What is a Preliminary Hearing?

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What is a Preliminary Hearing?

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The preliminary hearing is a proceeding to determine if the Commonwealth has sufficient evidence to proceed with criminal charges. A jury is not present and the preliminary hearing is conducted in front of a District Magisterial Judge.

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[TOP] 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.

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Within some criminal justice systems, a preliminary hearing (evidentiary hearing, often abbreviated verbally as a “prelim”) is a proceeding, after a criminal complaint has been filed by the prosecutor, to determine whether, and to what extent, criminal charges and civil cause of actions will be heard (by a court), what evidence will be admitted, and what else must be done (before a case can proceed). At such a hearing, the defendant may be assisted by counsel, indeed in many jurisdictions there is a right to counsel at the preliminary hearing. In the U.S., since it represents the initiation of “adversarial judicial proceedings”, the indigent suspect’s right to appointed counsel attaches at this point.

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After a benefit review conference, if an employer or its insurance company is still wrongfully withholding benefits that are due to an employee, the benefits can be demanded at a proceeding called a Preliminary Hearing. The benefits that can be requested are medical treatment and temporary total compensation.

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A. In Virginia, there are two types of criminal charges, misdemeanors and felonies. Felonies are more serious in nature and carry a higher penalty in terms of greater fines or longer imprisonment. Defendants charged with felonies have a right to a preliminary hearing where the prosecutor must prove to the court that there is enough evidence to show that a crime has been committed (known as “probable cause”) and that the defendant is the person who most likely committed that crime. A preliminary hearing is a scheduled court date, similar to the trial; the judge, defendant, defendants attorney, prosecutor, and all subpoenaed victim(s) and witness(es) are present. However, the prosecutor will put on only enough evidence to justify further proceedings against the defendant. If the prosecutor establishes probable cause, the case is certified to the next Grand Jury and the case is set for trial at a later date. For more information on the criminal justice process, see CRIMINAL JUSTICE 101.

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