The Criminal Court Process


Preliminary Arraignment

Preliminary Hearing

Lawyers from our office are appointed by Magisterial District Judges at the preliminary hearing. This is likely the first time you will meet the attorney who has been appointed to represent you. The woman or man you meet will handle your case throughout the criminal case process. 

The purpose of the preliminary hearing is to determine whether the Commonwealth can prove that probably a crime was committed and probably you were involved. This is a very low level of proof, and most cases are "bound over" for further action at the Court of Common Pleas.

Formal Arraignment

This will be your first appearance at the Courthouse in Carlisle. You will be formally advised of the charges against you, your attorney will tell the Court that you are pleading not guilty, and you will be informed of various rights you have and filing deadlines for certain motions. After Formal Arraignment, your attorney will receive the discovery in your case (police reports, video, etc.) and you and your attorney will make arrangements to discuss the discovery and the appropriate next steps.

Pre-Trial Conference

At your Pre-Trial Conference, you will either tell the Court that you and your attorney are ready for trial, enter a guilty plea, or request a continuance. On Pre-Trial Conference dates, the Court (and our office) are very busy, because hundreds of people are scheduled for Pre-Trial Conferences during the same week. This is a day for exercising patience.

Trial (Jury or Non-Jury)


If you plead guilty to something or are convicted, you will be sentenced. Sometimes this happens immediately after conviction, but more often it happens several weeks later. You will meet with someone from the County Probation Office and they will write a report about the offense and about you so that the judge can consider it at sentencing. Your lawyer will also be present and will advocate for you.