Stages of Representation

Criminal Case Proceedings
This is a thumbnail sketch of a criminal case with the stages, approximate times and locations. Whether or not you have a public defender, this general information will help you prepare for each stage of your case. Consult with an attorney if you have any questions about the proceedings.

Preliminary Arraignment

A proceeding before a Magistrate District Judge where your bail is set. If you received a summons, rather than having been arrested, bail may be set before the Preliminary Hearing.

Preliminary Hearing

The preliminary hearing is 3-10 days after arrest, unless the case proceeds by summons, where the time period is longer.

It takes place at the Pittsburgh Municipal Court Building, 660 First Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15219 or at the Magisterial District Judge’s Office whose address is on your criminal complaint.

The Commonwealth must present a prima facie case. This is “bare bones” and they will argue to the Magistrate that they presented the basic elements of the crime(s) alleged.

In most cases you will not testify at your preliminary hearing. The magistrate presiding over your hearing does not have the legal authority to resolve all of the legal issues involved in your case. Therefore, you will not have the ability to present a defense at this stage of the legal proceedings. The preliminary hearing is simply an opportunity for you to learn about the evidence the prosecution has against you. You will have the ability to organize and present any defense that may be available at trial.

If your case is held for court, your next appearance is the Formal Arraignment, approximately 6-8 weeks later.

Formal Arraignment

This is the formal presentation of your criminal charges. You will learn the final charges filed against you by the district attorney and be able to review the evidence they have against you.

It takes place in Room 519 of the Allegheny County Courthouse, 436 Grant Street, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 15219.

You will be assigned a judge, and a date for the Pretrial Conference, approximately 2-4 weeks later.

Pretrial Conference

Report to the courtroom assigned at Formal Arraignment at 8:30 a.m. on your Pretrial Conference date. The courtroom will be either on the third or fifth floor of the Allegheny County Courthouse.

At this time you will advise the court on how you wish to proceed and receive a trial date which will depend on the Assistant District Attorney, your counsel and the Judge’s calendars.


This date will begin your criminal trial. Your case will proceed as a jury, non-jury or plea. Additional information will be explained in depth by your trial counsel.


If your case was a plea, you may be sentenced the same day as your trial. You also may be sentenced up to ninety (90) days after your plea or finding of guilt in a non-jury or jury trial. Additional information will be explained by trial counsel.

Appeals / Post Conviction Relief

Appeals must be filed within 30 days of your sentencing date or court’s rulings on Post Sentence Proceedings. The Appellate Courts will only consider issues that allege errors of law, not fact. Your counsel will file a brief, setting out your case for the Court.


Qualifications and Procedures

A criminal record may be expunged after a Motion for Expungement is filed in the Department of Court Records, Criminal Division and granted by order of the court from the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County. Under limited circumstances, criminal records may be sealed so that they do not appear in public records. For further information, please call 412-350-3271