What is a Preliminary Hearing in a Criminal Case in Arizona?
Many criminal cases in Arizona go through a preliminary hearing before the trial itself takes place. What exactly is a preliminary hearing, what happens during it and can you prepare adequately? Here are some of the most important facts about this part of the criminal case.
What Happens during a Preliminary Hearing?
Once a suspect is taken into custody, an initial appearance will be scheduled in the first 24 hours. This very first part of the process is used to outline the charges against the defendant. In addition, the judge determines the bond amount during the initial appearance.
The preliminary hearing is the next part of the process.
During a preliminary hearing, an initial determination that there is probable cause will be made. The burden of proof falls on the prosecutor. Thus, as per Arizona regulations, the preliminary hearing is needed for probable cause determination.
Thus, there has to be sufficient evidence that the defendant is the person who committed the crime for the court case to move forward. If such evidence cannot be provided, the criminal cases will be dismissed during this step.
If the evidence is enough, you will be scheduled for an initial pretrial conference.
Your Arizona criminal defense attorney will outline the steps that you’ll need to go through as a part of the criminal trial.
As a defendant, you have the right to waive your preliminary hearing and move forward with the case. There are some instances in which waiving your right to a preliminary hearing could make sense. Your defendant will tell you whether you should waive the right or move forward with the step.
In other instances, a preliminary hearing is a very good idea.
If there are serious uncertainties about the identity of a perpetrator, a preliminary hearing will be in your favor. You will be provided with information about the available evidence, its reliability and whether that evidence is sufficient to initiate a criminal trial.
Plea Agreements and Preliminary Hearings
This is one of the situations in which waiving your right to a preliminary hearing could be in your best interest.
Your attorney will communicate with the prosecutor about the possibility of a plea agreement.
It’s possible for the prosecutor to agree to lower the bond in the event of a plea agreement. Thus, an individual who commits a minor felony could be given a misdemeanor plea agreement. If the plea agreement is accepted, the defendant will have to accept their guilt in exchange for a smaller sentence.
The aim of the plea agreements is to provide a better sentence in exchange for a shorter and simpler criminal process.
If you accept the plea agreement, a sentencing date will be scheduled in approximately one month.
Criminal Pretrial Procedures Are Crucial
While it may seem that the preliminary hearing is only a small, formal part of the criminal trial process, it plays a key role in further developments. Hence, you shouldn’t underestimate the importance of the step. Don’t try to go through the preliminary hearing on your own – attorney assistance is mandatory for an optimal outcome.
Poor or insufficient evidence can be challenged. The same applies to being overcharged when your criminal offense is in fact minor.
Your attorney can cross-examine witnesses during the preliminary hearing. Thus, Arizona court magistrates will get a much better idea about the reliability of witnesses and evidence before the court trial date is scheduled.
Keep in mind that even if the evidence is sufficient to move forward, the war isn’t lost yet. An Arizona criminal defense attorney will craft the best strategy to challenge the charges and to prove your innocence or at least diminish the scope of guilt.
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