What is a Preliminary Hearing?: California Criminal Law 2022
If you have been charged with a felony in California, you will have a preliminary hearing. In this blog post, we will discuss what a preliminary hearing is and why it is so important.
What is a Preliminary Hearing?
A preliminary hearing often referred to as a “prelim,” is a procedure in California courts that applies only to felony criminal prosecutions.
A preliminary hearing in California occurs only in felony cases to decide if there is sufficient evidence to hold the defendant to answer to the charges.
If the preliminary hearing is “held,” then the defendant will be “ordered to answer” and will stand trial.
In order for a preliminary hearing to be “held,” the prosecution must prove to the judge that there is probable cause to believe that (a) a crime was committed; and (b) the defendant is the one who committed it.
Probable cause is defined as “more likely than not.” This burden of proof is much lower than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” burden of proof that applies at trial.
If the preliminary hearing is not “held,” the charges against the defendant will be dismissed.
What is a Misdemeanor Reduction or 17(b) at Preliminary Hearing?
There is a possibility that the defendant can be held to a misdemeanor charge instead of a felony charge.
A Penal Code 17(b) motion, also known as a felony reduction petition, requests the court to lower a felony offense to a misdemeanor.
A 17(b) misdemeanor reduction can only be done if the said felony is classified as a wobbler offense that could have initially been charged as either as a misdemeanor or felony. Not all crimes are wobblers.
Who is Present at the Preliminary Hearing?
At the preliminary hearing, only the judge and attorneys are present. The jury is not present because this is not a trial.
At preliminary hearings, witnesses will show up to testify. These witnesses include law enforcement officers, victims, expert witnesses, and civilian eyewitnesses.
Why are Preliminary Hearings Important?
It is very rare for a preliminary hearing to be “waived” or given up.
The preliminary hearing is an important step in the criminal justice process because it allows both sides to test the evidence and start building their cases.
The preliminary hearing is also when defense attorneys can get a better idea of the prosecution’s case and what witnesses they will need to call at trial.
What Should I Do if I’ve Been Charged with a Felony?
If you or a loved one is a charged with felony criminal charges in court, you need the criminal defense lawyers at ALL Trial Lawyers by your side. The attorneys at ALL Trial Lawyers are trial attorneys with years of experience.
They know the law and are not afraid to take your case to trial.
In addition, they have a strong reputation among judges and prosecutors throughout Southern California, which has delivered tremendous victories for their clients.
Our ultimate goal is to provide the best results that can be achieved in your case— whether by way of outright dismissal, a favorable plea bargain deal, or an acquittal of the charges at trial.
With ALL Trial Lawyers by your side, you can rest assured that the criminal team will be giving you their all.
Call (866) 811-4255 right now for your free consultation.
We have an office located near you. We have experience fighting cases in Orange County, Los Angeles County, San Bernardino County, Riverside County, and San Diego County.