What is a preliminary hearing? I’ve been charged with a felony and I’m told that I’m set for a preliminary hearing, what does that mean?
People often confuse multiple different types of court appearances with the preliminary hearing. They sound similar, initial appearance: “arraignment,” “preliminary hearing,” and “status hearing.” But it’s important to know that the preliminary hearing is a very significant important evidentiary hearing, whereas the others are just customary procedures where there’s a short announcement and you obtain a new date.
Purpose of a Preliminary Hearing
The preliminary hearing is the first opportunity to challenge the evidence in a felony matter. Preliminary hearings are not available for misdemeanors. Generally, with some exceptions, there is no opportunity to challenge the evidence in a misdemeanor prior to trial. So the preliminary hearing is a shortened hearing before a judge, not a jury, where the state is required to put on evidence and witnesses to establish by a probable cause standard that a felony was committed by the defendant.
The preliminary hearing is greatly skewed in favor of the state, and most significant is that the law it provides that the court is supposed to take the evidence in the light most favorable to the state. That means they resolve all discrepancies, all questions of character credibility in favor of the state, assuming that their witnesses rather are telling the truth and everything else is basically a question of fact for the jury or fact finder.
It is important to have an experienced attorney who prepares for the preliminary hearing to cross-examine the witnesses, that understands your point of view and the circumstances surrounding the event in question. But the preliminary hearing is not a full-blown trial, and it’s often a fact finding, more investigative tool for the attorney to see where the weaknesses are, to try to lock the witnesses in as to what their story is so that that can be used later and you can start to build your defense based on what you see the state’s case as. The preliminary hearing is often very short, and there can be ways that the court will cut off a preliminary hearing when they feel that sufficient evidence has been presented.
At the end of a preliminary hearing there is no finding of guilt, you’re not taken to jail if you’re out on bond, typically, but charges can be amended.
Free Consultation with an Oklahoma Defense Attorney
A preliminary hearing is a crucial step in Oklahoma’s criminal justice process, as it determines whether there is enough evidence for a case to proceed to trial. Understanding the purpose, process, and potential outcomes of a preliminary hearing can help defendants and their attorneys navigate the legal system more effectively. To contact an Oklahoma defense attorney, call Wirth Law Office – Bartlesville today at (918) 213-0950, or fill out the short form at the top right of this page. Regardless of how you contact us, a Bartlesville defense lawyer will be in touch with you shortly.