After an incident is reported to the police, patrol officers or detectives from the police department will investigate whether a crime has been committed, then collect evidence and identify suspects.
As a victim you may be required to:
Make a statement to the police,
Attend a physical line-up of suspects or look at photographs of suspects,
Respond to other requests during the investigation which may include providing personal items as evidence.
It may be that the case is unfounded. This means that there is not enough evidence to prove in court that a crime has been committed, therefore, the case will not continue.
If the case is going to continue, you will want to ask the investigating police agency to keep you informed of all steps in the process. The criminal process starts when an arrest is made.
The Initial Appearance/Bail Hearing of the defendant is held in either Municipal Court or a Justice of the Peace Court. The purpose is to file charges and to set bail for the defendant.
This hearing will be held within 24 hours of arrest, if it is not a weekend. The defendant has a constitutional right to reasonable bail for most offenses. The defendant will be held in custody until bail is posted. As long as the defendant has the ability to make bail, s/he can be released. The purpose of bail is to insure that the defendant will appear for his/her scheduled court hearings. Note: This hearing is open to the public.
There may also be conditions of release imposed on the defendant at this hearing such as mandatory treatment, curfew or to have no contact with the victim. If the defendant violates the conditions of bail, s/he may be charged with a new crime such as breach of release/non compliance with bail conditions. Note: This hearing is open to the public.
The Attorney General's Intake is a screening process to see if there is enough evidence to file charges in Superior Court. This meeting includes the police, prosecutor and/or a paralegal. (Case facts and evidence will be considered.) This meeting is not open to the public.
The result of the meeting could be:
Further investigation is needed.
Charges stay the same.
Charges are added, reduced or dropped.
Case is sent to a lower court.
The purpose of a preliminary hearing is to determine if there is sufficient evidence to continue prosecution. It is held either in Municipal Court or the Court of Common Pleas. If the defendant wishes to waive the hearing, (gives up the right to this hearing), it is not held and the charges go on to Superior Court. If the defendant wishes to have a hearing, usually the only witness who testifies is the investigating police officer. However, if you are subpoenaed to testify, you must appear and should immediately call the Attorney General's Victim/Witness Program and the investigating officer. Note: This hearing is open to the public.
The Court can decide to:
Send the charges to Superior Court.
Reduce or dismiss one or more charges.