If you've been charged with a felony, sooner or later you'll be given a preliminary hearing. The preliminary hearing is not a trial, but it can seem a bit like one—and it's often the first real glimpse that the prosecution and defense have into each other's case.
Here's what you should expect from your preliminary trial:
What is a preliminary hearing?
Preliminary hearings are held without a jury, but in all other respects, it generally resembles a trial. The prosecution must prove its prima facie case to the judge, which means that the court must be satisfied that "more likely than not" a crime was committed and the defendant—you—committed that crime. As a result, witnesses may be called and evidence may be presented.
Can your case be dismissed at a preliminary hearing?
This is an important opportunity that your defense attorney has to get your case dismissed—but it isn't without serious challenges. The burden of proof in any criminal trial is always on the prosecution, but the standard of proof that the prosecutor has to meet is much lower in a preliminary hearing than it is in an actual trial. That makes the task for the defense much harder (although not impossible).
Essentially, the judge in each case will try to weed out weak cases so that they don't take up the court's valuable time and resources. Even in instances where the judge thinks that the prosecution may have a fairly good case, he or she may urge the two sides to come to an agreement that will allow the case to go to a plea bargain instead of a trial.
Why doesn't your defense attorney put on a vigorous defense right away?
In many cases, defense attorneys hold back a lot of their evidence at the preliminary hearing. There are both procedural and practical reasons for this. On a procedural level, since the full focus of the preliminary hearing is on whether or not the prosecution can make any kind of valid case, your attorney doesn't have the ability to bring forward witnesses in your defense.
On a more practical level, it's often wiser for your attorney to hide his or her strategy from the prosecution as much as possible—unless there is evidence that makes it 100% clear that you are innocent. Instead, your attorney may choose to focus on learning more about the prosecution's case in order to better plan your defense.
If you're charged with a felony, criminal defense services are necessary to protect your rights and ensure the most positive outcome possible.Share
27 December 2018
Like many people, I once found learning about law very intimidating. My brother went to law school and I remember glancing through a few of his books and wondering if I was actually reading English due to all of the legal jargon in them! However, when I ended up in a sticky legal situation due to accidentally breaking a small law I didn't know existed, I realized that I needed to learn more about the law, so I could make sure to follow it precisely in the future. My brother helped to break down some complicated legal concepts to me, and I have since been studying up online. I want to post what I have learned and continue to learn about law in the future on my new blog, so my knowledge cannot only help myself, but also help others!