Phoenix Court is an expedited criminal docket in Allegheny County designed to quickly resolve cases involving non-violent offenses (i.e. theft cases, drug cases, DUI's). It replaced the PDQ program (which was colloquially referred to as the "pretty damn quick" program) in 2010. Since its inception, the Phoenix Court docket has resolved thousands of Allegheny County criminal cases in an efficient and cost-effective manner.
If your case is assigned to the Phoenix Court docket, you will be notified at your Formal Arraignment (your first court date after the Preliminary Hearing). At that time, you will be provided with a written plea offer from the DA's office and a subpoena for your Phoenix Docket Conference, which is your first - and likely only - appearance before your Phoenix Court judge.
At the Phoenix Docket Conference, you have two options: enter a guilty plea or schedule the case for trial. If you elect to plead guilty (by either accepting the terms of the written plea offer or pleading to negotiated terms), your plea will be accepted by the judge and you will be sentenced that same day. Alternatively, if you elect to persist in your not guilty plea and fight the charges, the case will be set for a future trial date. The trial will be listed on a Thursday or Friday, usually weeks after the Phoenix Docket Conference.
What are the Benefits of Phoenix Court?
The primary benefit of Phoenix Court is that your case will be resolved at an earlier stage of the criminal process. Additionally, the plea offers in Phoenix Court are usually "mitigated range" offers (meaning the proposed sentence is at the low-end of a defendant's sentencing guidelines) and very often include the withdrawal of one or more charges as part of the proposed offers. This is so because the DA's office wants to entice Phoenix Court defendants to plead guilty at the initial Phoenix Docket Conference, thereby eliminating the need for any future court dates and the expenditure of any additional resources.
Do I Need an Attorney if My Case Goes to Phoenix Court?
Absolutely. While the written plea offers in Phoenix Court can be good, they are rarely the best possible result. Every offer is subject to negotiation and many clients should not plea guilty at all. An unrepresented defendant has no chance of negotiating a better plea offer and no ability to evaluate whether the case should go to trial. As a result, an unrepresented Phoenix Court defendant runs a much higher risk of being convicted of a serious crime or serving a lengthy probation/jail sentence than a defendant represented by an experienced Pittsburgh criminal defense attorney.
Call Bishop Law for a Free Consultation
If you are currently facing criminal charges that may be assigned to the Phoenix Court docket, call or text (412) 589-9422 for a free consultation with a skilled Pittsburgh criminal defense lawyer at Bishop Law immediately.
We will work tirelessly to get you the best possible result.