What happens next?
- Within 12 to 36 hours of your arrest you will be brought before a judge or, in Philadelphia, a bail commissioner who will advise you of the charges against you.
- The judge or bail commissioner will set bail. In most instances, if bail is set, you will only be required to post 10 percent. The bail commissioner will also provide you with the date of your first hearing.
More about bail:
- If you are charged with a homicide by law you are not entitled to bail.
- If you are charged with a large scale drug offense there may be a Nebbia condition imposed by the court. This means that before posting bail you will have to prove to the court that the funds used to post bail came from a legitimate and legal source.
- Remember that the purpose of bail is only to ensure that you show up for all of your scheduled hearings.
- If you do not show up for any hearing the court may revoke your bail or raise it to ensure that you are present for the next hearing date.
What is a Preliminary Hearing?
- If you are charged with a felony your first hearing will be a preliminary hearing. This is not a trial.
- This hearing is for the District Attorney to show to the court through live witnesses or documents whether there is enough evidence to bring your case to trial. Mr. Desiderio’s role in this is:
- to try to get all or some of the charges dismissed;
- to make a record of witness testimony; and
- to argue for lower bail if you have not yet posted it.
Pre-Trial Process (What happens before trial)
- If your case is bound over for trial then your next date will be an arraignment. This is a five-minute proceeding wherein you are notified of the formal charges resulting from the preliminary hearing and you are given a pre-trial date.
- At your pre-trial date the District Attorney sometimes make an offer for a guilty plea, which you do not have to accept. Once you have rejected any plea offers the judge will set a date for the courtroom where your case will be tried.
- On the date of your trial you have the right to have a jury whom you have helped chose to hear your case or you can elect to have your case tried before a judge without a jury.
What happens at trial?
- If you chose to have a jury trial (this is a constitutional right) you and Mr. Desiderio along with the Assistant District attorney will begin questioning and selecting jurors from a larger pool of people drawn from the voter registration polls in Philadelphia.
- Once a jury of twelve is chosen the Assistant District Attorney will begin presenting its case in the form of live testimony. Mr. Desiderio will cross-examine all witnesses.
- At the conclusion of the government’s case Mr. Desiderio will present your defense. You may want to testify or present witnesses but you do not have to. It is the government’s job to prove its case against you beyond a reasonable doubt. Your silence cannot be used against you.
- Once the defense is finished the judge reads instructions to the jury who is then sent out to deliberate (decide) on the verdict. All twelve jurors must agree on the verdict. There are no split decisions in a criminal trial.
- In most cases the jury reaches a verdict. If they cannot, then a mistrial (hung jury) may be declared by the judge and the government may wish to try the case again.
- If you do not want a jury trial you can also have your case heard by a judge alone. The same rules apply except that the judge, and not a jury, will decide the verdict.