Butler County Criminal Court

When you're charged with a crime in Butler County, the prosecution will relentlessly pursue the maximum penalty allowed under the law. No one should attempt to handle the county's procedures alone, but fortunately, experienced help is available.

The LLF Law Firm is well known throughout Butler County, and our attorneys have a wealth of experience working with local and state prosecutors and others related to the process. We have what you need to navigate the criminal process and can ease the burden with strong courtroom representation. To get started on your strategy, call the LLF Law Firm at 888-535-3686 or visit us online.

Butler County Criminal Procedures

Like most counties in Pennsylvania, Butler County handles criminal proceedings by dividing the process between the Court of Common Pleas and the Magisterial District Courts. The Butler County Magisterial Court handles the following steps around the trial procedure, including:

  • Issuing warrants
  • Preliminary arraignment
  • Bail
  • Preliminary hearings
  • Dismissing or transferring a case

The Court of Common Pleas handles the following:

  • Formal arraignment
  • Pretrial motions
  • Trials
  • Sentencing

Throughout Pennsylvania, criminal offenses fall into three categories. While each is handled first by the Magisterial Court, depending on the severity, it may be forwarded to the Court of Common Pleas.

  • Summary Offense: Crimes with a maximum sentence of 90 days incarceration, and typically completed in Magisterial Court.
  • Misdemeanor: Crimes with a maximum sentence between one and five years, depending on the degree of offense (first, second, or third), and is usually heard by the Court of Common Pleas.
  • Felony: Crimes with sentences of at least seven years of incarceration, depending on the degree of offense, and will be heard by the Court of Common Pleas.

Before the Preliminary Hearing

The preliminary arraignment occurs before one of the seven Magisterial District judges in Butler County, either in person or via videoconference. If the judge sets bail, the amount depends on the extenuating factors of the case, including but not limited to the following:

  • The type of offense.
  • The degree of the offense.
  • Whether you live or work in the area.
  • Whether you have strong community ties in Butler County.
  • Whether you have been convicted of any other crimes.
  • Whether it appears to the judge you may be a danger to the community.

The judge will also schedule a preliminary hearing. At this point, you and your representation will receive a copy of the report filed against you—whether by law enforcement or otherwise.

Butler County Pretrial Procedures

Again held in Magisterial District Court, the preliminary hearing will determine whether the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has established a "prima facie case" against you, meaning the evidence—at first glance—is presumed to support the allegations against you. While representatives of the Commonwealth may present evidence at this stage, you and your representation can, too. However, the judge will only decide whether the evidence is sufficient to support the charges, not its credibility. Therefore, it's common for the defense not to produce evidence or witnesses at the preliminary hearing.

If the judge decides that the prosecution fails to support the charges against you, they may dismiss the case. Yet, if the judge determines there is a prima facie case, they will assign it to the Court of Common Pleas and schedule a formal arraignment and a pretrial conference.

Formal arraignment provides a formal notice of charges against you and advises you of pretrial rights, such as the right to request evidence, enter a plea, and file other pretrial motions. If you have representation, you will likely not have to appear at the formal arraignment. Butler County also has two other types of hearings that occur immediately before jury selection and the trial: Call of the List or Judicial Conciliation. This provides another opportunity for the prosecution and defense to meet and decide how the case may proceed, which typically has one of three outcomes:

  • You may enter into a plea agreement.
  • You may be scheduled to appear for jury selection and a subsequent jury trial.
  • Your case is continued until a later date.

If the judge determines that a jury should handle the case, a selection date will be scheduled. Otherwise, you will move into Butler County's trial stage.

Butler County Trial and Sentencing Procedures

For every case in which the offense carries more than a six-month term of incarceration, the accused has the right to a jury trial—which may be waived in the pretrial stage. In criminal trials, 12 jurors are selected from a pool of Butler County citizens or a single judge if the provision is waived.

The prosecution and defense will present evidence, have witnesses testify, and argue before the jury or judge. In criminal cases, the Commonwealth bears the burden of proof. Following closing arguments, the judge will give the jury instructions about applying the law to the evidence presented, who will then deliberate and render a verdict.

If you are found guilty—by the judge or jury—you will immediately have a sentencing hearing scheduled. Afterward, the Butler County Adult Probation Department will prepare a pre-sentence investigation report. They will ask you about the following to determine the parameters of sentencing:

  • Occupational record
  • Home life
  • Whether you have children or other dependents
  • Prior criminal convictions
  • Responsibilities to the community
  • Medical conditions
  • Other factors influencing sentencing

During the sentencing hearing, the judge may give any victims related to the case an opportunity to speak or to offer written impact statements about the effect the crime had on their lives. The convicted and their presentation may also engage the court to argue for sentencing provisions. The judge will then levy the sentence, which begins immediately but may be delayed in certain instances.

Appealing Butler County Criminal Convictions

If you're convicted and sentenced for a crime in Butler County, you can appeal to the Pennsylvania Superior Court. Appeals must be filed within 30 days of the sentencing date or within 30 days after the court has resolved post-sentencing motions.

The Superior Court will only examine specific issues the defense believes the Court of Common Pleas decided incorrectly. Most are ruled on based on the trial transcript and evidence from the defense and the prosecution. While it's possible to appeal the decision to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, few petitions are granted a hearing.

Experienced Butler County Criminal Defense Team

If you're facing a criminal trial in Butler County, the consequences can quickly become life-altering. Since your future is on the line, it's essential to have a team of professionals assist with your defense.

The LLF Law Firm stands prepared to work on a strategy with you that asserts your rights and provides the best possible outcome. Call us at 888-535-3686 now or schedule a confidential online consultation, and we will reach out to you.

Contact Us Today!

The LLF Law Firm Team has decades of experience successfully resolving clients' criminal charges in Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania counties. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you or a loved one, contact the LLF Law Firm today! Our Criminal Defense Team will go above and beyond the needs of any client, and will fight until the final bell rings.

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