The first appearance a defendant makes in court after arrest or summons is generally known as an arraignment. In felony matters, this is also known as an initial appearance. At the initial appearance, the judge informs the defendant and his attorney or public defender of the nature of the charges against him and advises him of his legal rights, including the right to counsel and to bail. In felony cases, the defendant is not called upon to plead either at the initial appearance or the preliminary hearing.
When only a complaint has been filed against the defendant, he is entitled to a preliminary hearing unless this is waived in writing. If the defendant waives the preliminary hearing, the judge will order the defendant bound over to the court of common pleas. If not waived, the judge will schedule the preliminary hearing within a prescribed time period.
At the preliminary hearing, the prosecuting attorney will examine witnesses and introduce exhibits for the state. The defendant and the judge have full rights of cross-examination and the defendant has the right of inspection of exhibits before they are introduced. The defendant may move for discharge for failure of proof and may offer evidence on his own behalf. The defendant has the right to make a statement, not under oath, regarding the charge, for the purpose of explaining the facts in evidence.
Upon conclusion of all the evidence and the statement, if any, of the accused, the court do one of the following three things: 1) find that there is probable cause to believe the crime alleged or another felony has been committed and that the defendant committed it, and bind the defendant over to the court of common pleas; 2) find that there is probable cause that a misdemeanor was committed and that the defendant committed it, and retain the case for trial or order the defendant to appear for trial; or 3) order the accused discharged. Discharge is not a bar to further prosecution.
Felony initial appearances and preliminary hearings take place at 8:30 am, Monday through Friday, in Courtroom 3D. The felony initial appearances and preliminary hearings are presided over by a judge of the court.