A criminal case starts with an arrest, which is an accusation by a police officer that you committed one or more crimes. You will be taken to the police station where several things will happen.
- The officer may try to question you. We advise that you not speak to an officer without an attorney present. You have the right to remain silent and the right to have an attorney present during questioning
- The officer will swear out the warrant in front of a video Justice of the Peace.
- The video judge will set a bail. You will either be released or brought to a prison if you cannot post bail.
- You will be given notice to appear in court for your first court date, which could be an arraignment or a preliminary hearing, depending on the type of case.
If you were charged with a felony or non-marijuana drug charge, your case is headed to Superior Court.
Here is how a case works its way through the system:
|Time after Arrest*||Event||Notes|
|————-||Arrest||Police officer’s Arrest warrant is approved by a magistrate; bail is set.|
|8-20 Days||Preliminary Hearing||Probable cause hearing in Court of Common Pleas to determine if case goes forward to Superior Court. Can be waived. The vast majority of cases go forward to Superior Court.|
|2 months||Indictment||Formal charges by the Grand Jury. These may be different than the original charges at arrest.|
|2 ½ months||Arraignment||Entry of Not Guilty Plea; attorney enters appearance. Bail modification can be requested.|
|3-4 months||Discovery||State must provide to defense counsel all Rule 16 discovery such as statements, evidence, expert witnesses, etc.|
|3-4 months||First Case Review||Prosecutor and defense counsel discuss case; a plea is offered. If rejected by defendant, the case proceeds to final case review.|
|3-4 months||Motions||Defense has 20 days to file any motions such as motions to suppress evidence. Motion hearings are then scheduled.|
|4-5 months||Final Case Review||Last chance to take a plea; if not, the case proceeds to trial. Any possible trial/witness/evidence issues are discussed and brought to judge’s attention.|
|5-6 months||Trial||Only about 4% of cases make it to trial. The vast majority of cases result in plea agreements or are dismissed before trial. In 2019, about 65% of defendants who had trials were found guilty.|
*These are just estimates. The average case in 2019 took 174 days from arrest to completion. Major felonies and homicides generally take longer.
If you were charged with misdemeanors, your case usually goes to the Court of Common Pleas.
The cases in CCP usually take awhile, because it is a high volume court. However, there are far fewer court appearances. Typically you will have only an arraignment and then a trial date. In between those dates, we are gathering evidence about the case and preparing for trial.
When you are facing criminal charges, you need dedicated and skilled legal representation. Contact Collins & Price. We can help. The earlier in your case you contact us, the better we will be able to help you.