Involvement in the criminal justice system can be a long and difficult process. However, VWAP staff can/will advocate on your behalf during every stage of this process.
Preliminary Arraignment held before a Magisterial District Judge
Preliminary Hearing held before a Magisterial District Judge
Formal Arraignment at the Dauphin County Courthouse
Plea or Trial
Verdict Rendered (Guilty, Not Guilty, or Hung Jury)
See the definitions page for an explanation of legal terms used on this page.
The purpose of the preliminary hearing is to establish prima facie. This is the burden of the Commonwealth to demonstrate to the Magisterial District Judge that a crime was committed, and the individual being charged is most likely the person who committed the crime. Guilt or innocence of the defendant will not be determined.
Your testimony, as the victim, is crucial at the preliminary hearing. It may be the determining factor in the Magisterial District Judge’s decision for prima facie. The defendant is not required to testify at this hearing.
You, as the victim, do not need to bring an attorney to the preliminary hearing. A representative from the District Attorney’s office or a police officer will be present on your behalf.
If the Magisterial District Justice determines prima facie, the charges are bound over (transferred) to criminal court. This means that the defendant must appear at the Court of Common Pleas at the Dauphin County Courthouse for a formal arraignment hearing.
At the formal arraignment, the defendant enters a plea, requests a judge or jury trial and a tentative court date is scheduled. You cannot attend the arraignment as this is for the defendant and the victims are not allowed.
Tips for the Preliminary Hearing
Arrive 15 minutes early.
While testifying, speak loudly and clearly.
Say yes or no when appropriate, rather than nodding your head.
If you don’t know the answer, it is okay to say, “I don’t know.”
Always tell the truth.
Do not chew gum.
Wear appropriate clothing – no shorts, no revealing pieces of clothing.
Turn off cell phones and pagers.
What are my rights as a victim?
To receive notice of the arrest within 24 hours after the preliminary arraignment
In personal injury crimes, to be notified of an offender’s escape from law enforcement custody
To have access to information regarding the grant or denial of bail
To be notified of certain significant actions and proceedings
To receive immediate notification of the release of an offender on bail
To have immediate notification of an offender’s pretrial escape from a local correctional facility and of the subsequent apprehension
To be accompanied at all criminal proceedings
In cases involving personal injury crimes or burglary, to receive notice of and submit prior comment on the potential reduction or dropping of any charge or changing of a plea or diversion of a case
To have the opportunity to offer prior comment on sentencing of a defendant
In personal injury crimes, to be notified in advance of the date, time and place of sentencing/disposition
To have opportunity to submit a written and/or oral victim impact statement
To be restored, to the extent possible, to the pre-crime economic status
To have assistance in the preparation, submission, and follow up with Victim’s Compensation claims
To receive information about post-sentencing notifications (as outlined in the “upon request section”)
Upon your request, you have a right…
To receive notice of the disposition, sentence, and sentencing modifications
In personal injury crimes, to receive notice of the release of an offender from incarceration upon sentencing
In personal injury crimes where the offender is sentenced to a state correctional facility, victims have the right:
To provide prior comment on and to receive post-sentencing release decisions
To receive immediate notice of an escape and of the subsequent apprehension
To receive notice of an offender’s commitment to a mental health facility
In personal injury crimes where the offender is sentenced to a local correctional facility, victims have the right:
To receive notice of the date of the release
To receive immediate notice of an escape and of subsequent apprehension
In personal injury crimes, to be notified of the termination of the court’s jurisdiction
To be present at executions
In order to provide rights and services, VWAP will need to have a current address and telephone number at all times.
What Our Clients Are Saying
"I’m thankful that you guys do this. Sometimes we do need that person to talk to… I didn’t have that outlet, and if you guys give people that outlet and someone to talk to, it just makes a difference. I appreciate everything you’ve done. I’m grateful and I’m thankful. You guys do an awesome job. Keep doing what you’re doing, because we families need this, we really do."
Like our Facebook page to stay up to date on fundraisers, events, and news from the Victim/Witness Assistance Program.