Getting arrested is never in anyone’s plans. When a person is arrested and charged with a criminal offense, the criminal process begins. One of the key steps in the criminal process is the preliminary hearing. This hearing comes after the arraignment, or the first court appearance and the readiness conference, where your criminal defense lawyer negotiates to get the best deal for the client.
What is the Preliminary Hearing?
The preliminary hearing usually takes place within 10 days of the arraignment. If not, the defendant should be released according to California Penal Code 859b(b). This hearing is where the judge decides whether there is enough evidence to support the charge against you. Essentially, the judge must decide two things:
- Whether probable cause exists to believe the crime was committed
- The defendant is the person who committed the crime
The preliminary hearing is where a successful San Diego criminal defense attorney move for dismissal of charges. Although the lawyer could present your case, this is not always the best plan of action to take. The criminal defense lawyer should work to dismiss the charges by using the following strategies:
- Cross-examining key witnesses speaking against you
- Narrowing down details of witness testimonies
- Locate inconsistencies in the case against you
The preliminary hearing will include the same court staff as a normal trial. The judge, prosecutor, your defense attorney, and court reporter will all be in attendance. It is important to note that the preliminary hearing is not a trial. It is a brief appearance that determines whether the case should go to trial. It should not be used for discovery purposes, according to California Penal Code 866.
Defendant Rights Before and During Preliminary Hearing
The defendant has several rights prior to and during the preliminary hearing. All defendants should exercise their rights. Some of the rights include:
- The right to legal representation
- The right to cross-examine prosecution witnesses
- The right to introduce defense witnesses
- The right to discovery
Possibilities After the Preliminary Hearing
At the end of the hearing, your case may either be dismissed or your charges can be reduced to misdemeanors. Additionally, your case can go to trial. As a result, there will be another arraignment and future court dates will be scheduled.
Then, a pre-trial conference is held where your attorney will continue negotiating to reach a solution to your case. If a favorable solution is not reached, the trial will take place. Here is where your criminal defense attorney will present your case. Continue reading