During a preliminary hearing, also known as a “prelim,” the prosecution must prove to the judge that the case should be sent to trial. During the “prelim,” sometimes referred to as an “evidence hearing,” the prosecutor specifically must present evidence showing why the case should go to trial. A preliminary hearing typically takes place shortly after the defendant pleads “not guilty” during the arraignment appearance. Often, the preliminary hearing is called the “trial before the trial” or the “probable cause hearing.” This is because the judge must determine if enough credible evidence exists to force the defendant to stand on trial. During the preliminary hearing, the judge must carefully consider if a jury could, in fact, convict the defendant for the alleged charge or charges. It is the job of the criminal defense attorney on the case to work on behalf of his or her client to convince the judge that probable cause does not exist, however.
“Prelims” In California
In the State of California, a typical “prelim” takes anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours. During this time, the prosecutor will present the evidence obtained, and the judge will listen to the witnesses’ testimonies. The criminal defense attorney also is able to cross-examine the live witnesses during the preliminary hearing. The judge will then analyze the evidence presented, consider the credibility of the witnesses, and seek answers to any conflicting facts provided during the “prelim.” It is not the job of the preliminary hearing judge to decide if the defendant is innocent or guilty. The judge does have to contemplate if the possibility exists that the defendant could be guilty of the charge or charges, however.
Defense During A Preliminary Hearing
A defendant should know his or her criminal defense attorney does have the right to have witnesses testify during the preliminary hearing. This often is done with caution, however. Some criminal defense attorneys may seek to present the defendant’s side of the case during the trial. Most of the time, however, the defense focuses on questioning the prosecution’s witnesses, and the criminal defense attorney seeks to assess the strength of the prosecution’s case. If the defense attorney does decide to proceed with presenting witnesses and evidence in support of the defendant’s innocence, there is the possibility that the judge will dismiss the case or reduce the charges at the close of the “prelim.”
Free Consultation Available
If you or your loved one is in need of representation, especially at a preliminary hearing, please feel free to contact us at The Law Office of Peter Blair. We can provide a free consultation in office or by phone.