Many people sometimes confuse preliminary hearings with court trials, but the two are very different even if they are both part of the court process. For instance, preliminary hearings are much shorter than trials by hours on occasion. Prelims never involve a jury, while trials almost always involve one. The goals of both a prelim and a trial are different as well, with a trial attempting to find a defendant guilty or not guilty, and a prelim to screen cases and weed out the weak ones. But what is a preliminary hearing and what role does it play in the overall court process?
Preliminary hearings are a lot like arraignments; however, they include the ability for the defendant to make a counter-argument. The judge will use the prelim as a way to determine if there is enough evidence to force the defendant to stand trial. They will apply something known as “probable cause” to decide whether or not there is enough evidence to actually bring a case. The judge will listen to arguments from the prosecutor or attorney as well as the defendant or their attorney. Physical evidence may be presented in a way that will determine whether or not a trial is necessary.
Is a Preliminary Hearing Used in Every Case?
No – in some cases, a prelim may only be conducted when a felony is charged. The case may never get to the preliminary stage as well when a plea bargain is made early on between the government and the defendant. In some cases, you may even find that the case is dismissed altogether before the need for a prelim becomes necessary. A preliminary hearing is one of the best ways for you to determine if a trial will be necessary or not in your case. It is important for you to be able to make strong arguments because of this. Call us today at The Law Office of Peter Blair for more information on how we can help you.