If you or someone you know has been accused of a crime, you may have heard the term “preliminary court hearing” thrown around. So what is the purpose of a preliminary hearing? If you’re wondering what the prelim hearing entails and what to expect, or if you’re simply curious about whether it makes sense to waive the right to a hearing, keep reading.
What is a Preliminary Hearing?
Once a person is charged with a criminal offense, the court will set an arraignment date. On this date, the court will inform the defendant of the criminal charges they face, and they will enter a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest.
In a felony case, the defendant is entitled to a preliminary hearing within ten days of their arrest. This preliminary hearing is conducted in open court and requires the prosecutor to prove the offenses to a level of probable cause.
What Happens at a Preliminary Hearing?
At a prelim, witnesses are called, cross-examination takes place, and either side may present evidence to the judge or magistrate in order to convince the court that probable cause does or does not exist, depending. If the prosecution cannot establish probable cause, the judge will then dismiss the criminal charges and the defendant will be released from jail. If the judge finds that probable cause does exist, then the case will be set for a pre-trial conference. At the pre-trial conference, the defense attorney and prosecutor will discuss the case to see if both parties have reached an agreement. If not, the judge/magistrate will set the case for trial.
What is a Waiver of Preliminary Hearing?
A waiver of preliminary hearing is essentially what it sounds like. According to the US Courts, this is a document that certifies three things:
1.) The defendant is aware they have been charged with a crime.
2.) The defendant has been informed about their right to a preliminary court hearing.
3.) The defendant is electing to forego that right.
When Might I Use a Waiver of Preliminary Hearing?
NOLO sheds some light on a few of the instances in which it might make sense to submit a waiver of preliminary hearing:
- You expect to enter a guilty plea at trial
- You fear more evidence will come out against you in the prelim
- You need to keep the prosecution’s witnesses loose
- You want to try and avoid certain testimonies
- You want to delay discussion and file continuances
A qualified lawyer can help you determine the best course of action. If you do not retain counsel in a criminal case, you run the extremely high risk of being severely underprepared for a dogged prosecution.
What Can Our Criminal Defense Office Do For You?
At Grant Carpenter Law, LLC, we work with the prosecutor’s office in an aggressive manner to protect our client’s rights. We will keep you informed of the conversations that we have with the prosecutor’s office to keep you up to date with the status of the case. When a prosecutor makes a plea offer, we will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the case, balance this with the plea offer, and take the case to trial if we do not reach an agreement with the prosecutor.
Questions About an Upcoming Preliminary Court Hearing?
The legal process is full of subtleties and complexities that make it daunting. If you have any questions at all, don’t hesitate to reach out for a free consultation. Remember, whether you hire our law office or another, you should always retain some form of experienced legal counsel in a criminal case.