A preliminary hearing is a legal proceeding used in some states where the judge determines whether there is probable cause that the defendant has committed the crime that they are charged with committing. If the judge finds that probable cause exists, the defendant is held to answer for the charges and the case proceeds to trial. However, if the judge finds that no probable cause exists, the charges are dismissed.
At a preliminary hearing, the prosecutor presents evidence and witnesses that establish probable cause that the defendant committed the crime charged. The defendant may cross-examine witnesses and may present his own evidence to prove that there is no probable cause that he committed the crime.
Once the judge looks at all the evidence and listens to the arguments presented by both sides, the judge will then decide whether the defendant should be forced to stand trial.
No. Most jurisdictions hold preliminary hearings only when the defendant is charged with a felony. Other jurisdictions use a grand jury indictment instead of a preliminary hearing. Some jurisdictions require both a preliminary hearing and a grand jury indictment before the case will proceed. A preliminary hearing may also be waived.
Sometimes, a judge may decide that there is no probable cause to even force the defendant to stand trial.
If you are accused of committing a crime or have an upcoming preliminary hearing, you should speak to a criminal lawyer immediately to learn more about your rights, your defenses, and the complicated legal system.
Last Modified: 11-11-2014 11:05 AM PSTLaw Library Disclaimer
We've helped more than 4 million clients find the right lawyer – for free. Present your case online in minutes. LegalMatch matches you to pre-screened lawyers in your city or county based on the specifics of your case. Within 24 hours experienced local lawyers review it and evaluate if you have a solid case. If so, attorneys respond with an offer to represent you that includes a full attorney profile with details on their fee structure, background, and ratings by other LegalMatch users so you can decide if they're the right lawyer for you.