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.
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:
- Legal representation: Your attorney ensures your rights are protected and provides legal representation, explaining the charges and potential consequences.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.