Q: What Is A Preliminary Hearing And What Court Are They Held In?
A: Preliminary hearings are held in District Court for the purpose of establishing whether the State has sufficient probable cause to proceed with felony charges. The defendant cannot testify or present evidence at a preliminary hearing. At the preliminary hearing, you will hear evidence that the State has against you, and you will have the opportunity to cross-examine any witness that the prosecutor chooses to present that day. If the District Court judge finds probable cause for the felony charge(s), the case will most likely move up to the Circuit Court and you will receive notice of a later court date.
Q: The State Is Only Required To Show Probable Cause For The Felony Charges
A: Typically, you will not hear all the evidence the State has against you at a preliminary hearing, nor will you typically hear testimony from every witness the State intends to present at the trial which is on a later date. This is because the burden of proof is lower at the preliminary hearing stage. If the court determines that the State failed to show probable cause for the felonies, then the felony charges might be dismissed. However, the State may still proceed with felony charges by way of indictment.
Q: Can The State Be Given More Time To Proceed?
A: After a hearing that is on the record in the presence of the defendant, if State can show good cause then the court may grant the State more time to take the actions mentioned above (1-3). But, if the court finds that the State failed to take action timely, and therefore failed to comply with the applicable rule, the court will enter an order of dismissal for lack of prosecution. The dismissal will be without prejudice.
Q: How To Prepare?
A:You need to be prepared for a preliminary hearing and for the possible action by the State after a preliminary hearing. It is important that you hire an attorney as soon as possible. An attorney can argue there is insufficient probable cause for the felony charges by presenting specific case law and referencing the statutes you are charged under. An attorney can also negotiate with the State and convince the prosecutor not to proceed with felony charges or to amend the felonies to misdemeanors. The best way to protect yourself in a criminal case is to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney. Your freedom and your future are on the line and an attorney can improve the circumstances you face.
Q: Subsequent Bail Review
A: A second bail review can be considered if there is a reduction of charges. The dismissal of felony charges after a preliminary hearing can be considered a change in circumstances. An attorney can help you by not only arguing that the there is insufficient probable cause for felony charges (or by negotiating the dismissal or amendment of felonies) but an attorney can also ask the court for a second bail review if the felonies do not proceed.
Call The Law Office of Caroline Norman Frost
You do not have to go through the legal process alone. I can provide you with an experienced criminal defense attorney so that you are prepared for your preliminary hearing and any hearing afterwards. Call 240-213-1802 or email me directly to learn how I can help you.