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What You Need to Know About Preliminary Hearings

If you’ve been accused of a crime, you likely will be offered a preliminary hearing. This hearing occurs early on in the process and takes place before the trial. These hearings are not required, but they are beneficial. 

Preliminary Hearing vs a Trial

It’s important to understand how a preliminary hearing differs from a trial. A preliminary hearing exists so the defendant is not unjustly charged. It is the prosecution’s responsibility to provide sufficient evidence that a crime took place and a trial is appropriate. A hearing is much shorter than a trial and typically lasts between 30 minutes and two hours. During a hearing, there is also no jury present and the hearing is overseen solely by the judge. Unlike a trial, the prosecution must prove that there is probable cause or reasonable suspicion that a crime took place. Basically, they must provide enough evidence to warrant a full trial in which they must prove that a crime took place beyond a reason of a doubt. 

Benefits of a Preliminary Hearing 

The defendant has the option to waive the hearing and simply proceed to the trial. However, there are benefits to attending a preliminary hearing. This hearing can give the defendant a solid understanding of the prosecution’s case. For example, during the hearing, the prosecution will present witnesses and evidence. Based on these, the defendant can decide if they have a strong case. If the case is weak, they have a better chance if they proceed to the trial and argue their case. If the prosecution has a strong case, the defendant may decide to accept a plea bargain rather than go to trial. Seeing the prosecution’s case before the trial gives the defendant a chance to know if it’s worth the time, money, and effort to keeping fighting the legal battle. 

Preparing for Trial 

If a defendant chooses to go to trial, they can use the preliminary hearing to help them prepare. First of all, they can create a strategy based on the evidence the prosecution presented during the hearing. They can continue to build their case to counter or disprove the prosecution’s evidence. During the preliminary trial, the defendant’s attorney can cross-examine witnesses. This is a good opportunity to learn the temperament of the witnesses as well as their credibility. This information can inform the attorney on how to proceed with the witnesses at the trial.  A preliminary hearing allows you to understand the case against you and how you can prepare for the actual trial. Talk with your attorney about the best options for your case. They can guide you through the process and help you strategize.  The Law Offices of Bradley Corbett provide you with experienced criminal defense attorneys. Click here to contact them today. 

Bradley Corbett

Bradley Corbett is a criminal defense attorney in San Diego. He graduated from Brigham Young University in Provo Utah in 2004. Later he enrolled at Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego where he participated in a prestigious internship program with the Los Angeles County Public Defender. Since then he has handled over 2,000 cases.

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