If a person has been arrested and charged with a crime, their first court appearance will be the arraignment. An arraignment is a brief hearing held in a courthouse that usually takes place soon after a person has been arrested. This is not a trial. The innocence or guilt of a person is not the issue at hand during an arraignment. However, can charges be dropped at an arraignment?
Here, we want to define the arraignment process and discuss the chances of charges being dropped at this stage.
What is an Arraignment in Pennsylvania?
The criminal court process in Pennsylvania can be confusing, particularly for the individuals facing charges as well as their family members. There are various formalities that you have to abide by, regardless of how much legal knowledge you have. One of these formalities is called the arrangement. If you are arrested for crime, you will have to go through both a preliminary and a formal arraignment.
A preliminary arraignment
A preliminary arraignment is a brief court appearance in front of a magistrate in Pennsylvania. This is the first time a person will be in court after they are arrested, and you have no choice about whether or not you will attend. Preliminary arraignments should take place within 72 hours after an arrest. Individuals who are arrested will typically be booked into jail and have to await their arraignment before they can be released.
This is not a trial. This is where an individual will hear about the charges they are facing and whether or not they will be released on their own recognizance or detained by the police, as well as whether or not they can be released on bail or bond.
There is almost no chance that charges will be dropped at a preliminary arraignment.
A formal arraignment
A formal arraignment will occur if a magistrate determines that there is enough evidence to send the case to trial during the preliminary hearing. At a formal arraignment, the criminal case will be transferred from a local court to the trial court. Once again, the individual will be informed of the charges they are facing as well as their right to have a criminal defense attorney handle their claim, if they do not already have one.
Individuals will also be told their right to file various motions in regards to the proceedings, and they will be told that if they fail to show up at any future court dates, the proceedings will move forward without them. At a formal arraignment, an individual will be asked how they plead to the charges, either guilty or not guilty. It is crucial for an attorney to be involved in this process so that those facing charges make the best decisions possible for their particular situation.
Again, it is very unlikely for charges to be dropped during a formal arraignment. Judges generally do not have the authority to dismiss charges at either a preliminary or a formal arraignment. However, prosecutors can decide to dismiss charges at arraignment, but they will only do so if they have a compelling reason why the charges should be dropped. This could include the prosecutor uncovering evidence that the defendant was wrongfully charged with the crime in the first place.