What is a preliminary hearing?
In Pennsylvania courts, a preliminary hearing is typically the next step after a preliminary arraignment in the criminal process.
At the preliminary hearing, the state must establish that they have enough evidence to proceed with a criminal prosecution. If the government cannot meet it’s prima facie evidentiary burden to support the elements of the crime, and can’t supply the necessary witnesses, then the case should be dismissed.
Should I waive the Preliminary Hearing?
It depends on the facts of your case, and the advice of your attorney. There may be advantages to simply waiving it, but you may not want to give in without getting something in return.
If we think the hearing can help us, then the goal is to aggressively defend against the charges at the hearing. We don’t put on any evidence, but go on the offensive and attack the governments case and witnesses in both fact and law.
If we are successful at the hearing, then the case should be dismissed. But even when that doesn’t happen, there are positive benefits that can come from the hearing. It it a chance to lay the foundation for the defense, by attacking the governments case, and the witnesses credibility and reliability. What we learn from the witness testimony and evidence can be used to help us at trial.
And, worst case, if we determine that the government does have a strong case, at least we know that, and can look to work out the best deal possible to plead out.
Tips for How to Handle a Preliminary Hearing Under the Pennsylvania Judicial System
- Have a court reporter there to transcribe the testimony so that you can use it later if the case proceeds forward.
- Do not do anything that may help the state establish it’s burden of proof. Provide them with no evidence or testimony.
- Hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to represent you at the hearing. It may be possible to get the case dismissed at this stage if the state’s case is weak, but if you go alone without legal representation, it is much less likely.
Call me anytime for a free consultation if you’ve been arrested or accused of any crime in Pennsylvania. We can offer you some advice on what you can do, and suggest some possible defenses, and how we can help you.