Stages of Representation

The Office of the Public Defender (OPD) is pleased to be your attorney in this case.  The following will give a thumbnail sketch of a criminal matter with (a) stages, (b) approximate times, and (c) locations.

Preliminary Arraignment

The initial stage is the Preliminary Arraignment.  This is a proceeding before a Magistrate District Judge where your bail is set.  Many of you have been through this stage, but if you have received a summons, rather than having been arrested, the bail may be set before the Preliminary Hearing (the Second Stage).

Preliminary Hearing

This will take place 3-10 days after arrest, unless the case proceeds by summons, where the time period is longer. The location will be at Pittsburgh Municipal Court Building located at 660 First Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15219 or at a Magisterial District Judge’s Office whose address is on your criminal complaint.

At the Preliminary Hearing, 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 crimes.  The Defense rarely presents any witnesses.  If your case is held for court, your next appearance is the Formal Arraignment.  This will be approximately 6-8 weeks later.

Formal Arraignment

This stage is approximately 6-8 weeks after the preliminary hearing and is located at Room 519, fifth floor of the Allegheny County Courthouse, 436 Grant Street, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 15219.  This stage will be the formal presentation of your charges.  You will be assigned a Judge, and a date for the next stage, the Pre-Trial Conference.  This will be approximately 2-4 weeks after your Formal Arraignment.

Pre-Trial Conference

You will report to the courtroom assigned at Formal Arraignment at 8:30 a.m. on your Pre-Trial Conference date.  The courtroom will be either on the third or fifth floor of the Allegheny County Courthouse.  You will receive a trial date which will depend on the Assistant District Attorney, your counsel and the Judge’s calendar.


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.