The legal process is constructed with certain formalities that are specifically designed to protect constitutionally guaranteed rights. However, there are rampant violations of these rights, which criminal defense attorneys are prepared to handle. The arraignment is a crucial hearing in the criminal defense process because it’s the first step in the legal process where the defendant is informed of their criminal charges. You need an experienced attorney to protect your rights in an arraignment.
If you or someone you love is scheduled to appear at an arraignment, call the Pennsylvania arraignment lawyers at Young Marr and Associates. Our lawyers provide tenacious and aggressive legal representation for criminal defendants in Pennsylvania. Our offices are conveniently located in major Pennsylvania cities and we’ll also make ourselves available to travel for our initial consultation. Contact us at (215) 372-8667 to arrange your free consultation.
Brief Overview of Arraignments in Pennsylvania
Rule 571 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure governs the arraignment process. While every county has its own rules, arraignments should take place within ten days after the charges are filed. Within 7 days, you’re also required to receive what is known as a “Bill of Particulars,” where the prosecutors describe the details of the charges against the you.
You have every right to communicate with your attorney during an arraignment because this is the time when you officially plead whether you’re “guilty” or “not guilty” or plead “nolo contendere” (no contest). While a plea of no contest functions like a guilty plea, your attorney may have worked out the details of these pleas preceding your arraignment, and you do not have to officially say “I’m guilty” in court, which can protect you from liability in other cases.
Most arraignments are brief hearings, and you shouldn’t expect to be able to question any witnesses against you or to be able to address any substantive matters unless there is pre-determined scheduling to review a legal matter and your criminal defense lawyer has properly made such requests.
What an Arraignment Does in PA
While an arraignment is typically a criminal defendant’s first appearance before a judge, at this point, much of the evidence supporting charges against you is available, and there are important scheduling and legal matters discussed during the arraignment. There are differences in the process depending on whether you are charged with a misdemeanor or a more serious felony offense. Here’s what you should expect:
- The judge or a court official will recite the charges against you.
- Your right to have your attorney is explained briefly as well as whether you can have a public defender assigned to you.
- Your right to a trial is also explained. If you’re charged with a summary offense in Pennsylvania, you don’t have the right to a jury trial and your case will be held before a judge.
- As noted earlier, you will enter a plea. This is the single most important decision you can make, and the judge may explain this to you. For this reason, having a skilled lawyer at your side can help you avoid a misguided decision at the arraignment.
- A trial is scheduled if you plead “not guilty.”
- The judge will set your bail
- If you plead guilty, your sentence may be imposed immediately, or the judge will set a later date for a sentencing hearing.
Entering a Guilty Plea at Your Arraignment
A common mistake many criminal defendants make is assuming there are chances of a favorable outcome after a plea is entered. This is typically not the case. Judges frequently proceed with imposing a sentence, and you miss critical opportunities and rights when you make these decisions without legal representation. You stand a better chance of a positive resolution when you have a qualified and dedicated lawyer representing you at every stage of the criminal process. Don’t sabotage your constitutional protections by appearing at an arraignment without an experienced attorney at your side.
The Next Steps in Criminal Case After an Arraignment in PA
Your arraignment will typically happen soon after your arrest. After that, you should be scheduled for a preliminary hearing, in most cases. A preliminary hearing is your first chance to challenge the evidence against you, and your attorney can question witnesses, analyze evidence, and potentially get the case dismissed at that stage. You can also work with the prosecution to quickly arrange plea deals for low-level offenses and summary offenses so that you do not need to return for more court dates.
In many cases, this step is waived, and the case is challenged at the Court of Common Pleas, the main trial-level court in Pennsylvania. When your case approaches that stage, you should be able to start getting evidence from the prosecution and putting forth motions for suppression, motions to bar evidence, and motions to dismiss the charges.
Call Our Pennsylvania Arraignment Lawyers for a Free Consultation
Take control of the case against you and get help from an experienced criminal defense attorney in Pennsylvania. With over decades of experience and having defended over ten thousand criminal cases, we won’t let the prosecutors overwhelm you or intimidate you into making a bad plea. Young Marr and Associates’ legal team includes former prosecutors with substantial experience with criminal cases. To schedule a free consultation, contact our offices at (215) 372-8667.