What Happens at a Preliminary Hearing in Pennsylvania?
If you or a loved one were charged with a crime recently and are scheduled for a preliminary hearing, you may be wondering what could happen at the hearing.
A preliminary hearing is not a trial, but rather a first step in a case used to determine if there is enough evidence against the defendant to move forward with the case. It also gives a first chance for the accused to defend themselves and exercise their rights. If there is not sufficient evidence, the charges could be dismissed at the hearing.
If there is sufficient evidence to move the case forward, it will move from the Magistrate to the Court of Common Pleas for trial. This gives the defendant time to further prepare their defense.
Could I go to Jail at a Preliminary Hearing?
While it is unlikely a person would go to jail at a preliminary hearing, they could be taken into custody at the preliminary hearing if bail is increased or revoked. If bail is increased, the defendant would remain in jail until the amount is paid.
A defendant will not be found guilty or sentenced at the preliminary hearing; the hearing is only to determine whether to move the case forward or not. The “or not” is very important, because it is possible that the charges could be dismissed altogether.
The Preliminary Hearing is Very Important
If you were charged with a crime, the preliminary hearing gives you a first chance to make a defense and tell your side of the story. The preliminary hearing is crucial to your defense. Make sure you have an experienced criminal defense attorney to represent you at the preliminary hearing who already understands your situation and explains beforehand what you can expect. An aggressive defense attorney with a thorough understanding of the law and the prosecutors is going to fight for your case to be dismissed and argue evidence to proceed is lacking.
Witnesses may be presented and testimony heard, but briefly, and only for the purpose of determining if there is enough evidence to move forward with your case, not to make a verdict.
Your attorney will be able to cross-examine any witnesses and/or argue that the evidence is not sufficient. Your attorney can also challenge evidence, requesting that it be thrown out. Your attorney may also request that your case be dismissed, if they feel the prosecution has not gathered enough evidence.
Unlike a full trial, the prosecution does not need evidence “beyond a reasonable doubt” in a preliminary hearing. They need only have “prima facie”, which means they need proof it is more likely than not that you committed the crime in question.
Read more about Preliminary Hearings in Pennsylvania.
Are you or a loved one facing criminal charges?
If you have been charged with a crime in Pittsburgh or Southwest Pennsylvania, Ketchel Law can provide a free legal consultation. Our criminal attorneys are top-rated and located in downtown Pittsburgh. We have been successfully representing clients for nearly a decade and are here to help you fight your charges and win your case.
Call Ketchel Law at 412-456-1221. We take your case seriously and are committed to providing quality legal advice.
Learn More about Defending Your Rights in Pennsylvania:
- Criminal Lawyers Pittsburgh
- Bail and Bond Hearings
- Nebbia Orders
- Criminal Appeals
- Expungement / Record Sealing
- Self Defense Laws in PA
- Criminal Trial and Appeals Process