The criminal procedure that is being followed by most Pennsylvania counties is similar and it involves the existence of a preliminary hearing, an arraignment, the call of the list and/or the pretrial conference, the trial and finally the sentencing. In order to properly understand this procedure, you should first know that there is a difference between a civil and a criminal case in PA. The major difference is the fact that the state can prosecute individuals for criminal cases, while civil cases involve citizens bringing charges against other citizens. In order for a criminal case to proceed in Pennsylvania, a police report documenting the crime needs to exist. Infractions or misdemeanors and felonies possibly done by the main suspect will constitute the matter of these reports. Warrant of arrest need to be approved by PA judges in the case of serious infractions.
If a suspect gets arrested, the preliminary hearing will be initiated. Physical complaints sent via mail or arrests can both lead to these hearings. They are procedures used to determine if the Commonwealth has a prima facie against the suspect. The next step of the process will involve the arraignment. This procedure will be completed, if the preliminary hearing was waived or if the District Justice has held the charges for court. The arraignment will be held at the Court of Common Pleas in the PA County where the charge is active. The presence of a judge is not mandatory here. A copy of the charges against the suspects will be handed over to him or her. The next court date will also be fixed. Suspects might also be asked to plead guilty or not-guilty.
Furthermore, the call of list and/or pretrial conference will represent the suspect’s next appearance in court. There are also counties that have court dates known as Call of the List before the Pretrial Conference. During this procedure, the judge will be informed of the status of your case, as well as your official request for a continuance, entering a plea bargain or listing of the case for a trial.
The trial will commence if the suspect has not entered a plea bargain. The trial will take place in front of a judge or jury. Jury trials require the choosing of the jury by reviewing a questionnaire filled out by each potential juror. The suspect and his or her attorney will silently remove potential jurors with the consent of the District Attorney. In the end 14 jurors will be chosen. Opening statement and cross examinations will be undertaken during the trial. Sentencing occurs anywhere in between 2 weeks to 90 days from the time one enters a plea or he or she is found guilty.