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If you’ve been charged with a crime, you should expect your case to take at least a few months to resolve. A preliminary hearing, often known as a mini-trial, is the first step in a criminal case. Just because a case has been scheduled for trial doesn’t imply it will go to trial. Judges like to establish the date as a fallback in case settlement talks go through or the matter is not resolved.
It is very unusual for criminal cases to go on for months or even years, but it depends on the complexity of the case and the number of defendants. To summarize, anyone charged with a crime should anticipate their case to last at least a few months, if not longer. DUI cases that are charged as felonies are given first priority in court hearings.
Everyone has the right to a speedy trial; however, if they are charged with a felony, they must be tried within 45 days of being arraigned if they are not in custody, or 30 days if they are. In order to build a strong defense, some people forgo their right to a quick trial.
If the defendant is in custody and does not waive their right to a fast preliminary hearing in a criminal offense case, they have the right to a preliminary hearing within ten court days of the day they entered their plea. Typically, the defendant will not want to do this while in jail since they want their charges reduced and to be released as quickly as possible.
After the preliminary hearing process, the individual would be re-arraigned, and they have the right to a jury trial within 60 days after their arraignment date, so that would be the earliest they could have a trial.
Witnesses and the Court Process
A preliminary hearing, also known as a probable cause hearing or a mini-trial, is the first crucial stage in the prosecution of a criminal charge. The district attorney will call witnesses, typically police officers, to testify in person before the judge regarding their report or the arrest. The defense may next examine the witnesses under cross-examination in an attempt to find flaws in the evidence, create a defense, or demonstrate any mitigating factors.
The judge will assess whether there was sufficient reasonable cause to think that the crime happened and that the defendant did it once the evidence has been heard. The defendant will be held to answer on the charges if the judge finds these conclusions. If the evidence merits it, the court can also dismiss or lessen some counts. If the individual is in jail, this hearing is an excellent opportunity to urge the judge to reconsider the bail.
The Information Filing
Following the preliminary hearing, the next step is for the district attorney to file another charge document, called an information, which generally takes two weeks. This document will include all of the charges as well as any updates to the information.
At the time of the filing of the information, the individual comes into court with their counsel to file not guilty pleas once more. The court will then ask the defendant if they want the matter put for trial within the 60-day trial period or if they want it set for later.
The Trial by Jury
In a jury trial, the prosecution must prove to the judge and jury that the defendant committed the charge beyond a reasonable doubt. Just because someone was called to testify at a preliminary hearing, which has a lower standard, does not indicate they will be found guilty at a jury trial.