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What Happens at an Arraignment in a Criminal Case?

A preliminary arraignment is the first step in a criminal proceeding after an arrest by police or after the issuance of a court summons. During an arraignment, a Magistrate or Magisterial District judge calls an individual charged with a crime, called the “Defendant,” and formally presents the charges laid against him or her and informs the individual of the right to have a lawyer of the individual’s choice, or the right to have one appointed by the court. The judge will also advise the Defendant of the right to have a preliminary hearing, which will take place up to ten days after the preliminary arraignment. The preliminary hearing is a hearing to determine from the evidence presented whether there is a prima facie case that (1) an offense has been committed and (2) the defendant has committed it. This requires that the Commonwealth produce sufficient evidence to demonstrate each of the essential elements of the crime charged and establish probable cause to warrant the belief that the accused committed the offense charged.

At the preliminary arraignment, the judge will inform the defendant of the amount of bail demanded and the conditions of the bail established by the court. In determining the requirements of the individual’s release on bail, the judge will evaluate several factors, including the type of the offense charged; the Defendant’s employment status and financial condition; the nature of family relationships; the Defendant’s residence in, or ties to, the local community; the Defendant’s previous bail history or record of flight to avoid prosecution; and the Defendant’s prior criminal history.

Formal Arraignment

At the formal arraignment, which is held at the Court of Common Pleas in the county where the alleged crime(s) occurred, thirty to sixty days after the preliminary hearing, a Defendant is formally advised of the charges against him or her. The Court expects the Defendant to enter a plea of ‘Guilty’ or ‘Not-Guilty’ to the charges listed at the time of the Formal Arraignment. At this time, the court will also notify the Defendant of the ability to file pre-trial motions and request discovery, which have strict deadlines, including certain motions that require filing within 30 days after the arraignment.

The attorneys at Tanner Law Offices can assist you or your loved one in your criminal matter, including, but not limited to the Formal Arraignment. Please contact our office at 717-836-0471 to schedule a consultation to discuss the specifics of your case.