Written by attorney Joseph Alexander Paletta

Criminal Justice Flowchart: A Detailed Explanation of the Process, Step By Step

1. Arrest

  • Based upon Probable Cause (P.C.)
  • Probable Cause established by:
  • Witness(es) to commission of crime
  • Investigation by Police and determination by issuing Magistrate that Probable Cause exists, leading to issuance of Warrant and

  • Arrest occurs:

  • In traditional fashion (Arrestee handcuffed; pronouncement of “under arrest")

  • By summons in mail to surrender (usually in D.U.I / D.A.I cases)

  • Arrestee’s movement sufficiently restricted to be functional equivalent of arrest

  • Arrestee frequently taken to Allegheny County Jail

2. Preliminary Arraignment

  • First Court appearance following arrest
  • Criminal Complaint served
  • occurs before local District Justice or at Municipal Courts Bldg. within 72 hours of arrest
  • Bond (to insure appearance at all stages of prosecution) is set and can be posted
  • If Behavior Clinic detainer lodged, client examined by B. C. Dr. before release
  • Preliminary Hearing date set and subpoena signed

3. Preliminary Hearing

Determines if minimum amount of (prima facie) evidence exists to prove each element of crime charged, and that the client is the perpetrator. If so, case held for trial

  • Credibility standard of prosecution witnesses very low
  • Defense generally does not present evidence
  • May result in dismissal of case, reduction in charges, or fine assessed

  • Bond Reduction Motion can be made at this hearing

  • Can be postponed within 3-10 days of scheduled hearing

  • Defendant signs subpoena for Formal Arraignment

4. Formal Arraignment

  • Paper Date (no evidence presented, no appearance before Judge)
  • INFORMATION provided
  • Defense attorney enters Appearance form
  • DISCOVERY police & lab reports can be applied for
  • Defendant signs subpoena for Pre-Trial Conference date

5. Pre-Trial Conference

  • Paper Date (no evidence presented, no appearance before Judge)
  • Client indicates intended guilty or not-guilty plea
  • Client indicates intended jury trial or non-jury trial
  • Client may choose to accept a plea bargain at this time
  • Subpoena signed for trial date

6. Trial

  • Client may present a defense
  • Believability of witnesses extremely important
  • If guilty, sentencing date to be set; client may choose to have a Pre-Sentence Investigation (P.S.I.) which normally takes an additional three months

  • Roughly six months from arrest

7. Sentencing

  • Total confinement, fines, restitution, probation, alternative housing, combination
  • All paperwork including order for release must be in inmate's file before actual release of client from ACJ to outside, a program, another correctional facility

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