A: Informal Arraignment. You are read the allegations that have been filed against you and the judge sets bond. If you are unable to post bond, then you will remain in custody, usually the county prison, until you either post bond or your case is resolved. Preliminary Hearing. The first court proceeding in most cases is the preliminary hearing. This is often the most crucial hearing in your case. The preliminary hearing is not a trial. The purpose of a preliminary hearing is to protect your right against an unlawful arrest and detention. At this hearing the Commonwealth must make at least a prima facie case - that is, at least a minimal showing - that a particular crime was committed and that you are probably the one who committed it. At this stage, the Commonwealth doesn't have to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. In order to meet its burden the Commonwealth must present some evidence regarding each of the elements (or parts) of the crime charged. If the government can't meet this burden, your case will be dismissed. Suppression Hearing. If your case cannot be resolved to your satisfaction at the preliminary hearing and you want to challenge certain evidence being offered against you, you can request a suppression hearing. A suppression hearing allows you to challenge the admissibility of certain evidence that will be offered against you. Some of these motions may argue that using certain evidence against you would violate your constitutional rights. A ruling in your favor can result in evidence being excluded from your trial, and increases your odds of winning. Plea. If you enter a plea (sounds like "plee") then you must state on the record before a judge

  1. that you understand the facts that led to your being charged with the offense;
  2. that you understand the elements of the law that must be proven in order to be convicted of the offense;
  3. that you understand the maximum sentence that can be imposed upon conviction;
  4. that you understand that the government has the burden of proving each element of every offense you face;
  5. that you understand that you do not have to prove your innocence;
  6. that you understand that you are presumed to be innocent;
  7. that you have the right to a jury trial;
  8. that you understand that in order to be convicted at trial, all jurors must come to a unanimous agreement that the government has met its burden of proof as to each and every element of the offenses charged (otherwise the verdict must be "not guilty"); and
  9. that you, by entering a plea of guilty, give up the right to have a jury decide your case. This is, for obvious reasons, an extremely important proceeding Much time and thought must be put into such a decision which has long lasting and far reaching effects. Trial.