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Berks County > County Departments > Court of Common Pleas > Magisterial District Judges
 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

 

Q1:         How can I find an attorney to represent me?

A1:         Magisterial District Judges and district court staff are not permitted to recommend specific attorneys.  However, you may contact Mid-Penn Legal Services or the Berks County Bar Association Lawyer Referral Program.  Mid-Penn Legal Services is located at 501 Washington Street, Suite 401, Reading, PA, telephone 610-376-8656.  Based on your income and expenses, you may qualify for an attorney to represent you for free or at reduced rates.  If you can afford to hire an attorney, but just need to locate one who is experienced in the type of legal case for which you need representation, you may contact the Berks County Bar Association Lawyer Referral Program.  The Berks County Bar Association is located at 544 Court Street, Reading, PA, telephone number 610-375-4591.  As of July 2012, the processing fee for the Lawyer Referral Program was $35. You will be scheduled for a free ½ hour consultation with an attorney.  At the end of that consultation you can choose to hire the attorney, but there is no obligation to do so.  You may also want to look on-line or in the yellow pages to find an attorney to represent you.

Q2:         How can I find out if an individual was charged with a criminal or summary offense?

A2:         Pennsylvania has a public access database, the Pennsylvania Unified Judicial System Portal “UJS Portal”, where you can search by name to see if someone has been charged with a criminal or summary offense.  Docket sheets through the UJS Portal can be accessed at www.pacourts.us. You can also go to the Clerk of Courts Office located on the 4th Floor of the Berks County Courthouse at 633 Court Street, Reading, PA to look up information about criminal charges.

Q3:         Where can I check if certain behavior or conduct is illegal?

A3:         Magisterial District Judges and district court staff cannot provide you with guidance as to what behavior is a violation of the law.  You may want to contact your local police department or look in the Purdon’s criminal statutes, Title 18.  Purdon’s Statutes are on the internet at www.pacourts.us in the “Asked/Answered” section or you can go to the Berks County Law Library located on the 10th Floor of the Berks County Courthouse at 633 Court Street, Reading, PA.  The Law Library is open from 8:00 AM until 5:00 PM.  The telephone number is 610-478-3370. You can view Law Library information on-line at www.co.berks.pa.us.

Q4:         How can I find out where someone is being detained who was arrested?

A4:         If an individual was arrested recently, he/she might be at the Police Department or in the Berks County Sheriff’s Department Central Booking Division in the Berks County Courthouse.  If some time has passed, the individual may be at Berks County Jail or may have already been released from custody. There may be no information available until after the preliminary arraignment.  You can contact Central Booking by calling 610-478-6240 ext. 3228 or 3229.  You can contact Berks County Jail by calling 610-208-4800 ext. 4102. 

Q5:         What is an arraignment?

A5:         There are preliminary arraignments where a Magisterial District Judge sets bail shortly after an arrest and there are arraignments in the Court of Common Pleas where an Arraignment Master or Judge reads all the criminal charges to the person who was arrested and usually sets a date for the next hearing.  The person who was arrested is advised that they have the right to an attorney, that they may want to contact the Public Defender’s Office to see if they qualify for free representation, and they are given a form with their pre-trial rights and time deadlines.  If bail was not set at the preliminary arraignment, an Arraignment Master can only set bail if the Assistant District Attorney agrees at the arraignment. Preliminary arraignments and arraignments can be done in person or by using two-way simultaneous audio-visual communication.  If the person who was arrested is in jail, they usually will not be brought to the preliminary arraignment or arraignment, but will participate by video-conference.  Arraignments can be waived if the person is represented by an attorney.  The person who was arrested has a right to have an attorney present for both a preliminary arraignment and an arraignment, but based on the preliminary arraignment happening shortly after arrest, an attorney is sometimes not present for the preliminary arraignment.  Even if an attorney was as the preliminary arraignment, they need to enter their appearance in the case to continue representing you at the arraignment and afterward.  You may want to look at the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure to find out more about the preliminary arraignment and arraignment by the Court of Common Pleas.  The rules can be found by searching the title on-line or by going to the Law Library located on the 10th Floor of the Berks County Courthouse. 

Q6:         How many points will I receive on my driving record if I plead guilty to this violation?

