The arrest and arraignment process in felony cases will be changing in January, and Delaware County Prosecutor Melissa Schiffel said the change benefits everyone involved.
Schiffel explained the way the process works currently is that a person in a felony case is arraigned in Delaware Municipal Court within 48 hours of their arrest. At the municipal court hearing, the judge will set bond for the defendant and schedule a pretrial hearing.
Schiffel said the suspect is usually then indicted by a Delaware County Grand Jury, and the individual is formally charged in Delaware County Common Pleas Court, where he or she is arraigned again before having their bond set again. The individual’s municipal court case is then dismissed.
However, when court processes resume in January, suspects who have been arrested in felony cases will be arraigned after their arrests in Delaware County Common Pleas Court, not municipal court.
“We’re just changing that part right there, instead of taking cases to municipal court and file them, we are having law enforcement file them in common pleas court,” Schiffel said. “It’s a practice that is done in other jurisdictions, but not as much as you would think.”
Schiffel added the change has several advantages for the court, law enforcement and prosecutors.
“From law enforcement and the court’s standpoint, all the paperwork will be in one place and we won’t have to have paperwork transferred from municipal court,” she said. “When we talk about making the criminal justice system a little bit more efficient what will happen is we’ll see less duplication. What our office really wants to do is to take whatever applicable misdemeanors with the felonies to the grand jury, rather than have someone go deal with those in municipal court and then coming to common pleas to deal with their felony.”
Schiffel said the Delaware County Clerk of Courts will also have an easier time since the office won’t be waiting for paperwork from municipal court.
She added the change will also simplify the process for defendants and victims.
“Defendants will only have to go to one court, and victims will only have to go to one court,” Schiffel said. “Defendants will get an attorney much sooner, and one of my goals is that we’ll be able to streamline uncontested cases. From a victim’s perspective, they’ll only have to come to one court and they can meet with the prosecutor almost immediately. If there’s a protection order hearing, they’ll only have to come to this court and won’t have to start in municipal court and then come here.”
Schiffel noted it will be a slight change for law enforcement, but she’s confident that it “shouldn’t be a huge issue.”
She added the grand jury process is part of the U.S. Constitution and will be unaffected.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG