Preliminary Hearings in Missouri

What Is a Preliminary Hearing?

A preliminary hearing is a pre-trial hearing for felony cases held before an associate circuit judge. The main goal of thi shearing is to assess whether there’s enough evidence supporting the charges and whether a trial is justified. The preliminary hearing allows the defendant to present their defense for the alleged crime and cross-examine the witnesses.

In Missouri, the legal guidelines for preliminary hearings are specified in Section 544.250 of the Missouri Revised Statutes. According to this law, preliminary hearings are compulsory for a felony case, except when the defendant waives it or a grand jury indicts them. Grand juries are comprised of 12 citizens who review the evidence and decide whether there is probable cause to charge the defendant.

It’s crucial to distinguish a preliminary hearing from other phases of the criminal justice process, such as the arraignment. The arraignment happens right after arrest, where the defendant learns the charges and enters a plea, and dates for pre-trial hearings and the trial are set.

At Missouri DWI & Criminal Law Center, we are ready to represent your best interest and defend your rights. We can craft a robust defense for your preliminary hearing. With extensive knowledge of Missouri criminal law and years of experience, you can rely on our criminal defense attorney for the most favorable outcome.

The Process of a Preliminary Hearing in Missouri

Usually, a preliminary hearing occurs within 30 days of arraignment unless a continuance is requested by the defendant or granted by the court for substantial reasons. This hearing transpires before an associate circuit judge. The prosecutor, the defendant’s attorney, and the defendant must be present. The defendant has the right to legal representation, and if unable to afford an attorney, the court appoints a public defender. Here’s an overview of the process:

  1. The prosecutor presents evidence against the defendant, including witnesses, documents, or physical objects, to establish probable cause (the reasonable basis for suspicion, not proof of guilt).
  2. The defense attorney cross-examines prosecution witnesses and disputes evidence validity, reliability, or relevance. Your defense attorney can object to improper or illegal evidence like hearsay or unlawfully obtained evidence. You can present evidence at this hearing.
  3. The judge assesses the evidence and determines if there’s probable cause supporting the charges. If probable cause exists, the case proceeds to trial in the circuit court. If not, the court dismisses the case, and the defendant is released.

Your Rights During a Preliminary Hearing

As a defendant, you have several rights during a preliminary hearing:

  • You’re entitled to know the charges against you and the evidence presented.

  • You can choose legal representation or have one appointed if you cannot afford one.

  • The right to appear in person or by interactive video technology with the court’s permission.

  • The right to cross-examine the prosecution’s witnesses and challenge their evidence.

  • The option to present evidence or witnesses in your favor.

  • The right to remain silent, avoiding self-incrimination.

  • You have the right to a transcript or recording of the preliminary hearing.

How An Attorney Can Help You in the Preliminary Hearing

Legal representation during a preliminary hearing holds immense significance. An experienced attorney can significantly impact the outcome of your criminal case. Here are a few ways in which a criminal defense attorney can help you:

  1. Legal representation: Your attorney ensures your rights are protected and provides legal representation, explaining the charges and potential consequences.
  2. Cross-examination: An experienced lawyer can cross-examine prosecution witnesses to challenge the strength of the evidence, expose inconsistencies, or highlight weaknesses in the case.
  3. Negotiation: The attorney may use the preliminary hearing as an opportunity to negotiate with the prosecuting attorney for a favorable plea deal or reduced charges.
  4. Dismissal motion: If there is insufficient evidence, the attorney may file a motion to dismiss, arguing that there is not enough basis to proceed with a trial.
  5. Gathering Information: The attorney uses the hearing to gather information about the prosecution’s case, witnesses, and evidence, which can be crucial for building your defense strategy for the trial.

Preparing for Your Preliminary Hearing

Before the hearing, there are steps to consider:

  • Work closely with your attorney and follow their guidance.

  • Gather and review relevant evidence or documents, like police reports, witness statements, or medical records.

  • Provide your attorney with information or witnesses supporting your defense.

  • Avoid contact with prosecution witnesses or anyone involved in the case without your attorney’s authorization.

  • Get familiar with the proper court dress code.

Understanding potential outcomes is crucial. If dismissed, you may be free of charges, though the prosecution could refile or seek a grand jury indictment. Consult your attorney about expunging or sealing your arrest record if possible.

Why Choose Missouri DWI & Criminal Law Center

Highly skilled attorneys at Missouri DWI & Criminal Law Center can guide you throughout the legal process from your first appearance to trial. Our successful track record includes:

  • Getting felony and serious charges dismissed or reduced

  • Suppressing damaging evidence

  • Negotiating favorable plea deals

  • Winning cases at trial

Our results speak for themselves. We have consistently succeeded at identifying and eliminating unlawfully obtained evidence, leading to the complete dismissal of charges for many clients. Our meticulous approach preserves our clients’ dignity and upholds their rights, ensuring the most favorable outcome no matter the complexity of the charges against them.

We approach each case strategically, conducting thorough investigations and challenging evidence and witnesses professionally. We present your case effectively and diligently.

Contact Missouri DWI & Criminal Law Center Today

A preliminary hearing holds immense significance in the criminal process as it can determine the fate of your case. At Missouri DWI & Criminal Law Center, we can guide you through this process and safeguard your rights. Our experience ensures comprehensive assistance, striving for a favorable case outcome.

Contact us today for a free consultation.

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