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Learn the Difference Between a Preliminary Hearing and a Criminal Trial


Learn the Difference Between a Preliminary Hearing and a Criminal Trial

May 13, 2019

Learn the Difference Between a Preliminary Hearing and a Criminal Trial

If you have been accused of a crime for the first time in your life then you are likely not sure what comes next. That is one of the reasons to work with an experienced criminal defense attorney – we can be there for you each step of the way. If a preliminary hearing is coming up, you may wonder: Is this the same thing as a criminal trial? It is not in a number of ways.

Keep reading to learn about the differences between preliminary hearings and criminal trials. Then contact The Mattern Law Firm at 310-342-8254 if you need a free legal consultation from an experienced attorney.

The Preliminary Hearing is Essential a Test of the Prosecutor’s Case

A preliminary hearing tests whether or not the prosecutor has enough evidence to bring a full case against you. It is different from a criminal trial in many ways, including the fact that it is much shorter. A preliminary hearing can last up to two hours but often last just a few minutes. They are also different because they are conducted not with a jury but solely with a judge. This can be true of trials too, if the defendant waives the right to a jury trial, but preliminary trials are never in front of a jury.

The Burden of Proof is Much Lower During a Preliminary Hearing

Since the preliminary hearing is not designed to actually convict you of a crime, and rather to just decide if there is enough evidence for you to stand trial, the burden of proof is much lower than it is at trial. It is true that the prosecution still has the burden of proof to prove every element of the crime you are accused of, but they must only show that there is probable cause that the “facts” they are presenting are true – they do not need to prove them beyond a reasonable doubt at this stage.

The Goals of Preliminary Hearings and Trials Are Different

When the prosecutor takes a case to trial they have a singular goal: To prove that a defendant is guilty of the crime they are accused of. On the other hand, the goal of a preliminary hearing is not the same. It is to weed out weak cases and to protect people from being prosecuted for crimes there is not enough evidence to prove they did. It is typical for the prosecution and defense alike to not show all their evidence. They do not want to tip their hand if the case does go to trial.

Yes, You Need an Attorney at a Preliminary Hearing

You may think that because the preliminary hearing is not used to determine your guilt that you do not need an attorney. This is false. Ideally, you’d be able to have the case dismissed before formal charges were ever charged. Your attorney can help you do this at a preliminary hearing. Call The Mattern Law Firm at 310-342-8254 now to set up a consultation.

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