Pennsylvania Criminal Justice
As an experienced, seasoned criminal defense attorney who also was an Assistant District Attorney during the early 2000s, Alex Silow understands that being charged with a crime in Pennsylvania is overwhelming and stressful due to the complex process involved.
This is especially true if you are not familiar with the Pennsylvania criminal justice process or the rights that are available to you. These are critical things to understand when you’re facing criminal charges. Every step in the process is important to your case and in determining whether it will go to trial, whether you will have the charges against you reduced, whether there are alternative or non-criminal programs available to resolve the charges or whether the charges against you can be dismissed altogether. It’s crucial to be represented by a lawyer like Alex who fully understands how the process works because he has had significant experience from the point of view of the district attorney’s office as well as experience as a respected and successful criminal defense practitioner committed to the well-being of his clients. Case evaluations are always free. Call (610) 441-9310 to discuss your case today.
West Chester, Pennsylvania criminal defense lawyer Alex Silow has appeared before judges and juries in both state and federal courts, and has delivered exceptional case results time and time again. To gain a better understanding of the types of cases Alex knows inside and out, browse the items below for a description of each practice area.
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Information about the Criminal Justice Process in Pennsylvania
After you have been arrested in Pennsylvania for a crime, whether the arrest occurred in Chester County, Delaware County, Montgomery County, Lancaster County, Philadelphia County or any of the 67 counties in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania it can be a long and nerve-wracking journey to the final outcome.
The Law Firm of Alexander Silow will guide you through this process with an honest and straightforward approach that will ease your burden so you can continue on with your life during this trying period of time as well as afterward. Here are some major steps you can expect to take place after you have been arrested in Pennsylvania.
The first official event in the Pennsylvania criminal justice process is the preliminary arraignment. After arrest, you’ll be brought to a local District Court and before a magistrate judge where you’ll be arraigned. Being arraigned is where the judge makes a decision about your bail by looking at your ties to the community, job history and your criminal history. The judge will set bail at this time in an amount that the judge believes will guarantee your appearances at future court hearings if you are released from custody.
For example, if the crime with which you’re charged is a misdemeanor like Driving Under the Influence (“DUI”) of alcohol or drugs, simple assault, drug possession and theft and you have strong roots in the community it is possible that you will be released on your own recognizance (“ROR”) or on unsecured bail. ROR is an important step in that you don’t have to post any money to be released from custody while you wait for the outcome of the case against you. It also means that you wouldn’t be required to check in or be monitored by a bail bonds agency. Unsecured bail is a bit different because, while you also don’t have to post any money, you would be required to adhere to certain bail conditions which are set by the judge.
If you have been charged with a more serious offense or felony, such as Possession with Intent to Distribute drugs, Burglary or Aggravated Assault, the judge may require that you post cash or property in order for you to be released. There are also situations when the judge could deny bail altogether. This means that you’d have to remain in custody until your lawyer convinces a court to allow bail or if the charges are dismissed or reduced.
At your preliminary arraignment, the judge will also set a date for your preliminary hearing.
A preliminary hearing in front of a local magistrate/judge takes place next once you’ve been arrested and charged with committing a crime. At this hearing, the Police or District Attorney must present evidence that a crime was committed and that more likely than not you committed the crime. If the judge finds that the evidence presented that you committed the crime meets this standard, then the case will be held over for a trial. If the evidence presented doesn’t meet this level of proof, some or all of the charges could be dismissed. The preliminary hearing is not an actual trial so there are limitations on what evidence, if any, a defense attorney may present. A preliminary hearing, however, is a valuable and indispensable tool as it gives an experienced defense attorney an opportunity to evaluate the evidence that exists against you as well as the chance to cross-examine witnesses prior to your actual trial. Depending upon the outcome of your preliminary hearing, it may be possible for your lawyer to get the charges reduced to a summary (citation) offense where you only pay a fine and avoid prison or probation.
If the judge decides that there is sufficient evidence for your case to go to a trial, a formal arraignment will be scheduled in the Court of Common Pleas in the county where you were arrested. The formal arraignment is the day your case is transferred from the lower court to the trial level Court of Common Pleas. This arraignment is where you are advised of your rights going forward and you’ll be asked to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty.
PRETRIAL CONFERENCE/CALL OF THE LIST
Once you’ve been formally arraigned, and depending upon the county, your case may be listed for either a Call of the List or a Pretrial Conference. These are actually status hearings to advise the judge on what the status of the case is in terms of a plea deal being discussed, whether the case will immediately proceed to trial or whether it is necessary for the case to be delayed for a legitimate reason such as to discover or to process new evidence. This is also the time where an experienced criminal defense attorney has an opportunity to work out a favorable plea that would resolve the case without having to go to a trial.
If a plea deal is not reached at the Pretrial Conference/Call of the List, your case is put on the trial list. This happens if it’s expected that your case will proceed to a full trial and the court will take steps get a jury to hear your case. Your experienced defense attorney will have the opportunity to take part in this step and to ensure that the jurors believe that you are innocent until it’s proven beyond a reasonable doubt that you’re not.
The Commonwealth must prove during your trial that you are guilty of the alleged crime beyond a reasonable doubt. You don’t have to prove that you’re not. A reasonable doubt is a doubt that would cause of reasonable prudent person to pause or hesitate before making an important decision in their life. You are not required to present any evidence or to testify but you have the right to do both if you wish after consulting with your defense lawyer. All 12 jurors would have to agree that you’re guilty; if less than 12 agree that you’re guilty, you may not be found guilty.
If you’re found to be guilty, either due to a guilty plea or a finding of guilt after your trial, a sentencing hearing will be held. If you have pleaded guilty, the sentencing hearing may take place on the day of the plea or on a later date. If you were convicted after your trial, the hearing will usually be held at a later date. Once again, this is a critical step in the justice process. Your sentencing hearing is your chance for you, or your attorney, to present arguments and oftentimes evidence supporting the sentence that you feel is proper. This is your chance to explain your conduct and/or how you plan on rehabilitating yourself. It’s also the time to apologize for your conduct and explain why you should receive a lighter sentence.
Call (610) 441-9310 to discuss your case today.