If accused of a criminal offense in Bucks County, Pennsylvania the following is what you need to know about the different courts and where your case will likely be heard. For more specific information or to begin building a defense, call and schedule a consultation with a Bucks County criminal lawyer today.
In Bucks County in particular, an individual charged with a crime—either a felony or misdemeanor—begins their criminal matter in the local district court of the jurisdiction in which the matter occurred. For instance, if an individual gets pulled over for driving under the influence in the area of Bensalem, it will be the local Bensalem District Court that handles the preliminary hearing and arraignment in the case. At the district court level, an accused is entitled to a preliminary hearing, and it is during this preliminary hearing that all of the initial allegations are brought forward, a complaint is processed, and bail is set on the individual. It’s at this local preliminary hearing that a case is often set up to be handled in the future in the county seat of Doylestown, Pennsylvania.
That’s where the Court of Common Pleas of the higher court in trial matters hears all cases. A district court can only complete and resolve matters that are summary offenses or traffic offenses. Any other criminal matters, whether they are misdemeanor charges or felony charges, can only begin at the district court level.
Once the preliminary hearing is completed and bail is set for an individual at the district court level, the matter is sent over for an arraignment at the Court of Common Pleas in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. It’s at this Court of Common Pleas level that a person is entitled to all the materials that the government intends to use against them, and it’s at this level where an attorney files all relevant motion to defend the case.
It is also at the Court of Common Pleas level in Doylestown that any diversionary programs may come into play when trying to resolve the case. In the most common of occurrences, it is at this Court of Common Pleas trial level where a person is entitled to trial by jury or trial before court or judge standing without a jury. It is under those two circumstances that the Court of Common Pleas has jurisdiction to complete and hear a case.
After a trial is heard and other issues come up, a person is entitled to take an appeal to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania.
This is the same court that handles all criminal trial appeals throughout the entire state. It is at this superior court level where challenges can be made that attack certain rulings that a judge may have made a trial or certain other legal issues that may have arisen and may have been detrimental to an accused being convicted of a crime.
After the superior court hears and renders verdicts, a person can also petition to the highest court in Pennsylvania. That would be the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania and an attorney can then prepare briefs, should the Supreme Court accept the matter. That is the highest level that Pennsylvania offers in the criminal court system.
Less than 5% of all Pennsylvania criminal cases are heard by the Supreme Court, so it is imperative that an individual obtain the services of an experienced Bucks County criminal trial attorney, because it is at the trial level at the Court of Common Pleas in Doylestown where a person has the best chance of winning their case and being successful in getting the matter dismissed or winning the full acquittal. After that matter is heard at that level, the odds of the matter being taken up on appeal become less and less the higher you go through the system. Remember one thing: the superior court—unless you have direct appeal to the superior court—there must be evidence well beyond that of the standard of beyond a reasonable doubt.
There must be some kind of error that took place during trial that was so prejudicial that a judge or jury should not have ruled in the way they did. Believability or credibility cannot be judged by a higher court, that’s why it is so imperative to be as successful as you can in your criminal matter at the Court of Common Pleas level.
Knowing the local judges, the local courts, and the local agencies that are making the arrest makes an individual’s chances of success, even at the district court level, much better. If an experienced attorney gets involved early enough and that experienced attorney is well known in the county or township, then the credibility of a person’s defenses comes into play even before the case gets to the trial level in Doylestown. The most effective offense is the best defense at the district court level.
It is important at all times to have an experienced Bucks County criminal defense attorney who is aware of the local rules, aware of the local townships, and has had thousands of cases—as my office has at these local levels. It is important to have an attorney who is more than familiarized with the system, the participants, and how to resolve the case at the earliest chance available.
David Clark Attorney at Law