Overview Of The Stages of the Criminal Justice Process

Overview Of The Stages of the Criminal Justice Process

A criminal case begins the moment someone is arrested on suspicion of committing a crime and booked at a police district. Once charged, the person becomes the subject of a criminal case and begins the process of being heard in the Philadelphia courts. Even though all defendants are considered innocent until proven guilty, the prosecution works hard to convince a judge or jury of guilt.

Becoming a defendant in a criminal case is a difficult place to be, but you can get support from a criminal defense attorney in Bucks County, PA to help improve your outcome. Here’s what to expect from the criminal justice process in Pennsylvania.

The Stages of the Criminal Justice Process

The criminal justice system follows a process that applies to all cases. Just about anyone who has been arrested for a crime in the state of Pennsylvania can expect to go through the following procedures.


When the police suspect a crime has been committed, they look at existing evidence and talk to witnesses as part of the process. This is to identify suspects, determine events, and decide if there’s enough evidence to create a case.


The suspect(s) in a case is arrested and brought to the police station for booking and charging. A suspect can be arrested on-site or via a warrant.


A suspect is logged into the arrest records by supplying their personal information and getting their pictures taken for reference. This is also known as intake and processing.


The charges for the crimes the suspect was arrested for are entered into the record and submitted to the court for arraignment.

Initial Appearance

The initial appearance, or initial arraignment, is a hearing before a bail commissioner to determine if you’re a flight risk and if you should be granted a bond. The bail commissioner reviews the facts of the case and makes their decision based on the evidence that’s presented. This is also the point where you want legal representation, such as the best white collar crime attorney in Philadelphia.

Preliminary Hearing/Grand Jury

This is a hearing in front of a judge or a jury to determine the viability of prosecuting your case. The prosecution presents their evidence to the court in an attempt to show that the crime happened and that you’re involved in the crime. This is not a full hearing of your case, but it’s a necessary step to figure out if the case can proceed or not.


This is the point where you enter your plea of guilty or not guilty. You can attend the hearing, or your attorney can enter a plea on your behalf.

Pretrial Proceedings

This is the stage where pretrial motions, plea agreements, or diversionary programs are brought up before the court for consideration. Discovery, or exchange of documentation between defense and prosecution, takes place. The goal of the pretrial conference is to find an equitable and acceptable solution for the case and avoid going to trial.


In the event the defense and prosecution can’t come to an agreement, the case proceeds to trial. Both sides present evidence before the court and make their arguments as to why the defendant is, or isn’t, guilty.


After both sides have finished making their arguments, the court issues a verdict based on the evidence and arguments presented during the trial.


You have the right to appeal a judge’s verdict to the appellate courts and ask for a review of the case. Appellate courts go over the evidence, hear arguments, and either affirm the original verdict or overturn it.

Getting Help for Your Criminal Case

Criminal charges can severely affect your ability to live your life. Call the Law Offices of Richard J. Fuschino Jr. today for a consultation and to learn more about how he defends clients against criminal charges. We have extensive experience in criminal law at the state and federal level, and are ready to represent you with the strongest possible defense.