Timeline of A Criminal Case

Law Offices of James Crosby Dec. 2, 2020

If you are facing state or federal criminal charges, a local criminal attorney can help you during the investigation, arrest, discovery and trial phases of your case. Be careful: proceeding against the government without a lawyer is a surefire way to inadvertently waive your rights and incriminate yourself further. If you are under investigation or have already been charged with a crime in Pennsylvania, contact a reputable criminal defense attorney at the Law Offices of James Crosby immediately.

Timeline of a Criminal Case

Once an indictment is issued, the accused appears before a federal or Pennsylvania magistrate. This initial appearance is designed to allow the judge to explain to the accused their criminal rights, the right to remain silent, and the right to an attorney. If the defendant is indigent and cannot afford an attorney, they must fill out an affidavit and counsel will then be appointed. From there, the magistrate will discuss bail versus remand, while the defendant’s criminal lawyer will set forth reasons why the accused is not a flight risk and should be released on bail.

While the prosecution and defense prepare for trial, each side may file pretrial motions. These motions generally deal with evidentiary issues and set forth reasons why certain evidence should or should not be admitted. Evidence obtained in violation of constitutional search and seizure rules, for example, may be suppressed upon a successful motion by the defense.

Plea Bargain or Trial

As the date for trial approaches, the federal or state prosecutor may offer a plea bargain. A knowledgeable Pittsburgh criminal lawyer can explain the details of the plea offer and help the defendant explore whether to accept the offer or decline – and the decision is ultimately up to the accused. If the accused declines the offer, the case will proceed to trial and each side will have an opportunity to present evidence and witnesses. At a trial, the prosecution bears the burden of proving each element of its case. If the prosecution is unable to prove just one element of the crime, the defendant must be acquitted by the judge or jury.


The court and jury will weigh certain factors when determining an appropriate sentence. Facts of the case that weigh in favor of a harsher sentence are known as aggravating factors. These include the vulnerability of the victim (e.g., advanced age, infirm or pregnant), the defendant’s criminal history, and the violent nature of the offense. Factors weighing in favor of a lighter sentence are known as mitigating factors and may include evidence of remorse, restitution, and nonexistent criminal history.

Facing State Criminal Charges? Contact an Experienced Attorney Today!If you are facing state criminal charges and are in need of a Murrysville or Pittsburgh criminal lawyer, contact the Law Offices of James Crosby today. You can reach our office by calling or filling out our form online.