Chester County Criminal Defense

Attorney Jason Antoine worked as an Assistant District Attorney in Chester County, Pennsylvania and now defends citizens charged with crimes in any municipality, township or borough of Chester County. Attorney Antoine is familiar with the Chester County local rules and practices in criminal court. Chester County has a unique set of local rules that govern day to day business in the courts. As a former Assistant District Attorney in Chester County, Mr. Antoine worked on the preliminary hearing circuit and has appeared in every District Court in Chester County either as a prosecutor or defense attorney.

In Chester County, the Court of Common Pleas which is the main trial court for the county, is located in West Chester, Pennsylvania. The courthouse building is called the "Chester County Justice Center." The Justice Center is located at 201 West Market Street in West Chester. This new court facility opened its doors in 2008 and replaced the historic Chester County Courthouse on 10 North High Street. Attorney Antoine frequently appears at the Justice Center to represent individuals charged with crimes ranging from major theft/embezzlement to Driving Under the Influence (DUI). Attorney Antoine has represented individuals from all walks of life in Chester County. He has represented, lawyers Vice Presidents of corporations, physician's children, single mothers and college kids at West Chester University.

Chester County Criminal Procedure

If you are charged with a felony or misdemeanor your case will first be scheduled for a preliminary hearing at one of the local district courts. Chester County has 19 district courts. After working on the preliminary hearing circuit Attorney Antoine is familiar with many of the judges, their local practices and preferences. If any of your charges are held for court, your case will then be sent to West Chester where you will have to appear at the Chester County Justice Center for an arraignment.1 After your arraignment, you will be scheduled for 2 court dates in Chester County. The first date is called the "call of the list." At the call of the list, you will not have to appear. Your attorney will show up and briefly talk with the prosecutor and decide if the case will be a "plea, probable plea, trial or 'trial possible plea.'" The judge or a member of the judge's staff will take the bench and call the list. This means the judge or staff member will do a role call for each case and the attorneys will report the status of the case to the court. (i.e. - whether the case will be a plea or trial) I have heard many attorneys (including myself) grumble at this procedure being a waste of time. Many times the parties will simply say "trial, possible plea."

The next court date you will receive in the mail is your trial date. Do not fear, your case is most likely not going to trial on your "trial date." Chester County has trial terms which usually last about three weeks. For your scheduled trial date, you or your attorney may ask to pass the case to a later date in the trial term or continue the case to the next trial term. The good thing about this system is the flexibility of it. You can usually take your plea at you and your attorney's convenience almost any day of the week. The bad thing about this system is that you and your attorney must be on call for trial at any time during that trial term and you must be ready to go to trial on an hour's notice. You may not know in advance which day your case is going to trial. However, the judge's staff are typically pretty good at letting you know when your case is going to trial.

Tips for Appearing for Your Criminal Case at the Chester County Justice Center

Dress

Chester County is a traditional and conservative county. You do not need to wear a suit if you are not comfortable in it or would not normally wear a suit, but I recommend you come to court clean shaving and wearing business casual clothing. Stay away from pants with holes, low cut shirts, high skirts or any revealing clothing. If you are charged with a violent crime you do not want to look violent. I would not display any tattoos, body art or piercings.

Parking

In West Chester parking can be an issue. You may try to park in the Chester County parking garage directly across from the entrance of the Justice Center. However, this lot is usually full at busy times. There are many metered spots on West Market Street and side streets such as South Darlington. If you have extra time to walk, most do not know that you can park for free in West Chester. If you go a few blocks North of West Market Street you can park for free on streets such as North Church Street, Chestnut or Biddle.

Security

When you arrive at the Justice Center you have to go through security. You will proceed through a metal detector and be searched. Of course, do not bring any knives, weapons or sharp objects. You are allowed to bring your cell phone inside, however, it must be silenced when you enter the courtroom. I do recommend you bring your cell phone that way your lawyer can get in touch with you if he or she is running late. If you do not know where you are going, be sure to ask security at the front.

Courtrooms

The Court of Common Pleas courtrooms are located on the 6th or 7th floors. If you arrive before your lawyer, you may enter the courtroom and have a seat in the galley at the back. Court is open to the public and you can watch cases that are called prior to yours.

Filing Court Papers/Motions

If you or your attorney need to file criminal papers or motions, they must be filed in writing with the Chester County Clerk of Courts. There is no electronic filing in Chester County Criminal cases. Motions must be filed by paper. The Clerk of Courts is located on the first floor to the right as you come in.

Contact Us

Attorney Antoine frequently represents individuals accused of crimes in Chester County. As a former Assistant District Attorney in Chester County he learned the local practices and procedures but more importantly he learned the preferences and personalities of the judges in the county. Knowing your judge is important when making a decision on how to handle a case. If you have a criminal case in Chester County, Pennsylvania contact Jason R. Antoine to discuss your case.

1 In many cases, your attorney will waive the arraignment by mailing a form to the Chester County District Attorney's Office which will excuse your appearance.