Preliminary Hearings (‘Prelims’ for short) are typically the second time a defendant appears before a judge after his arrest. The first hearing (called a First Appearance Hearing) is for the purpose of telling the defendant what his charges are, providing information about the process and his rights, and for appointing an attorney to represent him if he can’t afford one. The Prelim is usually held several days after the First Appearance Hearing and is more involved.
What Happens At A Prelim
At the Prelim, the magistrate judge will hear facts about the case from a witness or witnesses (usually a police officer or case detective) and will determine whether there is sufficient ‘probable cause’ for the defendant’s arrest. If there is, the judge ‘binds the case over’ to Superior Court where the defendant will face formal charges. If there is not sufficient evidence, the case is dismissed.
Chance of Getting A Bond
In many cases, bond can be set by the judge. There are a number of cases where the magistrate judge does not have jurisdiction to be able to set a bond. Among those charges are murder, rape, armed robbery, child molestation and drug trafficking. It is important for a defendant to have an attorney at the Prelim in order to properly question the State’s witness and to try to secure a bond if possible.
If you or a loved one are facing a preliminary hearing in the near future, give me a call at 404-474-2531 for a free consultation.