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criminal process

Understanding What Happens in the Pennsylvania Criminal Process

Experienced counsel for exceptional criminal defense in Reading and Berks County

At the law firm of David R. Eshelman, A Professional Corporation, you can trust that more than 40 years of experience are on your side. If you’re facing accusations in Reading or throughout Berks County, we bring the experience and the reputation you need to succeed in moving your life forward and preserving your freedom.

What’s going to happen to me if I’m accused of a crime in Berks County?

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 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 more than 100. As for Berks County, our court has 13 judges.

In addition to the Court of Common Pleas, Berks County also has 17 magisterial district courts, including a central court that provides prompt processing for criminal defendants arrested outside normal business hours. These courts handle preliminary arraignments, preliminary hearings and summary trials. Convictions issued by a magisterial district judge are appealable to the Court of Common Pleas.

How does a case start in Pennsylvania?

In Pennsylvania state courts, a criminal case is initiated by a grand jury or, more usually, by an on-view arrest or receipt of a summons or citation by mail. Bail is then set by a magisterial district judge and generally continues until completion of the case. It is often possible for a defendant to be released on unsecured bail without the necessity of posting any cash money or paying a bail bondsman. Your criminal defense lawyer, such as David R. Eshelman, can tell you more.

What happens after the arrest or summons?

After the charging document has been filed with the magisterial district judge, a trial is scheduled on summary offenses and a preliminary hearing on misdemeanor and felony charges. Following a trial on a summary offense, a verdict of not guilty or guilty is entered. If a conviction occurs, the summary conviction can be appealed within 30 days to the county court for a new trial. Misdemeanor and felony charges that a defendant is considered more likely than not to have committed are bound over to the County Court of Common Pleas for further proceedings, which may include pretrial diversion, pretrial motions, guilty plea or trial. If a conviction occurs, appeal may be made from the county court to the Pennsylvania appellate courts within 30 days of sentencing.

Get a lawyer with extensive knowledge of the system in Berks County

When you need a criminal defense lawyer in Berks County, David R. Eshelman, a Professional Corporation is at your service. Contact the firm online, call 877-442-9704 or visit our offices a short distance from the Berks County Courthouse. Bus service and street parking are available nearby. We will travel to any court or jail in Berks County to meet and represent you. For more than 40 years, friends and neighbors have relied upon our vigorous representation and knowledge of the law, the Constitution and the courts to move them forward, protect them and guide them toward a better future.


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