A6:         For general information on the point system, you can go to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, “PennDOT”.  You can view PennDOT information on-line at www.dot33.state.pa.us.  Click on the “Suspensions Information Center” then read the “PA Point System Fact Sheet.”  You can also contact PennDOT's Customer Call Center at 1-800-932-4600 (in-state) or (717) 412-5300 (out-of-state).

Q7:         Can I pay a traffic ticket on-line?

A7:         Yes, you can pay a traffic ticket on-line.  Go to the Pennsylvania Unified Judicial System Portal “UJS Portal” at www.pacourts.us to find information about paying on-line with the Pennsylvania e-pay system.  Click on “E-Pay” under the “E-Commerce” menu.

Q8:         How do I have my driver’s license reinstated?

A8:         The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, “PennDOT” handles driver’s license issues.  You can view PennDOT information on-line at www.dot33.state.pa.us or you can contact PennDOT's Customer Call Center at 1-800-932-4600 (in-state) or (717) 412-5300 (out-of-state).

 

Q9:         Can you tell me the dollar limit in small claims court in Pennsylvania?

A9:         In Pennsylvania, Magisterial District Judges handle civil cases involving amounts up to $12,000.

Q10:       I was in a car accident and the other driver did not have insurance.  What is the best way for me to be compensated for my loss?

A10:       Magisterial District Judges and district court staff are not permitted to provide guidance as to what you should do under those circumstances.  You might want to talk with your insurance company and/or talk with an attorney who can give you legal advice.  If you need assistance finding an attorney, you may contact Mid-Penn Legal Services or the Berks County Bar Association Lawyer Referral Program.  Mid-Penn Legal Services is located at 501 Washington Street, Suite 401, Reading, PA, telephone 610-376-8656.  Based on your income and expenses, you may qualify for an attorney to represent you for free or at reduced rates.  If you can afford to hire an attorney, but just need to locate one who is experienced in the type of legal case for which you need representation, you may contact the Berks County Bar Association Lawyer Referral Program.  The Berks County Bar Association is located at 544 Court Street, Reading, PA, telephone number 610-375-4591.  As of July 2012, the processing fee for the Lawyer Referral Program was $35. You will be scheduled for a free ½ hour consultation with an attorney.  At the end of that consultation you can choose to hire the attorney, but there is no obligation to do so.  You may also want to look on-line or in the yellow pages to find an attorney to represent you.

Q11:       If I file a civil complaint today, how soon is the hearing scheduled?

A11:       You might want to look at the Pennsylvania Rules of Court - Magisterial District Judges (Pennsylvania Code) which can be found by searching the title on-line or by going to the Law Library located on the 10th Floor of the Berks County Courthouse.  These rules should answer your questions about the various time frames for MDJ cases.

Q12:       Can I cut down branches from a tree that is in my neighbor’s yard but is hanging over my fence?

A12:       Magisterial District Judges and district court staff are not permitted to provide guidance as to what you should do under those circumstances.  You may contact Mid-Penn Legal Services or the Berks County Bar Association Lawyer Referral Program.  Mid-Penn Legal Services is located at 501 Washington Street, Suite 401, Reading, PA, telephone 610-376-8656.  Based on your income and expenses, you may qualify for an attorney to represent you for free or at reduced rates.  If you can afford to hire an attorney, but just need to locate one who is experienced in the type of legal case for which you need representation, you may contact the Berks County Bar Association Lawyer Referral Program.  The Berks County Bar Association is located at 544 Court Street, Reading, PA, telephone number 610-375-4591.  As of July 2012, the processing fee for the Lawyer Referral Program was $35. You will be scheduled for a free ½ hour consultation with an attorney.  At the end of that consultation you can choose to hire the attorney, but there is no obligation to do so.  You may also want to look on-line or in the yellow pages to find an attorney to represent you.

Q13:       I need to sue a contractor for failing to complete work as promised.  His business address is Allentown but my property is in Birdsboro.  Can you tell me where I would file the civil complaint?

