Being charged with a crime is a frightening experience. The outcome can have an enormous impact on your life and you’ll likely have a lot of questions along the way. One thing you may not be familiar with is the preliminary hearing – a necessary and valuable procedure which occurs in some, but not all, criminal cases.
It’s a bit like a mini-trial
Preliminary hearings do not occur in any case where a misdemeanor is charged. Michigan requires preliminary hearings only for felony cases. Their purpose is to force the prosecution to satisfy a judge that there is sufficient evidence to charge the individual with the crime which they have charged.
A preliminary hearing occurs after the person has been arraigned and entered a plea of not guilty. A date is set for the hearing, at which the prosecution must produce witnesses and other necessary evidence to establish that there is probable cause to believe the person charged committed the crime. This is a lower standard of proof than you’ll see at an actual trial, which requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
It can work in your favor
Though a preliminary hearing can be a formality, it can also be of great benefit to the accused person. Because the prosecution must call witnesses, your defense attorney gets the opportunity to cross examine them. This can reveal holes in the prosecution’s case. And if it is revealed that the police acted incorrectly with a search or seizure in the case, the entire thing can be thrown out.
Preliminary hearings ensure that accused persons are not charged with crimes without at least some evidence to back it up. They’re also a chance for an experienced criminal defense attorney to begin building a sound defense strategy, so that you achieve the best result possible.