The Criminal Process

A Brief Summary of the Steps in the Criminal Process 

1. Preliminary Hearing 
Following the filing of criminal charges, a preliminary hearing is held at Central Court at the Franklin County Courthouse where the District Judge will decide if the Commonwealth has presented prima facie evidence of the commission of a crime and prima facie evidence of your involvement in the commission of the crime.  At the Preliminary Hearing, you have the choice to either have a full hearing or waive your hearing.  Prior to deciding to have a full hearing, your attorney will discuss your case with an attorney from the District Attorney’s Office to see if your case can be resolved.  At a Preliminary Hearing, it is not necessary that the Commonwealth present evidence proving guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt." Generally, the defendant does not present any evidence or testimony at this level and most cases are "bound over" for further action to the Court of Common Pleas (the Court House). 
2. Mandatory Arraignment 
At the conclusion of your preliminary hearing, the District Judge will provide you with notice of your Mandatory Arraignment. Mandatory Arraignment usually takes place between 3 to 6 weeks after Preliminary Hearing.  This court appearance will be at the Franklin County Court House. You will be formally advised of the charges filed against you. The identity of your attorney will be entered of record and you will be advised of various rights as well.  You then will enter a plea of either guilty or not guilty to the charges that have been brought against you.  If you enter a guilty plea, you may be sentenced immediately, if appropriate, or sentencing will be deferred to a later date.  If you enter a not guilty plea, your case will be scheduled for Call of the List.
3. Call of the List
This court appearance will be at the Franklin County Courthouse if you are not incarcerated.  If you are incarcerated, this court appearance will be at the Franklin County Jail courtroom.  The purpose of Call of the List is to address all unresolved criminal cases that have progressed past Mandatory Arraignment.  At the Call of the List, you will have a final opportunity to try to work out a plea agreement with the District Attorney’s Office, if appropriate.  If a plea agreement can be reached, you can plead guilty per the plea agreement.  If a plea agreement cannot be reached, your case will be scheduled for Pre-Trial Conference.
4. Pre-Trial Conference
This court appearance will be at the Franklin County Courthouse.  At Pre-Trial Conference, the Court will schedule the date of your jury selection and jury trial.  Also, the Court will address whether you are having a jury or non-jury trial, the length of the trial, Commonwealth and defense witnesses that will testify at trial, physical evidence to be presented at trial, and any pre-trial motions. 
5. Jury Selection
This court appearance will be at the Franklin County House.  Twelve times per year (one day each month), multiple panels of jurors are brought to the Franklin County Court House to be selected to hear criminal trials.  Jurors for your trial are selected this day and then return on the specified day(s) scheduled for your jury trial. 
6. Trial
Jury Trial: The date(s) of your jury trial will be scheduled at your Pre-Trial Conference by the Court.  Every defendant has a right to a jury trial as long as the maximum potential punishment for the crime charged exceeds more than 6 months of imprisonment. In order for a jury to return a verdict of guilty, or not guilty, the decision of the 12 jurors must be unanimous.
Non Jury Trial: The date(s) of your non-jury trial will be scheduled at your Pre-Trial Conference by the Court.  A defendant may waive the right to a jury trial, and then, if the District Attorney agrees, a judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Franklin County would decide the case. 
7. Sentencing 
If you have been found guilty of the charges against you, following the verdict you will be sentenced. This is sometimes done immediately following the verdict, but most frequently it is done several weeks after the trial. Very often the County Probation Office will write a report (a Pre-Sentence Investigation - PSI) about the offense and the person convicted for the sentencing judge to consider at sentencing.
8. Post-Sentence Motion or Appeal
After you have been sentenced, you have the following post-sentence rights that you did not have before sentencing. You may file a Post-Sentence motion within 10 days from the date of sentence with the Court of Common Pleas of Franklin County.  If your Post-Sentence motion is denied, you may file an appeal as of right to the Pennsylvania Superior Court within 30 days of the denial of your Post-Sentence Motion.