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Preliminary Hearing Process Related Questions

What is a preliminary hearing process?

The criminal justice system allows a proceeding referred to as preliminary hearing once the prosecutor has filed a formal criminal complaint. This hearing is conducted to ascertain if there is sufficient evidence needed for a trial. The judge must also be able to find “probable cause” that a crime was committed. An example of a scenario which would lead to a preliminary hearing: a police officer testifies he saw the defendant fleeing the mall where the theft occurred and the prosecutor has a signed statement from the clerk that the defendant was present when the money went missing. The defense attorney does not need to present any defense at a preliminary hearing. A person is allowed counsel in most jurisdictions in such type of a hearing. When a person is charged with a federal felony, a preliminary hearing may not be required and he/she can be indicted by a grand jury.

Can a preliminary hearing be conducted without a stenographer or device recording the proceedings?

It is not mandatory to have a court reporter or stenographer at a preliminary hearing. However it is not a wise decision for a court reporter to be absent at a hearing especially when the attorney is taking testimonies. You have the authority to question the attorney if he/she does not bring a stenographer to the preliminary hearing. Sometimes the attorneys may choose not to bring a court reporter when there is no testimony which is being presented. Their presence would prove useful in the event of the hearing taking place, to record and bind the witness by the exact statement made by them and as a possible means of impeachment.

In the state of Pennsylvania, is the discovery process allowed before preliminary hearing?

Discovery process can be done prior to preliminary hearing provided you formally file for it with the court. If the attorney is in charge of the case, he/she would file for discovery. The discovery process is an important procedure as it will help the person argue the case with valid points.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of using a public defender as opposed to a private attorney in a preliminary hearing?

Public defenders do scores of preliminary hearings and criminal defense on a daily basis. Most of them have a wide portfolio and are highly experienced in this area. However their workload is abundant making it difficult for them to concentrate on a particular case and give it the attention it requires. Majority of the public defenders would not have studied the case file or spoken to the concerned client until the day of the hearing.

In case of private attorneys there are some excellent and highly qualified ones who are involved in criminal defense. An attorney with a good reputation and rapport with the district attorney helps in striking the best deal possible for a client. Such attorneys are usually respected for their work and knowledge. Also a private attorney would be prepared to go to trial and win the case, if deals do not work out. In order to find a good private attorney you will need to do some background work and select the one suited best for your case.

I have a preliminary hearing in the state of Pennsylvania for a bad check. I would like to plead guilty. Will I be arrested? Do I need to take money to this hearing?

The likelihood of imprisonment is low and an arrest is highly unlikely at this juncture. The goal at this point is for you to appear at court to address the allegation and arrive at a solution. Bad check cases are usually considered minor if you do not have a lengthy criminal background or owe a very large amount of money. A preliminary hearing is assigned to set an initial court date to begin the extensive legal proceedings. In most cases, at the preliminary hearing, parties try to negotiate upon an offer or deal involving payment of the debt and probation, if you need time to repay. If you have the money to pay you could take it to court and offer the resolve the matter completely.

My lawyer did not inform me of the preliminary hearing due to which I missed attending it. What can I do?

Most likely the court would have issued a bench warrant of contempt of court in your name. You need to inform your attorney to request the court for a new preliminary hearing. If granted so, you can explain your mistake and convince the judge to remove the any charges of contempt and to re-consider the case you have been summoned for.

Preliminary hearing is the beginning of the legal proceedings either leading to a trial or resolution of the case. This type of hearing is conducted to ascertain the course for further proceedings. The actions you take here can determine the outcome of your legal battle. Whether it is a minor debt case or a major criminal case, it is wise to have your questions answered and doubts cleared by consulting Experts who can throw light on what your options are.
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Recent Preliminary Hearing Questions

  • I had a civil case. The defendant lied. In his pleadings, he

    I had a civil case. The defendant lied. In his pleadings, he made conflicting statement. In one paper he said that he did not do something. In the next paper, he said that he did. The lawyer that represented me did not point out these conflicting statements even though I told him that he should. The lawyer that represented me representation was incompetent.

    Questions-
    Is it perjury if the defendant lied in his pleadings to the court? If so, can I get a warrant of him for perjury.
    Can I get this case back in court b/c of perjury and that the lawyer that represented me was incompetent or sold me out?r
  • There is no way to make this short and sweet i wish i could.

