I have a preliminary hearing and have not been arrested or arraigned

Q: It’s been since 12/28/2017 and I went to court on 2/02/2018 and they continued it till 02/14/2018. I’ve never really be arrested fingerprinted or had a bail set for this case never had my rights read or signed them for that matter. This is not my first or second run in with the law I just don’t know what’s going on. I work full time but I can’t pay a lawyer straight out but I can do payments if someone is willing to work with me. I just need help. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: If you have a pending Preliminary Hearing, I assure you, you have been arrested. You were likely arrested via summons whereby the charges and a notice to appear were mailed by certified mail and regular mail to your known address. I refer to this as arrested by mail. The continuances of your case, as mentioned, is not unusual. The police do not have to read Miranda rights to you, like on TV, unless they interrogate. Not many criminal defense attorneys take payments as generally, criminal defendants are not reliable pay. However, there are some that do. Talk to as many lawyers as you can-you may find one needs business and will negotiate. Timing is everything.

Is it true that if a victim no shows for three court hearings, the case is tossed?

Q: The alleged “victim” in my case has not shown twice at the magistrate to testify against me. The cops are trying to put a felony on me for aggravated assault. The victim started the fight and was only in the hospital overnight. If he fails to appear, will the judge throw the case out? (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: There is no such rule but since I began practicing it is a generally accepted way of operating. The only exception I have seen is where the DA can show some compelling reason.

Will I go to jail?

Q: My sister and I got into a fight on campus property. She called the cops on me & the cops called me and asked me to come into the station, I went into the police station they told me my charges (simple assault, harassment, criminal mischief- destruction of property) ~ I threw her phone and it broke. I was arrested for the night it was the scariest thing of my life, I never want to be handcuffed or in a cop car or in jail. I was ready to cry. My mug shot was take and they got my fingerprints. I was placed in the holding cell for the night, and in the morning around 9am I saw the judge. The judge explained all the charges to me, he let me leave on a bail of $5,000. He explained that this bail will be lifted if I do not engage in any physical contact with my sister. The judge explained that I have a preliminary hearing in a week and that I need to show up, and if I don’t show up I will be arrested. I left the correctional facility and called a public defender I explained to the lady that I am a college student, and I can’t afford a lawyer. I honestly just regret this whole thing happened but it did. I’m just scared of the outcome.

A:  Talk to your Public Defender attorney. As a first timer and college student, you have options to get out of this without a record. Whatever caused your outburst, whether alcohol or anger, needs to be addressed. You may want to be proactive and consider some counseling, if necessary. If you don’t think you need it, do it anyway as it will make you look better when you come to court.

Can I take my plea deal back at big court?

Q: Can a plea bargain at the preliminary hearing level be taken back if I signed it? I was charged with 2nd DUI on the 2nd tier, and also child endangerment and was offered a plea bargain, which I did sign. My lawyer told me the DA didn’t know about a new law. My question is what are my chances of losing the deal when I go to big court? (Pittsburgh, PA).

Q: I am not sure if I understand your question. If you signed some waiver agreement at the preliminary hearing and your case is now going up to “big” court (Court of Common Pleas), you can still change your mind and go to trial or have your attorney push for a better deal. If you actually pled guilty and were not sentenced, but now want to withdraw your plea, prior to sentencing, the rules are generally favorable for you. You really need to have serious discussion with your attorney about this.