Preliminary hearings occur in some criminal cases
When you are facing a criminal charge, there are several steps in the criminal justice process. Essentially, you won’t move straight from being arraigned to standing trial. Instead, there are other hearings and other steps that you will have to go through as you work your way through the criminal justice system. One of the possible steps that you will face is the preliminary hearing.
Preliminary hearings occur in some criminal cases, but not in all of them. The preliminary hearing is usually held after the arraignment. During this hearing, the judge decides if there is enough evidence to make the defendant go through a trial. The judge must consider if there is probable cause that might convince a jury of the defendant’s involvement in the crime being prosecuted.
The preliminary hearing is a mini-trial of sorts. The prosecution presents its case. They can call witnesses and show evidence to try to convince the judge that the case should move forward.
The defense team can cross-examine the witnesses and question evidence during the preliminary hearing. This is done in an effort to convince the judge that the evidence isn’t strong enough to warrant a trial. Each witness or piece of evidence that is presented must be considered by the judge who is presiding over the preliminary hearing.
In the end, the judge is the person who decides the strength of the evidence. If the judge decides that the prosecution’s case is strong enough to move forward, the defense must get to work on its case right away. This is because it provides the defense with as much time as possible to build the case against the prosecution’s case.
Source: FindLaw, “Preliminary Hearing,” accessed March 10, 2016