Skip to main content

We strive to resolve felony cases to ensure outcomes that are in the public’s best interest. 

Prosecutors in our Pre-Trial Unit handle felony cases after preliminary hearings, making plea offers and diversion decisions to dispose of cases as efficiently and as fairly as possible.  

Exceptions to this remain those cases involving homicide, shootings, family violence, sexual assault and other complex or violent  felonies. These are handled separately by prosecutors in specialized units. 

During this pretrial phase, our prosecutors have the discretion to make decisions that best balance the cause of justice with community safety 

MORE RESOURCES
icon-quote
“We believe most cases can be resolved swiftly and fairly without a trial. We make sure that prosecutorial discretion is not affected by personal bias, racism and classism and that the victims’ injuries are also taken into account.”

LIAM RILEY
Supervisor
Pre-Trial Unit

icon-data

DATA LAB: MEASURING JUSTICE

Pre-Trial Changes
For defendants without a prior record in felony cases, there’s been a significant increase in diversion offers. Instead of being a rare occurrence, we now actively seek out opportunities for diversion as alternatives to prosecution and incarceration. 
Cases involving defendants with a serious mental health issue are referred to Mental Health Court. Similarly, cases involving first-time offenders struggling with drug addiction are now referred to Treatment Court.
April 2021 Supervision Report
Ending Mass Supervision: Evaluating Reforms

 

 

 

 

 

 

FIND MORE DATA

PRE-TRIAL UNIT: OUR APPROACH

Two-thirds of felony cases get resolved before trial. 

Two-thirds of felony cases get resolved before trial. 

 A case may remain in pre-trial for six weeks or several months while senior prosecutors review facts and charges related to a case once again.  

Prosecutors may consider asking for a guilty plea, appropriate sentences, or whether a case should result in a conviction. They also conduct a careful analysis to determine if a defendant meets the eligibility requirements for one of our diversion programs.  

Within two weeks of initiating discovery, pre-trial prosecutors generally make their first plea offer to defendants.  

Dispositions that occur swiftly and without a trial are often a fair and efficient way to resolve cases.  Non-trial disposition  improves deterrence and court-system efficiency. In cases involving economic crimes, swift resolutions also allow victims to receive restitution sooner.  

Pretrial attorneys may also  dispose of cases by offering diversion.  Many studies have shown long-term significant cost savings in having a person come out of the criminal justice system having been held accountable, but without a conviction, making it more likely for that individual to get a job, receive a loan, secure housing, return to school, or enter a profession that requires a license.  Rates of recidivism for many types of firsttime offenders are very low. 

In a large number of cases, where first-time offenders made a one-time mistake,  pre-trial prosecutors think through the probability of recidivism , level of threat to public safety, and victims’ rights.  

PRE-TRIAL UNIT: OVERVIEW

The prosecutors in the Pre-Trial Unit also make sentencing recommendations, weigh in on probation termination petitions, respond to requests for expungement, and oversee the extradition process. 

  • Sentencing. When cases result in convictions, we seek to recommend sentences to the court that support public safety, hold offenders accountable, hold the possibility of reform and repair (which could include mental health or substance use disorder treatment), and are comply with state-mandated guidelines. Prosecutors also must uphold the rights of victims, including by reviewing potential offers and diversion programs, as well as by securing their restitution information, impact statement, and opportunity  to testify at the sentencing hearing
  • Probation. Working along with the Defender Association, prosecutors also explore with judges the best criteria for early  probation termination.  
  • Expungement. In a very small number of cases, individuals who have been convicted of or pleaded guilty to a crime can apply to have their criminal records expunged after fulfilling the terms of the sentence. Defendants can also ask that information about crimes they have been charged with, but not convicted of, be expunged from their records.  Defendants are entitled to expungement when they successfully appeal a case.  All of these requests are processed by our Pre-Trial Unit before a final decision is made by a judge.
  • Extradition. Pre-Trial Unit prosecutors also manage the extradition process. Constitutional provisions require states to cooperate with one another in turning over individuals with warrants in other jurisdictions. 
icon-fact

PRE-TRIAL UNIT: CONVICTION EXPUNGEMENT

A conviction or guilty plea should not result in lifelong stigma or extrajudicial punishment. 

After completing diversion programs, defendants may often apply for expungements, which restore civil liberties, such as not having to report convictions on employment applications. 

18 PA CSA 3019(d)(1) allows victims of sex trafficking to have certain offenses relating to their trafficking expunged.  Our prosecutors typically support these efforts  so that these individuals  may heal from their trauma and move forward with their lives without further collateral consequences. 

icon-justice

UNIT TEAM LEADERSHIP

Supervisor:
Liam Riley
[email protected]
Assistant Supervisor:
Bob Daisey
[email protected]

PRE-TRIAL UNIT: TRAFFIC COURT

The attorneys and paralegals of the Pre-Trial Unit in the District Attorney’s Office handle Traffic Court cases.

About 100,000 cases come through Traffic Court every year, most of which are trials and pleas concerning moving violations and appeals to the Court of Common Pleas. 

If you get a traffic citation, you will be notified of your court date. Once they call your name and ticket, you will be told how many points are to be assessed and notified of any fees associated with the violation. 

If you disagree with this, you can request a trial that same day in front of a hearing examiner. 

Parking violations are not handled in Traffic Court. They are handled directly by the Parking Authority and can be reached at 215-683-9600.