What is a Preliminary Hearing?

Generally, a preliminary hearing is where a judge decides whether there’s enough evidence to make you stand trial on the charges filed against you. The judge’s decision at a preliminary hearing is like the decision a grand jury makes in deciding whether to return an indictment against you.

Essentially, it answers two questions:

  1. Did the alleged crimes occur within the court’s jurisdiction?
  2. Is there probable cause to believe that the defendant committed the crimes in question?

Whether there is probable cause is a very low hurdle to meet.  Think of it like “reason to believe.” It doesn’t rise anywhere near the level of “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” or even “preponderance of the evidence,” which is the standard used in civil cases.  In most jurisdictions, the judge is just a rubber stamp for the prosecution.

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