Criminal charges may be brought against you in three different ways.  First, you may be charged with a crime and receive a summons in the mail.  Second, you may be arrested without a warrant under certain circumstances.  Third, you may be arrested with a warrant.  In this post, I will explain the beginnings of the process when you receive a summons in the mail.

A summons is issued to an alleged criminal when the alleged crimes carry a grading of second degree misdemeanor or less.  For example, imagine you were stopped in Target for theft.  The item you allegedly stole was less than $150.00.  The officer will take your name and information, but will not arrest you.  Instead, you will be released, and will receive a summons in the mail in the near future.  This summons will tell you the charges against you, the magistrate court where you have to appear, and (most importantly) the date of your preliminary hearing.

[pullquote_right]While a probable cause standard is very easy to prove, if the judge finds in your favor, the charges will be dismissed.[/pullquote_right]The preliminary hearing will be your first opportunity to defend yourself.  It will around 20 days after you receive the summons in the mail.  When you arrive at your preliminary hearing, you have three options:  Plead guilty, challenge the Prosecutor on probable cause, or waive the case into trial.

Sometimes the best option is plead to a lesser offense.  If there is a lot of evidence against you, the prosecutor may offer a summary offense conviction in exchange for your admittance of guilt.  Summary offenses most often come with a monetary fine and you will not have a permanent record.

If it is clear that the Prosecutor does not have much evidence against you, or the officer violated the law in charging you with the crime, you may want to challenge the prosecutor to a probable cause hearing.  This will force the prosecutor to present evidence to the court that he/she has enough evidence to prove you committed a crime.  While a probable cause standard is very easy to prove, if the judge finds in your favor, the charges will be dismissed.

Finally, you may choose to waive a case downtown.  This may be the best option based on your pleas agreement.  Only an experienced criminal defense attorney can properly advise you on that decision.

I offer representation at Preliminary Hearings generally at a flat fee based on your charges.  If you want representation from an experienced attorney who will fight for you, call 412-209-0657 and ask for Matthew Becker.