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Five Stages of the Pennsylvania Criminal Justice Process

Most people who are arrested for the first time don’t know what the process is that awaits them. If you are charged with a misdemeanor or felony in Pennsylvania, your case will have five guaranteed court dates while awaiting trial. The most surprising thing to me, as a criminal defense attorney, is the amount of people who have been through the system before, and yet still do not know what court dates they have guaranteed before them. I do not fault the Defendant/Client at all. It is a complicated system. I fault prior defense attorneys. Many defense attorneys do not take the time to explain to their client the five guaranteed court dates in Pennsylvania that are scheduled prior to (and including) your trial. So, in order to help those facing criminal charges, here are the five court dates you will face before trial, if you have a case in Allegheny County or Pennsylvania in general:

  1. Preliminary Arraignment
  2. Preliminary Hearing
  3. Formal Arraignment
  4. Pre-Trial Conference
  5. Trial

You are generally guaranteed some version of the five dates I have listed above, even though some counties call them different things, and sometimes they are combined. I will explain each one in detail below.

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