The worst has happened, and you find yourself under arrest in the state of Pennsylvania. What happens next?
1. You Will be Read Your Miranda Warning
Anyone who watches crime shows on television knows the Miranda Rights.
- The right to remain silent and refuse to answer questions
- Anything you say can be used against you in court
- You have a right to an attorney, both before speaking to the police and during questioning
- If you cannot afford an attorney one will be appointed for you
Silence cannot be used against you in court. If you have been arrested the smartest thing you can do is not speak until you have an attorney. Simply tell the police that you are invoking your Fifth Amendment rights until you have spoken to your lawyer.
If you do agree to an interview, be aware that you are allowed to stop it at any time and ask to have an attorney present. If you do not have an attorney, or cannot afford to hire one, a court-appointed attorney is your best option. This person can help ensure that your rights are not being violated and that you are being treated fairly in the eyes of the law.
2. A Bail/Bond Hearing
Nest, you are entitled to a bond hearing, at which a judge will determine if bail or bond is appropriate. You may be released on your own recognizance, or the judge may require money to secure your appearance in court in the future.
If a bond is set and you cannot afford it, utilize a bondsman to secure your release. For example, in Lancaster County bail bonds are available 24 hours a day. This allows you to wait for your next court appearance from the comfort of your home instead of in jail.
3. A Preliminary Hearing
Your second court appearance will be at a preliminary hearing. This is where a judge will evaluate if there has been a crime, and whether you may have committed it. This is called Prima Facie, and it carries a much lower burden of proof than a full trial. It is an opportunity to determine if a full trial is warranted.
At an arraignment, formal charges are brought forth and the timeline begins for the discovery process, where each side much present its evidence to the other in preparation for trial.
You will finally be allowed to defend yourself against the charges brought against you.
The legal process can be long and confusing. Consult your attorney with any questions you have about the trial process.