A criminal court case is “a case in which one or more of the offenses charged is a misdemeanor, felony or murder of the first, second, or third degree.” Pennsylvania Rule of Criminal Procedure 103.  Note that if a summary offense is charged along with a misdemeanor or felony offense, there is not a separate summary proceeding for the summary offense.  Instead, the summary offense is treated to the same procedures as the misdemeanor and/or felony offenses charged.

Pennsylvania Rule of Criminal Procedure 502 states: “Criminal proceedings in court cases shall be instituted by: 1. filing a written complaint; or 2. an arrest without a warrant: a. when the offense is a murder, felony, or misdemeanor committed in the presence of the police officer making the arrest; or b. upon probable cause when the offense is a felony or murder; or c. upon probable cause when the offense is a misdemeanor not committed in the presence of the police officer making the arrest, when such arrest without a warrant is specifically authorized by statute.”

The police have two options to initiate a criminal court case: under certain circumstances, police can make a lawful arrest without an arrest warrant; or, police or a district attorney may write a complaint and submit it to a magistrate or judge who then issues a summons or formal arrest warrant.


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