The prosecutors in our Municipal Court Unit handle the majority of cases in Philadelphia.
Our Municipal Court Unit prosecutors are responsible for handling misdemeanor cases and most felony preliminary hearings. Examples of Municipal Court cases include vehicle theft, DUI, and physical altercations resulting in non-life-threatening injury. The trial or preliminary hearings of almost all crimes committed in Philadelphia take place in the First Judicial District’s Municipal Court and are handled by attorneys in our Municipal Court Unit.
Independently elected Municipal Court judges maintain jurisdiction over lesser offenses and serve as gatekeepers, determining which cases need to be sent up to the Court of Common Pleas.
Exceptions to this are cases involving homicides, shootings, family violence, sexual assault, juvenile offenses, and other complex or violent felonies, which are handled by prosecutors in specialized units from arraignment through trial or plea and sentencing.
For arrest information, contact the Philadelphia Police Department.
For parking violations, contact the Philadelphia Parking Authority.
Preliminary Hearings for Felony Cases
Within two weeks of an arrest, preliminary hearings take place in Municipal Court. Prosecutors are assigned to handle cases to establish probable cause that a crime occurred and that the defendant was involved.
In most cases, the victim is required to appear and testify about the defendant and the crime. In cases involving only property crimes, the victim can fill out a document rather than testify in person at the preliminary hearing.
Following the presentation of evidence at a preliminary hearing, the judge will make a ruling on all charges in the criminal complaint, both misdemeanors and felonies.
Municipal Court trials, which take place within six months of the preliminary arraignment, can take place before a judge or a jury, and prosecutors must prove the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Sentencing usually takes place immediately following the trial, so appropriate dispositions are prepared beforehand. That could involve restitution amounts for losses tied to physical injury or property damage. The judge can postpone sentencing to gather more information about the defendant, including mental health and substance abuse history.
MUNICIPAL COURT UNIT: OUR ATTORNEYS
The attorneys who staff the Municipal Court Unit represent the best and brightest in the nation.
Many Assistant District Attorneys begin their prosecutorial careers in the Municipal Court Unit, where they learn the nuts and bolts of being a trial attorney while handling a wide range of cases.
Municipal Court attorneys are given the highest level of training, mentoring, and supervision so that each can master courtroom proceedings and exercising discretion.
Assistant District Attorneys receive courtside guidance from senior attorneys who attend Municipal Court every day to observe and help build their trial skills.
The Assistant District Attorneys also work closely with Victim/Witness Services Unit Coordinators assigned to each case to support complainants, victims, and witnesses, including by keeping them informed as cases proceed and securing interpreters and transportation to court when necessary.