When facing criminal charges, navigating the legal process can be overwhelming and complex. One crucial stage in the criminal justice system is the preliminary hearing, and understanding what to expect during this phase is essential.

A preliminary hearing, often referred to as a "prelim" or a probable cause hearing, is a legal proceeding held in the early stages of a criminal case. This hearing is not a trial, but rather an opportunity for the prosecution to present evidence and establish whether there is enough probable cause to justify a trial. It's also a pivotal moment for the defendant and a key step in the criminal justice process. During a preliminary criminal hearing, the prosecution is tasked with presenting evidence to demonstrate that a crime has been committed and that the defendant is likely the one responsible. This evidence may include witness testimonies, physical evidence, documents and other relevant information, presented to a judge. If the prosecution successfully demonstrates probable cause, the case will then proceed to trial. This is a lower standard than the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard required in a full trial.

Witness testimonies play a pivotal role during the preliminary hearing. The prosecution will call witnesses to provide their account of the events in question, and the defense will then have the opportunity to cross-examine these witnesses. This phase allows both parties to assess the strength of the evidence and the credibility of the witnesses. The judge presiding over the preliminary hearing evaluates the evidence presented and makes a determination regarding probable cause. If the evidence is insufficient, the charges may be dismissed entirely.

The defense presents its own evidence during the preliminary hearing as well, which could include alibi witnesses or other information that could potentially weaken the prosecution's case.

A preliminary criminal hearing is a critical stage in the legal process that can significantly impact the outcome of a case. Being aware of what happens during this phase allows defendants and their representation to prepare effectively, understand the evidence presented against them and make informed decisions about the best approach to take. If you find yourself facing criminal charges, it's crucial to seek the guidance of an experienced criminal law attorney who can navigate the complexities of the legal system.

For reliable advice and representation in criminal matters Matthew R. Zatko Attorney at Law in Somerset is the best choice. With a wealth of experience defending clients against criminal charges, I can provide the support and advocacy you need during this challenging time. Call 814-443-1631 or contact me online today for a free consultation.