Criminal Process in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

If you were recently arrested for a criminal offense in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, you will be interested in Dauphin County’s criminal process. What happens next? What is the difference between the preliminary hearing and the formal arraignment? Will you have to go to trial, or is there another option?

Please continue reading as we offer a brief summary of the criminal process in Harrisburg and all throughout Dauphin County.

  • Attending the Preliminary Hearing: Once criminal charges are officially filed against a person, what follows is the preliminary hearing which is held at the District Judge’s office. During the preliminary hearing, the judge decides if the Commonwealth presented enough evidence of a defendant’s involvement in a crime. At the preliminary hearing, the defense does not present testimony or evidence.
  • The Formal Arraignment: By the time the preliminary hearing has concluded, the District Judge provides the defendant with notice of their formal arraignment. The formal arraignment is held at the Court House, or at the prison where the defendant is incarcerated. During the “formal arraignment,” the defendant is advised of the charges being filed against him or her. At this point, the offender’s defense attorney’s name will be entered on the record, the defendant will be advised of their rights, and they will be notified of their trial date. Usually, the defendant enters a not guilty plea during the formal arraignment.
  • Option #1, a Jury Trial: Under Pennsylvania law, each defendant has the right to a trial by jury as long as the sentencing for the crime being charged is more than 6 months behind bars. For the jury to come back with a guilty or not guilty verdict, all 12 jurors have to be unanimous on the decision.
  • Option #2, a Non-Jury Trial: Some defendants waive their right to a trial by jury. In that case, the District Attorney agrees to have a local judge from the Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County decide on the defendant’s case. In these situations, the defendant’s non-jury trial may be scheduled during a regular trial week, or on another day.
  • The Sentencing Hearing: Assuming a defendant is found guilty, after the verdict the defendant will be sentenced. Sometimes this is done immediately after a verdict, but usually a defendant isn’t sentenced for several months after the trial has concluded. Usually what happens is a County Probation Office writes a report, known as a Pre-Sentence Investigation (PSI) about the crime and the defendant, which is given to the sentencing judge to review when he or she is sentencing the defendant.

Are you facing criminal charges in Harrisburg?

If you are facing criminal charges, what should you do? Should you accept a plea deal, or should you go for a trial by jury? These are just a few of the important questions you need to ask yourself, but you should not make any decisions without first speaking with an experienced criminal defense attorney.

At Crisp and Associates, LLC, you get to work with a former active duty Army Judge Advocate General (JAG) officer, and a former police officer, which are hard to find (yet beneficial) in criminal defense attorneys. We offer state and federal criminal defense and all of our initial consultations are free. So, get the defense you deserve and call us today!