It Helps Having A Criminal Defense Lawyer at Your Pre-trial Conference

So, what happens after your Preliminary Hearing and before your trial?  In Philadelphia, for example, you are given an arraignment exactly three (3) weeks afterwards.  Not much happens there except that you are given your Pre-trial court date in a “Smart Room”, where the offers are made (about three (3) weeks later).  In addition, on the day of your arraignment, the discovery is made available online to your attorney.

At your Pre-trial, your offer is conveyed to your attorney who then conveys it to you that day if you are not in custody.  Sometimes your attorney is able to convince the Assistant District Attorney to give you are a better deal than the original offer (hence, the term, “negotiated offer”).  Once the negotiations are finished you have four (4) choices:  1. you can accept the “negotiated offer” and plead guilty; 2. you can plead guilty to the charges

and let the judge determine your sentence based upon the guidelines (called pleading “open”); 3. you can ask for a “jury trial”; and 4. you can ask for a “judge trial” (also called a “waiver trial” since you are waiving your right to a jury).  If you are in custody, you are given a short continuance so that your attorney has time to convey the offer to you.  If you decide to plead guilty, you are brought down to the court house from the prison on the next court for your guilty plea.

If you decide not to plead guilty, you are given a new court in front of your trial judge for another Pre-trial.  If you plead guilty, sometimes you are also sentenced that day.  Other times, as in more complicated or serious cases, a Presentence Investigation Report (and sometimes a Mental Health Evaluation too) is ordered.  Then about two (2) months later, you sentenced by the judge at your next court date.  (Counties other than Philadelphia do things slightly differently, but the end result is the same.)

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