Procedures in Criminal Cases
After a person is arrested, a criminal case may proceed in a number of ways. The accused can be released and receive paperwork in the mail. The person can also be taken into custody, be taken before a district justice and preliminarily arraigned. Bail will be set. The bail can be ROR, which means the person is released after signing a bail bond. The bail may be an amount of cash bail to ensure the person's appearance at later date. Factors that determine the bail amount can include the nature of the charges, prior criminal history, whether the person has significant and longstanding contacts with the community and employment history. The district justice may also impose additional nonmonetary conditions of bail, such as address verification and drug and alcohol and mental health evaluations which must occur prior to release from custody. If the person or someone on their behalf can pay the bail amount, the person is released. If the bail amount and any conditions cannot be met, the person is taken to the Bucks County Correctional Facility.
If a person who is charged with a crime that occurred in Bucks County feels he or she cannot afford an attorney, he or she may call the Bucks County Public Defender's Office to schedule an application. If the person meets our eligibility requirements, an interview with a legal professional is scheduled. We offer telephone interviews to save our clients the time and expense travelling to the courthouse to meet with us. If the accused is incarcerated in Bucks County, someone from our staff at our office at the Bucks County Correctional Facility will meet with the person to see if he or she needs our services. If he or she does, a legal professional will discuss the charges, interview the person and fill out a bail reduction application.
The next step is a preliminary hearing before the district justice where the charges were filed. At this hearing, the Commonwealth must establish that there is probable cause that a crime was committed and that the accused committed it. The accused has the right to counsel at this proceeding.
If the district justice finds that there is sufficient evidence to hold the matter for disposition by the Court of Common Pleas, the accused will be scheduled for a formal arraignment approximately four weeks after the preliminary hearing. This hearing occurs at the Court of Common Pleas. At this proceeding, the accused is advised of their trial date, the charges against him or her as well as pretrial rights, such as the right to request discoverable materials. Persons who appear in court without representation are strongly advised to get an attorney before their trial date.
At the trial date the accused may enter into a guilty plea or a nolo contendere plea. A person may also choose to have a trial with or without a jury. If a person is convicted, a sentencing proceeding follows and possibly an appeal.