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A preliminary hearing is an important step in the court process as a judge will officially decide whether or not the state has enough evidence to make the defendant stand trial.

In making this decision the judge will invoke “probable cause” to determine if a rational jury would convict the defendant on the evidence that the prosecution has presented. If the judge concludes that the prosecution could successfully persuade a jury, the judge will allow the process to continue.

The judge will hear from both sides to make this decision. Arguments from the prosecutor and defendant’s attorney will be presented, and witnesses can be called and physical evidence can be presented.

This hearing mirrors an actual trial in many respects, thus having a skilled attorney will greatly increase the chances of convincing a judge that the state will not be able to convict the defendant on the evidence as it stands.

High-quality cross-examination and erudite knowledge of the facts and evidence could be enough to sway the judge into realizing that the state’s case is not strong enough, and that the defendant should be dismissed before trial.

Even though the defendant may have pleaded “not guilty,” it is important to note that a probable cause hearing is not necessarily held in every case. Some states only hold them for felony charges; other states still use a “grand jury.”

In a grand jury proceeding a group of citizens decides whether or not the state has enough evidence to proceed in lieu of a single judge.

Of course at any point the prosecutor and defense may reach a plea agreement, removing the need for a p reliminary hearing or trial.


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