Philadelphia is a vibrant city blessed with rich American history, a thriving art scene, and of course, a diverse population. However, as with any major metropolitan area, Philadelphia also has its share of criminal activity. If you are facing criminal charges in Philadelphia, you might be wondering where your case will be litigated. The location of your case can be critical, as it can affect the outcome of your trial and the penalties that you may face. In this blog post, we’ll explore where Philadelphia criminal cases are litigated, discuss the differences between these courts, and what you need to know if you are facing criminal charges in Philadelphia.
Philadelphia Municipal Court:
Despite being referred as a “major” court system, the Philadelphia Municipal Court only has limited jurisdiction in criminal cases. This court processes minor crimes such as disorderly conduct, traffic offenses, and other low-level offenses. If you are facing any of these charges, your case will be held in the Municipal Court System. It has 19 courtrooms across Philadelphia, with criminal cases heard before a single judge. The main advantage of the Municipal Court System is that the judges in this system are often more lenient and approachable.
Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas:
The Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas is the more formal of the two courts, split into several branches. Criminal cases are usually brought to either the Trial Division or the Family Division . The judges in the Trial Division represent a higher level of experience and professionalism compared to Municipal Court judges. This is because the Court of Common Pleas has jurisdiction over more serious cases, such as felony charges, aggravated assault, robbery, and murder. Judges use a jury trial model, and the defendant’s fate rests in the hands of a panel of 12 jurors.
Philadelphia Criminal Justice Center:
The Philadelphia Criminal Justice Center is the setting where many cases are scheduled, heard, and adjudicated, especially cases that are heard in the Court of Common Pleas. Interestingly, it is connected to City Hall in Philadelphia via underground tunnels as well as a skywalk. The center is composed of 13 floors where various departments, such as Central Booking, Pretrial Services and the Office of Judicial Records, are located. Common Pleas criminal hearings are typically held in Courtrooms located across the Criminal Justice Center. Judges preside over the hearings, and court staff coordinate and conduct, among other matters, the scheduling of cases and records.
Philadelphia Federal Court:
If your case has been elevated to the level of the federal government, your case is heard at one of the two U.S. District Courts in Pennsylvania. These courts have jurisdiction over federal criminal offenses such as drug trafficking, kidnapping, embezzlement, and organized crime. Legal proceedings are similar to those in the Court of Common Pleas, and the defendant’s fate still depends on their 12 jurors’ decision.
Understanding where Philadelphia criminal cases are litigated is essential if you are accused of committing a crime within the region. It is also important to note that the location of your case can significantly affect the outcome of your trial and the penalties that you may face. If you are facing criminal charges in Philadelphia and are unsure of which court your case will be heard in, it is vital to hire a legal expert to help guide you through the process. With the right resources and guidance, you can face your criminal charges with confidence, and hopefully achieve the best possible outcome in your trial.