Sometimes, judges ask for a “preliminary hearing” before trial to decide whether the case against you is strong enough to be taken to court. The judge looks at two things at the preliminary hearing: (1) if there is enough “probable cause” to assume that the crime happened and that you are a plausible suspect, and (2) to determine if the charges against you are appropriate for the alleged crime and whether they should be felony or misdemeanor charges.
What Happens at a Preliminary Hearing?
At a preliminary hearing, the judge is not there to determine whether you are guilty or not. The purpose of the preliminary hearing is to understand if there is a strong enough case to warrant moving to a full trial.
Both the prosecution and the defense will present evidence. The prosecution will attempt to prove that there is probable cause. The defense will attempt to prove the opposite.
What Happens if Probable Cause Is Established?
If the judge believes there is enough probable cause to move forward and determines the case is a misdemeanor, a date will be set for trial in the appropriate court.
If the case is a felony, it is sent to the district attorney who presents it to the grand jury. This is known as “presentment.” Presentment can be waived either by law for certain less-severe crimes or by the defendant if desired.
Why Is the Preliminary Hearing Important?
The evidence presented in a preliminary hearing can greatly impact your trial if the judge decides to move forward. Having a skilled attorney with you at the preliminary hearing is critical.
If a judge calls a preliminary hearing, that means they are already unsure if the trial should even take place. Your attorney may be able to prove that there’s not enough evidence against you to move to trial, and your charges can be reduced or dropped entirely.
An experienced attorney will also use the preliminary hearing to better understand the prosecution’s argument and formulate a defense strategy.
If a judge had scheduled a preliminary hearing for your case, reach out to us today at Wadkins & Wallace by calling (706) 221-9451 or filling out our form online. We’ll schedule a free, no-obligation review of your case so we can prepare for your preliminary hearing.
For more information on Georgia preliminary hearings, visit our other blog posts.