What should I expect at a Preliminary Hearing? A Preliminary Hearing is the first chance for an accused in the criminal justice system to challenge the evidence against him. As a result of its importance, many defendants ask, what should I expect at a Preliminary Hearing? Even though the Preliminary Hearing gives the accused his first chance to challenge the evidence against him, his rights at this hearing are severely limited. Defending DUI cases Specifically, even though the defense attorney may challenge the government's evidence at this hearing, there are many things that can't be challenged. Specifically, the defense may not challenge the credibility of any government witness at this hearing. Meaning even if the defense shows that all of the government's witnesses are lying, the district justice is still not permitted to dismiss the evidence against the accused. Because the defense is not permitted to challenge their credibility. Additionally, hearsay is permitted at these hearings. Frequently, the government doesn't even need to call their actual witnesses to the stand at the Preliminary Hearing. Instead of calling the victim in a rape case, the government may sometimes put the police officer on the stand and let him testify about what the victim told him.
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.