    There is no way to make this short and sweet i wish i could. This is going to sound a lil crazy but believe me every word of it true. I am from Adams County,Illinois. On 07-6-12 i was charged with a class 3 felony of battery/use of deadly weapon. Because i had been involved in an altercation inside a bar. One of the guys obtained a injury his forehead where he was cut pretty badly. At the start of the night this guy was starting fights with any and everyone. So at the start of the whole thing me and him exchanged words and he advanced with fist up and took a swing at me so i countered with a left to his chin he stumbled back a few steps and at the same time one of the frineds i was with pulled me away from him and put me behind him and a other friend of mine. At that moment i walked away towards my ride to tell them it was time to go and thats when i turn around and look back towards the door to where there was a huge crowd of people fighting one another. And the same guy who i got into it with was bleeding severely from his forehead. Still trying to fight people as he bleed all over. While the bouncers are brakeing things up and calling 911 to help the subject who was bleeding me and my girlfriend decide that we should get my friend who had been hurt in the fight/bar brawl home for the night. And me and my girlfriend did the same after taking care of our friend. The next day my mother called me and said that the Quincy Police Department was at her house with a warrant for my arrest for the injury to the guy who got hurt during the fight. I was picked up and lodged in the county jail. On the 6th of july i made my first court appearance where my bond was set at 20,000 with 10% and i was lodged back in the county jail because i could not post the bond at that time. On 07-09-12 i made my second court appearance and was appointed a public defender the case continued to 7-12-12 and was set for preliminary hearing on 07-24-12. And i was remanded to the jail. On 07-09-12 the public defender put in for a speedy trial when i did not ask him to do such thing or want him to do that so i don't know why he did. I had no idea he did until i went back to court on 07-12-12 the case remained set for preliminary on 07-24-12 at this time i asked Todd Nelson the public defender to put in for a bond reduction he siad he didnt want to push because he didnt think i would get the reduction at that time so i had to raise my voice with him to where the judge heard me demand him to get back in front the judge for a motion to reduce my bond. The motion was heard the judge reduceed my bond fromwas 20,000 to 5,000 withto 10% applying and the case was continued to 07-24-12 and i posted bond later that afternoon. On 07-24-12 a motion was filed by the people. I appeared for court that same day before court started i met with my Public Defender where i was told that we should waive the preliminary hearing according to him it would be a good idea because he didnt know much about the case and evidence at that time. I tryed to tell him that it would be fine i could answer any question that they wanted to ask me i have nothing to hide. But i said yes putting my faith in him because this was my first case as an adult and the only cases i had before was like stealing so i put faith in him and said ok whatever you think is best. Cause was then continued for 8-28-12 for arraignment an the waiver of preliminary was filed. On 8-28-12 i appear pleaded not guilty. Cause was then continued for 10-9-12. On 09-11-12 the pre-trail calender was filed. 09-28-12 i appear and cause remains set for October jury trial. Cause then set for final pre-trial on 10-5-12. I appear on 10-05-12 and meet with my defender before we go in front of the judge he tells me there is no way to win this case with the evidence against you so he says we should waive the jury trial. The case was then set for for plea on 10-18-12. So between the next court date and the last i receive a letter form the states attorneys office offering me a sentence of 5 years in D.O.C if i pled guilty to the charge. I then call my Public Defender and tell him that i wasnt taking the offer and that i wasn't guilty and that i wasn't going to pled guily to a felony charge because i don't want that on my record. He said let see what i can do and ill get back ahold of you. Two days later he calls me back and tells me that the best thing they will agree on is to have the Class 3 felony amended to a Class A Misdemeanor of battery. So me being the one who just didnt want a felony charge on my record agrees. I go to court on 10-5-12 and the judge asked the state what evidence they had in the case. And they siad none. The judge then ordered weekly U/As then set a date for sentence on the misdemeanor. I failed one U/A. I was then sentenced to 18 months probation, 120 days in jail an issue 30 days, w/credit for 7. Pay a restitution of $18,940.45. My question Is can i appeal this case i need help in this matter
  • Question about lawyer fees. I was charged $2,600 by my lawyer

    Question about lawyer fees.

    I was charged $2,600 by my lawyer to have him to appear with me at a preliminary hearing for a misdemeanor charge. Because I had a prior, and the judge was in a bad mood, (said my lawyer), the judge told me I deserved jail time. My lawyer explained in detail why this was a non-jailable offense, but regardless, I now have to fight that.

    So, he now wants to charge me $10,000 for a "motion for discovery", representation for a "discovery/plea bargaining conference" and representation for "status conference" and representation at "ARD/Negotiated Guilty Plea/Sentencing hearings. He is also setting up a Psychiatric evaluation for me.

    He is a lawyer with a good reputation. I am was satisfied with him so far, but just am worried he is overcharging me because of the corner I have been backed up into.

    My question is, is $10,000 reasonable for what needs to be done. Thanks!
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