There are several stages of a criminal case, but one of the first substantive steps will be the Preliminary Hearing. The Preliminary Hearing generally takes place within weeks of an arrest, but the hearing is not an opportunity to adjudicate whether the Defendant is innocent or guilty. Instead, the purpose of the hearing is to determine whether there is “probable cause” to believe the Defendant committed the alleged crime(s). Probable cause is a much lower standard than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard required at trial.
We have handled Preliminary Hearings in several jurisdictions. Each state has its own rules, but there are similarities across the board. Generally, the State will present evidence it contends establish probable cause. This typically involves the State calling a single witness – most often a police officer – who answers the State’s questions by referencing his or her police report. The Defendant will then have an opportunity to cross-examine the State’s witness(es). In Georgia, the Preliminary Hearing will typically take place in the Magistrate Court and the Defendant is allowed to present his or her own evidence, although this rarely occurs. In other jurisdictions, such as Maryland, the Defendant is not allowed to present his or her own evidence, and all evidence introduced is viewed in the “light most favorable to the State.” In Maryland, the Preliminary Hearing takes place in the District Court.
If the Court finds probable cause, the case will be “bound over” to a higher court for further proceedings. In Georgia, the case would move to either the State or Superior Court. In Maryland, the case would move the Circuit Court.
How an Experienced Attorney Can Help
Preliminary Hearing are typically not too long, and, in our experience, many defendants believe the hearing is non-consequential. This could not be further from the truth. It is important to have adequate representation at the Preliminary Hearing. Your attorney may be able to get some of the charges against you dropped or could potentially use the hearing to obtain crucial testimony under oath for later use at trial, or even in a Motion to Suppress. In short, it is important that you retain an attorney as soon as possible.
We represent clients all throughout the United States and are committed to providing the best possible defense to our clients. Give us a call or fill out the form on our website for a free consultation.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational and educational purposes only, does not constitute legal advice and does not establish any kind of attorney-client relationship.