Thursday, November 30, 2023


The Criminal Process

If you are unfamiliar with the Criminal Justice System this will give you a description of the steps you will encounter. It is important to listen to your Public Defender and follow their advise. It is also crucial that you attend all of your scheduled court dates. If you fail to appear a Bench Warrant will be issued for your arrest. In order to have a Bench Warrant dismissed you must contact your Public Defender immediately to reschedule your next appearance. This information is not legal advice. This information is meant to give people  general knowledge of the criminal process in Lycoming County.


Preliminary Arraignment
If you have been arrested you may be brought before a Magisterial District Judge, either in person or via video. You will be asked questions about employment, residence, criminal history, and other information that helps determine the type of Bail that will be set. This proceeding must occur timely. A Public Defender will not be present at this stage.

Preliminary Hearing
This occurs after you either attend a Preliminary Arraignment,  after being arrested, or after you receive charges in the mail. This hearing will be scheduled at a District Judge's Office. This is often your first appearance. At this stage, the judge will not determine guilt or innocence. The judge will determine whether a crime occurred and whether you committed it. You will not present evidence or witnesses at this stage. Generally charges will not be dismissed at the Preliminary Hearing. If the charges are not dismissed at this time, you will be scheduled for a Formal Arraignment. If Bail has not previously been set, it will be at this time. You will be asked a series of questions to determine appropriate Bail.

Formal Arraignment
At this appearance, you will receive formal notice of the charges filed against you. Your attorney will notify the court of his/her representation of you by "Entering Appearance". At this stage, a plea agreement is entered into record if one is agreed upon. You also have the option to enter a plea of not guilty. If you choose to plead not guilty your Formal Arraignment will most likely be waived.  Your attorney will also request that the District Attorney's Office provide all evidence against you through "Discovery". This can be a long process so please be patient with your attorney.

Status Conference
In Lycoming County this is an informal meeting between your attorney and a judge. You must be present for this unless the court allows you to be absent. Generally, this is just a meeting to discuss your case. Your case will not be resolved at the Status Conference. If your attorney negotiates a plea agreement, you will be scheduled for a Guilty Plea court date, otherwise you will be scheduled for a PreTrial date.

PreTrial Date
Although you are not required to attend this, this date is an important part of your case. Prior to this date, you must meet with your attorney to discuss names, addresses, and telephone numbers of possible witnesses. You will also discuss any issues or questions you may have with your case. This included any conflicts you have with dates during the trial term.

Call of the List
This is generally the first day of Jury Selection. When you reach this date, your case usually is going to proceed to trial. You must be prepared to select a jury on the Call of the List date or subsequent jury selection dates. Sometimes, the District Attorney will present an offer that you may accept on this date. Should you select a jury, the District Attorney's Office generally will not make any new plea agreements after jury selection.

It is your right to proceed to trial. There are two types of trial; jury trial and non-jury trial. You have the right to a jury trial if you are charged with an offense that carries more than 6 months imprisonment. If you are charged with an offense that carries less than 6 months imprisonment, you will have a non-jury trial. Juries consist of 12 jurors who are selected from Lycoming County residents. Jurors decide whether you are guilty or not. The jury must unanimously agree on a verdict. A non-jury trial is when the judge decides guilt or innocence. You are presumed innocent until proven guilty. During this process, it is crucial that you cooperate with your attorney and listen to their advice.

Following a trial where you have been found guilty, or after entering a guilty plea, you will be scheduled to be sentenced. If you entered a guilty plea, at this proceeding, a judge will either accept or deny your plea agreement and impose a sentence. If you proceeded to trial and were convicted, it is at this proceeding the court will impose a sentence. You should be prepared, if you are being sentenced to jail, to begin serving your sentence including any period of incarceration at this time.

Post Sentence Motion and Appeals
Under Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure, and according to the circumstances of the case, after sentencing a Motion or Appeal may be filed to raise legal issues. You must seek advice of your Public Defender as to whether or not this is appropriate in your case. If you entered into a plea agreement and are sentenced in accordance with the agreement, this will limit your rights to an appeal. If you had a trial by jury or by non-jury, you may have more grounds to appeal. You must discuss this with your attorney. Issues differ case by case and need to be evaluated individually.

Copyright 2007 by