Felony Preliminary Examination

This is a contested hearing before the Trial Court Judge at the District level, sometimes called a “probable cause hearing”. The Prosecutor presents witnesses to convince the Judge that there is probable cause to believe that a crime was committed and that the defendant committed the crime. Because the burden of proof is much less than at a trial, the Prosecutor generally does not call all potential witnesses to testify at the “prelim”; generally, the victim and some eye witnesses plus some of the police witnesses testify. The defendant has an attorney, can cross examine the witnesses, and can present his own evidence (including witnesses). If probable cause is established, the defendant is “bound over” (i.e., sent to) the Circuit level of the Trial Court for trial. If the Judge decides that there is not probable cause that the defendant committed the crime, the charge can be dismissed or reduced to a misdemeanor for trial in the District level of the Trial Court. A defendant can decide not to have a Preliminary Examination, or waive the 14 day rule to have it rescheduled.


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