A high-profile criminal trial got underway with jury selection on June 19, 2017, as Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams will defend himself on federal corruption charges that may lead to a prison term up to 20 years. Online news source Philly.com has been reporting on the day-to-day events of the case, which involves more than two dozen counts ranging from fraud and extortion to of bribery. The crimes were announced over two separate arraignment proceedings, where Mr. Williams pleaded not guilty to all charges. The arraignment is a critical stage in the criminal process in Pennsylvania, so it’s important to understand how the proceedings work and what to expect if you have one upcoming in your own case.
Depending on the circumstances of the offense, you may be arrested or ordered to appear in court based upon a criminal summons. You will face a preliminary hearing in court to review the written charges against you, and bond may be set for your case if you haven’t already deposited it with the court. From here, the process goes to a preliminary hearing if you’re accused of a felony or to a formal arraignment.
At your formal arraignment, you’ll hear the details of the charges against you in open court. The judge will tell you about your rights, including the right to retain a lawyer if you haven’t already. You may respond with a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest if the judge requests you to make such a statement.
Your plea in the formal arraignment is of critical significance. Even in a minor case where you think a guilty plea will be the most convenient, inexpensive route, you will have a criminal record. The crime will show up in an employment background check and may actually eliminate you from certain jobs. Plus, you may even be limited in where you can live: For certain crimes where you must register as a sex offender, you must disclose your criminal past.
If you don’t already have an attorney by the formal arraignment, you can plead not guilty and request time to obtain counsel. This is the best option for protecting your rights in most cases.
For a guilty or no contest plea, your case moves immediately to the sentencing phase. You aren’t allowed to present your side of the case or any defense. If you plead not guilty, you can fight the charges – with an attorney to assist.
You can see how critical it is to have legal representation when attending an arraignment in a criminal matter, but your chances of obtaining the best possible outcome increase when you have a knowledgeable attorney by your side throughout the entire trial process. A lawyer will force the prosecution to prove every element of the case against you, and will attack any weaknesses to establish your defense. If you have questions about an upcoming arraignment or other stages of criminal proceedings, please contact the Skinner Law Firm in West Chester, PA. Our experienced attorneys can provide more information on your options or set up a case assessment to discuss a strategy for your defense.