to do so.
At your formal arraignment, you will be asked how you plead: guilty or not guilty. You should consult with a Pittsburgh arraignment attorney to determine how you should plead at the formal arraignment. It is likely that a plea of not guilty will give you and your attorney time to build a strong defense.
Need Help? Call Our Pittsburgh Criminal Defense Lawyers Today
Going before a magistrate or judge for the first time can be frightening, especially when you are not sure of what happens or what you are supposed to do. At Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC, we will make sure you are prepared for every step of the criminal court process, from the preliminary arraignment to trial. We will fight for your rights and freedom every step of the way.
Call our Pittsburgh arraignment lawyers today at (412) 281-2146 to schedule an initial consultation.