Everyone charged with a misdemeanor or felony crime in the state of Pennsylvania is entitled to a Preliminary Hearing. (The only exception is Pennsylvania's Indicting Grand Jury). At the Preliminary Hearing, the government must prove that there is a prima facie case that (1) an offense has been committed and (2) the defendant has committed it. If the government cannot meet this burden then the case must be dismissed. If the government does meet its burden, then the charges are "held over" and sent up to the Court of Common Pleas.
If you are charged with a crime in Pennsylvania, it is imperative that you hire an experienced Chester County Criminal Lawyer to represent you at the Preliminary Hearing you may have. Experienced Criminal Defense Attorneys The Preliminary Hearing frequently is the only time where your attorney will be able to ask the witnesses that are going to testify against you questions while they are under oath. A Preliminary Hearing also affords a chance for an experienced Chester County Criminal Lawyer to weigh the evidence against you, to see how credible the witnesses appear when they answer questions on the witness stand, and also see if there are any suppression issues in the case as a result of mistakes made by the police.
A Preliminary Hearing takes place before a District Justice. During the Preliminary Hearing, an Assistant District Attorney will typically represent the government. The Assistant District Attorney will call witnesses to the witness stand whom will testify under oath about the facts which lead to the criminal charges. A Criminal Defense Attorney will then ask those witnesses specific questions in an attempt to weaken the government's case. Unlike at trial, hearsay evidence is admissible at a Preliminary Hearing and the defense is not permitted to argue that the government's witnesses are not lying. Despite the low evidentiary bar that the government must meet during a Preliminary Hearing, the Preliminary Hearing is an invaluable tool for an experienced Criminal Defense Attorney to analyze the government's case.