Stages Of A Criminal Case Preliminary Hearing

The preliminary hearing is a step in the criminal case process that typically follows directly after the defendant's arraignment. It is often referred to as the evidentiary hearing, and can be understood as a "trial before the trial." During a preliminary hearing, the judge will decide whether or not there is substantial evidence to hold a trial. Many states do not require a preliminary hearing unless the defendant is charged with a felony. Also, a preliminary hearing will not be held if a plea bargain is settled upon after the arraignment.

In deciding whether or not there is substantial evidence to hold a trial, the prosecutor and the defendant's attorney will attempt to convince the judge that there is either sufficient or insufficient evidence for a trial to be held. Also, in some states and jurisdictions, a jury may be used to determine whether or not the evidence is sufficient or substantial enough to take the case to trial.

The prosecutor, representing the government, is the one attempting to convince the judge or jury that there is sufficient evidence for a trial, while the defendant's attorney will attempt to prove that there is not enough evidence to hold a trial. The prosecutor will present physical evidence and even call witnesses to testify. The defendant's attorney will cross-examine the witnesses and try to convince the judge otherwise. A preliminary hearing often determines what evidence will be admitted in the trial, if one is to take place.

The prosecution will typically present enough evidence in the preliminary hearing to ensure that the will trial takes place. This strategy will prevent the defense from seeing the prosecution's entire case and evidence before the trial.

If the prosecution cannot present sufficient evidence to take the case to trial, then the charges can be dropped. It is important to note that the preliminary hearing does not determine if the defendant is guilty or not guilty. The judge will simply determine if probable cause can be used in the case. Also, he or she must determine whether or not the crime took place in the court's jurisdiction.

The witnesses and evidence that are used in the preliminary hearing are generally required to be presented again, if the case is taken to trial. In most criminal cases, the victim of the crime which was committed will serve as a witness at the preliminary hearing as well as the trial.

In Municipal Courts, a preliminary hearing is typically held within a few days of the defendant's arraignment.

The government typically brings criminal charges in one of two ways, by a preliminary hearing or by grand jury indictment. Cases brought on the federal level must be brought by indictment. On the state level, however, a case can be brought by either indictment or preliminary hearing. Both methods are used to establish the existence of probable cause, although in a grand jury indictment proceeding, the grand jury will hear only the arguments of, and witnesses for, the prosecutor. The defense attorney only has a say in preliminary hearings.

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