What Happens During A Preliminary Hearing?

Law Blog

If you are the defendant in a criminal case, a preliminary hearing will only take place if you take the not guilty plea in the initial appearance or arraignment. At the same time, the decision whether a preliminary hearing will take place in your criminal case will be determined by the state laws. This is because in some states, there must be a preliminary hearing for every criminal case.  In others, it only takes place upon request by the defendant.  For other states, it only happens in felony cases. So, what happens during a preliminary hearing? Below is a brief overview of the process.

When does a preliminary hearing take place?

In most states, a preliminary hearing takes place soon after the filing of charges against the defendant. The Federal Speedy Trial Act states that a defendant has a right to a preliminary hearing within 30 days of their arrest as long as it is applicable in their case. Most states are guided by this Act when it comes to determining the time frame for holding the preliminary hearing. However, this time can change if the defendant gives up the right to a speedy trial. If this happens, a delay in the preliminary hearing will be allowed. The court will allow the parties to set up a hearing date that is convenient for everyone involved in the case.

What happens during the hearing?

A preliminary is a preview of the real trial. The prosecutor will present sufficient evidence with an aim of convincing the judge that the defendant should go to trial. To establish a probable cause, prosecutors will present case-related evidence, as well as narration from witnesses. The defense will use this opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses presented by the prosecution. This not only helps in testing the demeanor of the witnesses but also enables the defense attorneys to know the approach to use when cross-examining the witnesses during the trial. In addition, the defense uses the preliminary hearing to collect information that can be used in improving their chances of securing a plea bargain.

Rules applicable in a preliminary hearing

The rules of a preliminary hearing are very much similar to those of a real trial. For instance, non-expert witnesses are not allowed to give opinions, but only narrate what they saw or perceive about the crime. On the other hand, the prosecution and defense teams are allowed to object testimonies or evidence provided by the opposing side. However, one distinct feature is that hearsay evidence is permitted in a preliminary hearing unlike in a trial.

It is important to hire a competent criminal attorney to represent you in a preliminary hearing. This is because they will cross-examine the witnesses presented, which can lead to a reduced charge or the judge dismissing the case altogether. More so, the lawyer will also come in handy if the judge decides that the case should proceed to trial.

For more information or assistance, contact a criminal law attorney, such as Robert A Murray.


10 August 2016

Business Law Basics: What Small Business Owners Need to Know

When I started my first small business, I had no idea how much I really didn’t know. I was fully prepared to deal with customers, sell product and even handle complaints and returns. What I wasn’t aware of was that there is so much more to it. I was lacking the legal expertise to protect the company and myself. I wanted others to benefit from my experience, mistakes and lessons learned, so I started this blog. From employment law to the legal business contracts you’ll have to sign when you form partnerships, business law is complex. I hope that the information here will help you to be better prepared when you start your business so that you’ll know when you need to call an attorney and when you can handle things yourself.