A13:       Magisterial District Judges and district court staff are not permitted to provide guidance as to where you should file.  You might want to look at the Pennsylvania Rules of Court - Magisterial District Judges (Pennsylvania Code) which can be found by searching the title on-line or by going to the Law Library located on the 10th Floor of the Berks County Courthouse. You might want to read these rules to decide where to file.  In addition, you might want to talk with an attorney who can give you legal advice.  If you need assistance finding an attorney, you may contact Mid-Penn Legal Services or the Berks County Bar Association Lawyer Referral Program.  Mid-Penn Legal Services is located at 501 Washington Street, Suite 401, Reading, PA, telephone 610-376-8656.  Based on your income and expenses, you may qualify for an attorney to represent you for free or at reduced rates.  If you can afford to hire an attorney, but just need to locate one who is experienced in the type of legal case for which you need representation, you may contact the Berks County Bar Association Lawyer Referral Program.  The Berks County Bar Association is located at 544 Court Street, Reading, PA, telephone number 610-375-4591.  As of July 2012, the processing fee for the Lawyer Referral Program was $35. You will be scheduled for a free ½ hour consultation with an attorney.  At the end of that consultation you can choose to hire the attorney, but there is no obligation to do so.  You may also want to look on-line or in the yellow pages to find an attorney to represent you.

Q14:       Is there a reduced rate for a dog license for senior citizens?

A14:       The Treasurer’s Office issues dog licenses.  They have regular license fees, senior citizen and disability license fees, and lifetime license fees.  The Treasurer’s Office is located on the 2nd Floor of the Berks County Services Center at 633 Court Street, Reading, PA, telephone 610-478-6640.  The Treasurer’s Office also has information available on the County of Berks website at www.co.berks.pa.us.  The Treasurer’s Office can best answer questions about dog licenses.

Q15:       How do I get a marriage license?

A15:       The Register of Wills Office and MDJ Offices can accept and process marriage license applications.  The Register of Wills Office is located on the 2nd Floor of the Berks County Courthouse and is open from 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM.  Their telephone number is 610-478-6600.  You can view Register of Wills information on-line at www.co.berks.pa.us.

Q16:       What can I do if I have been renting a room to a friend who has not paid me in the last several months?

A16:       Magisterial District Judges and district court staff are not permitted to provide guidance as to what you should do under these circumstances.  In Pennsylvania, procedures for lease violations are covered in the “Landlord Tenant Act of 1951”.  You might want to read this Act which can be found by searching the title on-line.  In addition, you might want to talk with an attorney who can give you legal advice.  If you need assistance finding an attorney, you may contact Mid-Penn Legal Services or the Berks County Bar Association Lawyer Referral Program.  Mid-Penn Legal Services is located at 501 Washington Street, Suite 401, Reading, PA, telephone 610-376-8656.  Based on your income and expenses, you may qualify for an attorney to represent you for free or at reduced rates.  If you can afford to hire an attorney, but just need to locate one who is experienced in the type of legal case for which you need representation, you may contact the Berks County Bar Association Lawyer Referral Program.  The Berks County Bar Association is located at 544 Court Street, Reading, PA, telephone number 610-375-4591.  As of July 2012, the processing fee for the Lawyer Referral Program was $35. You will be scheduled for a free ½ hour consultation with an attorney.  At the end of that consultation you can choose to hire the attorney, but there is no obligation to do so.  You may also want to look on-line or in the yellow pages to find an attorney to represent you.

Q17:       Where would I file an appeal of a boat trailer registration suspension?

A17:       The Prothonotary’s Office handles vehicle registration suspension appeals.  The Prothonotary’s Office is located on the 2nd Floor of the Berks County Courthouse and is open from 8:00 AM - 4:00 PM.  Their telephone number is 610-478-6970. You can view Prothonotary Office information on-line at www.co.berks.pa.us.

Q18:       Someone told me a PFA was filed against me.  Can you check that for me?

A18:       No, I cannot provide you with that information, but I can refer you to contact your local Police Department or the Berks County Sheriff’s Office.  If it is an Emergency PFA, you may want to contact your local Police Department to see if they are trying to find you to serve the Emergency PFA on you.  If it is a Temporary PFA Order, you may want to contact the Berks County Sheriff’s Office at 610-478-6240.  To see if they are trying to find you to serve the Temporary PFA Order on you.

Q19:       Where can I get a copy of my divorce papers?

A19:       Divorce paperwork is kept in the Prothonotary’s Office.  The Prothonotary’s Office is located on the 2nd Floor of the Berks County Courthouse.  They are open from 8:00 AM until 4:00 PM.  The office telephone number is 610-478-6970.  The Prothonotary’s Office charges per page for copies.

 

To find more information, please visit the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s website at http://www.pabar.org/public/membership/conleg.asp.