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What is a Preliminary Hearing?

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If you are arrested for a felony in California, the question that is probably going through your head is, “Now what happens to me?” Unless you make bail, you will remain in custody throughout your court case. Your first court appearance is the arraignment. (See this post for more information on the arraignment.) After that, most felony cases proceed to preliminary hearing. In a felony case, there is a crucial stage between the arrest & arraignment and the trial. Before proceeding to trial, you must be either indicted by the grand jury or be held for trial after a preliminary hearing. These are designed to be safeguards for you - to weed out cases and charges that should not go forward. The preliminary hearing is essentially a “preview” of the evidence put on by the prosecution. They must convince the judge at the preliminary hearing that enough evidence exists to warrant holding you for trial. They must show sufficient evidence of each and every charge - and each and every element of ... more
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If your case is a felony charge, meaning that the potential jail sentence is greater than one year, then the next court hearing after the arraignment is a preliminary hearing. The purpose of this hearing is for the Commonwealth to convince the judge that there exists probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed and probable cause to believe that you committed it. If the judge does not find probable cause, your case may be dismissed at this stage, without the need for a trial. If the judge determines that probable cause does exist, he will certify the case up to the Circuit Court, which is the highest level trial court in Virginia, and you will be entitled to a trial by a jury of twelve people.
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In FELONY cases only, A defendant has a right to a speedy preliminary hearing within 10 court days of the date of arraignment. At this hearing the district attorney must present evidence sufficient to convince a judge that a felony has been committed and that the person charged IS the person who committed the crime. This type of hearing does not apply to misdemeanors.
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If you are charged with a felony that is not within the jurisdiction of the District Court you may request a preliminary hearing at or within ten (10) days after your initial appearance in District Court. The preliminary hearing will be held in the District Court. Failure to make a timely request is considered a waiver of a preliminary hearing , unless the Court orders otherwise. Before proceeding with the preliminary hearing, the District Court shall make sure that you have received a copy of the charging document and shall read or state to the you the substance of each offense. The State's Attorneys' Office will then present relevant evidence to the Court . You are entitled to cross-examine witnesses, but not present evidence. If the Court finds after the preliminary hearing that there is probable cause to believe that you committed the offense(s), the conditions of pretrial release established shall be continued unless changed by the Court.
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Preliminary Hearing is a hearing which must be held not less than three or more than ten days after the Preliminary Arraignment of a person charged with a non-summary crime. At a Preliminary Hearing the Commonwealth will call witnesses and present evidence in order to attempt to establish a Prima Facia Case. If a Prima Facia Case is established the case will be held for court. The Preliminary Hearing stage is an extremely important step in the criminal process as it is the first opportunity for a defense attorney to cross examine witnesses, inspect the physical evidence and assess the Commonwealths case against the accused.
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The preliminary hearing is a court proceeding where the District Attorney's Office presents evidence to convince a judge that there is reasonable cause to believe a felony crime has been committed - and that the person charged is the one who committed it. This hearing is not heard by a jury; and, at this point in the criminal process, the district attorney's case does not have to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. The primary purpose of the preliminary hearing is to weed out charges that cannot be supported by competent evidence. At a preliminary hearing, the district attorney may use police officers to present the statements of victims and witnesses to convince the judge that there is enough evidence to justify a jury trial (this is called a "holding order"). Because the threshold required to get a "holding order" is low, the vast majority of those charged with a crime are sent over for a jury trial. Understandably, the preliminary hearing can be terribly frustrating for a person ... more
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A preliminary hearing is a hearing to determine if there is enough evidence to proceed with the case. more
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The preliminary hearing is not a trial. It is a hearing in court at which witnesses testify and the judge decides if there is enough evidence to require the defendant to stand trial. The jury is not present; the judge alone makes the decision. more
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A preliminary hearing or preliminary examination is known as a probable cause hearing. It is not a trial. Before you can be made to stand trial on a felony, the prosecution must show that there is a rational basis for the charge against you. The government must produce evidence that convinces a judge that there is a some reason to believe that the crime has been committed and that you are liable for the act or acts charged. Only a minimal showing is needed for this hearing. Not all of the rules of evidence apply to these hearings and in some instances the actual witnesses do not have to "testify" in person. The defense has an opportunity to produce evidence at this hearing but this is rarely done since the prosecution must present so little evidence. The defense does, however, have the right to cross-examine any witnesses called by the prosecution. Another thing that may happen during the preliminary hearing process is that your lawyer may make certain motions on your behalf. Your ...
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At the preliminary hearing, the judge will be presented with the basis of the prosecution's case, and he or she must make a determination as to whether there is sufficient evidence to force a defendant to stand trial. In making this decision, the judge will evaluate the evidence using a "probable cause" standard. "Probable cause" is generally considered to be "a reasonable belief that a crime had been committed." If the court should find that there is no probable cause, the case against the defendant will be dismissed. more
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