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The Formal Criminal Arraignment Process in Philadelphia

The arraignment is considered one of the earliest steps in the criminal justice process and might be the defendant’s first time before a judge. Arraignments tend to happen rather quickly, but they are a crucial step that should not be rushed.

Criminal defendants are advised of the charges against them and their rights moving forward at the arraignment. The arraignment typically must happen within hours of being arrested. You should not be made to wait more than a few days before charges are assessed or you are released. The arraignment process diverges between felonies and misdemeanors, with felonies receiving an additional preliminary hearing before the trial. One of the most important decisions you make at your arraignment is how to plead. You should discuss your options with an attorney before moving forward.

The arraignment is only the beginning of what might be a very long and complicated legal process. Our Philadelphia arraignment lawyers can help you through this process and each phase of the trial after. Call The Law Offices of Lloyd Long at (215) 302-0171 for a free case review.

What Happens During an Arraignment in Philadelphia?

The arraignment is the first time many defendants learn of the charges filed against them. Even if a defendant is tipped off about the charges ahead of time, they still must be formally informed by the court. Not only will a judge explain the official charges, but they will also explain what rights the defendant has going forward in their trial.

Among your many rights as a criminal defendant is the right to be represented by a competent attorney. If you have not done so already, it is a good idea to hire a lawyer to represent you. If you do not have a lawyer at your arraignment, you might be able to ask for a continuance, so you have time to get a lawyer. Our Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers can step up to your defense.

Bail concerns are also addressed at the arraignment. The bail commissioner may decide your bail conditions, including the possibility of cash bail, among other conditions. Philadelphia has been moving away from cash bail requirements in recent years, but it is still a possible bail option. Your attorney can argue for the least restrictive bail possible in your case.

When Does the Arraignment Process Begin in Philadelphia?

The preliminary arraignment happens within 72 hours of your arrest. This is required so your right to a speedy trial is not violated. Many defendants are charged within only a few hours of being arrested, but others are made to wait longer. If you have waited longer than 72 hours, contact our Delaware County criminal defense lawyers immediately. We can demand you either be charged or released.

If you end up waiting a bit longer to be arraigned, you may have more time with your attorney to plan and strategize. It is a good idea to call a Philadelphia bail hearing attorney as soon as possible after being arrested. In some cases, an attorney can get you released from police custody while you wait to hear about possible criminal charges.

Arraignments for Felonies and Misdemeanors in Philadelphia

At your arraignment, scheduling for future hearings often takes place. Depending on what kind of plea you enter, your trial will be scheduled for later. For felony offenses, a preliminary hearing will also be scheduled. Exactly when these hearings are scheduled depends on how busy the court is.

For misdemeanors, the trial is usually scheduled during the arraignment after the defendant enters a plea. For felonies, there must be a preliminary hearing scheduled before a trial. A preliminary hearing is a separate proceeding in which prosecutors must demonstrate that enough evidence exists to warrant the charges and a trial. Essentially, it is like a mini trial that lets the court know there is sufficient probable cause to move forward with the case. Misdemeanors in Philadelphia do not get preliminary hearings unless they are connected to a felony.

The preliminary hearing is a unique opportunity for defendants to challenge their case and get a glimpse of the prosecutor’s legal strategy. Perhaps the best-case scenario is that we undermine the prosecutor’s case, and the court dismisses the charges. Our Bucks County criminal defense attorneys can help you plan and prepare for a preliminary hearing. If you do not have a preliminary hearing, you will move from your arraignment to trial preparations.

What Are My Options at the Arraignment in Philadelphia?

At your arraignment, you must enter a plea. You have the options of pleading guilty, not guilty, or no contest. Each plea comes with unique consequences, and you should discuss with our Montgomery County criminal defense lawyers which plea is right for your case.

While it might seem a bit strange, many defendants choose to plead guilty at their arraignments. In some cases, the best defense does not involve fighting the charges in a full trial but pleading guilty to different charges as part of a plea deal. Under a plea deal, we agree to plead guilty to charges reduced by the prosecutor. Defendants who enter guilty pleas as part of plea deals tend to serve lighter sentences than if they were found guilty at a trial.

Most defendants want to plead not guilty and fight their charges in court. Criminal defendants have a right to a trial, and you do not have to accept a plea deal if one is offered. Our team is prepared to stand by your side and challenge the allegations against you in a full trial. Once a trial is scheduled, the discovery process will begin, and we will have access to all the evidence against you. It is then that the real planning and preparations begin.

Although somewhat less common, you can enter a no-contest plea. This plea has the same effect as a guilty plea, but it cannot be used against you in a related civil action. If you plead no contest, you waive your right to a trial and move directly to sentencing.

Call Our Philadelphia Arraignment Attorneys for Guidance

The arraignment is the first and one of the most important steps in the criminal justice process. Our Northeast Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers can help you through this process and all that comes after. Call The Law Offices of Lloyd Long now at (215) 302-0171 for a free case evaluation.