Berks County Criminal Courts
Individuals accused of a crime in Berks County can expect to have contact with two different courts within the county during the criminal process. The most important is the Berks County Court of Common Pleas. This is a trial court of general jurisdiction that handles most criminal and civil matters arising within its jurisdiction. Most counties in Pennsylvania have their own common pleas court, although some more sparsely populated counties may share a court. The number of judges varies by county as well, with some counties having as few as one and with Philadelphia County having over 100. As for Berks County, our court has 15 judges.
In addition to the Court of Common Pleas, Berks County also has 18 magisterial district courts, including a central arraignment court that sits 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to provide prompt processing for criminal defendants arrested outside of normal business hours. These courts handle most arraignments, some preliminary hearings in less serious criminal matters, and may handle the entire trial process for summary offenses. Convictions issued by a magisterial district justice are usually appealable to the Court of Common Pleas.
For a Berks County criminal defense attorney, a familiarity with these courts, their judges, and staff is a valuable asset. Knowing the judges and their judicial records can help a seasoned criminal defender tailor his or her arguments for maximum persuasiveness. And having a familiarity with judicial staffers can improve an attorney’s effectiveness and efficiency.