What To Do If Charged With A Crime While Visiting Chester County

Being charged with a crime while visiting Chester County, Pennsylvania can be scary. If the police suspect you of committing a criminal offense and ask you to talk to them, you should refuse to talk and ask for a criminal defense lawyer.

You should never think that you can talk yourself out of being arrested or charged. While some people make that mistake, talking to the police will allow them to use your statements in your criminal case after you are charged.

If the police try to question you before you have been arrested, they are attempting to gather enough evidence to support probable cause to arrest you.

What Happens If You Are Arrested?

If the police believe that they have probable cause to believe that you have committed a crime, they might arrest you and take you to jail. They might also choose to file a complaint in court and have you sent a summons to appear in the mail.

Whether you might be arrested or instead served with a criminal summons will depend on whether the charge is a summary offense, misdemeanor, or felony. In most cases involving felony charges, the police will arrest you.

They might do so for misdemeanors as well. If you know that there is an arrest warrant out for you, it is a good idea to speak with a criminal defense lawyer who can arrange for you to voluntarily surrender and help you to arrange bail.

Preliminary Arraignment And Bond

If you were arrested and are still in custody, the court will hold a preliminary hearing within 72 hours of your arrest. At this hearing, the judge will advise you about your charges and set a bond in your case.

You will also be advised of any conditions of your release that you will be required to follow.

The judge might release you on your own recognizance. If this happens, you will not have to post bond but will have to follow any release conditions the court might set.

The court could also set an unsecured bond in a specific amount that you will not have to pay unless you violate the conditions of your release. Finally, the court could set a cash bond of a set amount or percentage.

You will have to post this type of bond. If you cannot afford to post it, you will remain in jail until you can. You can also go through a bail bondsman to post your bond. If you go this route, you will not receive all of your money back even when the bond is no longer required.

This is because bondsmen keep from 10 to 15% of the bond as their fee.

Preliminary Hearing

The next court appearance you will have is the preliminary hearing. During this hearing, the prosecutor will call witnesses and present evidence. The judge will determine whether or not the state has established a prima facie case that you committed the offense.

This is a lower burden of proof than the burden the prosecutor will have at trial to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. At the preliminary hearing, the prosecutor only has to show that a crime might have occurred, and you might have committed it.

If the judge finds that the prosecutor has met the burden of proving a prima facie case, your case will be sent from the magisterial court to the Court of Common Pleas in Chester County. However, if you are charged with a summary offense, your case will remain with the magisterial district court.

Depending on your case, your attorney might advise you to waive the preliminary hearing. This is because the burden of proof is very low. However, in some cases, it is a good idea to have a preliminary hearing.

Your attorney will help you understand whether or not to waive it. If you do not waive it, your attorney will have the ability to cross-examine any witnesses. It is unlikely that you will testify at this hearing.

Formal Arraignment

If you are charged with a misdemeanor or felony that is transferred to the Court of Common Pleas, the District Attorney will file formal charges in a criminal information.

You will then have a formal arraignment in the Court of Common Pleas. The judge will advise you of your charges and give you a copy of the criminal information.

After this hearing is held, the prosecutor will be required to provide your lawyer with the evidence the state intends to use against you within 30 calendar days. Motions hearings will also be set.

Bench Or Jury Trial

If your case is not resolved through a plea agreement with the prosecutor, it will be set for trial. If you are facing a misdemeanor or felony offense, you will likely get to choose whether to have a bench trial or a jury trial.

However, if you are charged with a first DUI offense, you will not be given the option and will have a bench trial. Bench trials are only heard by a judge, and the judge decides whether or not you should be convicted. Jury trials are held before a jury comprised of 12 of your peers.

Your attorney can help you to decide which type of trial might be best in your case.

If you have a jury trial, the trial will begin with jury selection. The prosecutor and your lawyer will both question prospective jurors and select or reject them based on their answers to the questions they are asked.

Once a jury is chosen and seated, the prosecutor and your attorney will give opening statements. The prosecutor will then call witnesses and ask them questions. Then, your lawyer will cross-examine the prosecutor’s witnesses.

Once the prosecutor rests the state’s case, your defense attorney will have a chance to call witnesses to testify on your behalf. The prosecutor will be able to cross-examine any defense witnesses that are called.

After both sides have rested, the prosecutor and your defense lawyer will give their closing statements. the case will then be sent to the jury, which will meet in private, examine the evidence and testimony that was presented, and decide whether to return a guilty or not-guilty verdict.

If they cannot reach a verdict, a mistrial will be declared, and the prosecutor can request a new trial.

Contact Our Criminal Defense Law Firm in West Chester, PA

If you are facing criminal charges and need legal help, contact the West Chester, PA criminal defense lawyers at DiCindioLaw, LLC to schedule a free initial consultation.

DiCindio Law, LLC

29 S Walnut St
West Chester, PA 19382
(610) 430-3535