Philadelphia Preliminary Hearing

The preliminary hearing is the initial court appearance that you will be required to go to, once you have been charged with a crime in Philadelphia. Several very important things will happen at this hearing, making it crucial to make a good showing.

Having a criminal defense attorney at your side during this hearing – and with you beforehand, while you prepare for it – can make or break your case. Mistakes made during the preliminary hearing can radically change how the rest of your case progresses, and the effectiveness of your defense. Notifying a criminal defense attorney as soon as you are aware of a preliminary hearing, therefore, is the best thing that you can do to preserve a favorable outcome in your case.

What is a Preliminary Hearing?

A preliminary hearing is like a trial, but at a much earlier stage in the criminal justice process. Therefore, far fewer facts are known, the prosecution's case is weak, and your defense will still be in a primitive form. Despite this early stage, the court system demands preliminary hearings in order to determine if there is enough of a case to let the proceedings go forward.

The Purpose of Preliminary Hearings

Preliminary hearings serve an important purpose: they force prosecutors to present a prima facie case, or probable cause that the person being charged has committed the crime they are being charged with. If the court does not see that there is enough evidence to come close to obtaining a conviction, it will dismiss the case and spare the defendant the time, energy, and stress that comes with a prolonged trial.

Probable Cause

Unlike in a regular trial, where the evidentiary standard is beyond a reasonable doubt, the standard at the preliminary hearing is just probable cause. This means that prosecutors can satisfy the court and move the case forward with much less evidence – evidence that only makes a reasonable person think that a crime and all of its elements probably occurred. If prosecutors are able to do this, your case will continue to the next stage of the proceedings at the Court of Common Pleas in Philadelphia. If prosecutors are not able to meet their evidentiary standard, the case will be dismissed.

The reality of preliminary hearings is that prosecutors rarely fail to establish probable cause that you were connected to a crime.

Where Do Preliminary Hearings Take Place?

If you are being charged for a crime that happened in Philadelphia, your preliminary hearing will take place in Municipal Court, near the Philadelphia Convention Center.

What to Expect

Typically, preliminary hearings are scheduled to happen in the immediate aftermath of an arrest, often within 10 days. During this time, you and your attorney will discuss what your options are, strategize, and formulate your priorities and interests.

When the hearing date arrives, you and your attorney will have a crucially important opportunity to learn what the prosecution has against you. You will learn who the witnesses will be, what kind of evidence has been obtained and how it was gathered, and what the prosecutor's argument will likely be, during the rest of the case. You will learn all of this as the prosecutor presses the judge at the Municipal Court to decide that there is, in fact, probable cause and that the case should go forward.

Typically, the real goal of a preliminary hearing is not to challenge the prosecutor's evidence, but rather to hear it and understand the case that will be pressed against you. However, there are many cases where raising immediate defenses against the prosecutor's case will have great impact. In some cases, these quick defenses can put enough holes in the prosecutor's case to convince a judge to dismiss the charges against you.

If the judge decides that the prosecution has shown probable cause, your case will continue to its next step: Arraignment. If the judge determines that there is no probable cause, your case will get dismissed and you should proceed immediately towards getting the charges expunged and clear your criminal record.

Why Preliminary Hearings are So Valuable

Preliminary hearings are invaluable to your case not because they provide an opportunity to challenge the prosecutor's case and gain a dismissal, but because they force the prosecutor to show his or her hand in your case. Seeing the evidence that they present during the preliminary hearing lets you and your attorney plan your defense effectively.

Waiving the Preliminary Hearing

Despite its value, many people who are facing a criminal charge nevertheless decide to waive their right to a preliminary hearing. For many, the decision to waive their right to the hearing is based on the fact that the prosecution rarely fails to show probable cause. Many defendants think that, because there is only a very slim chance of getting their case dismissed at the preliminary hearing, the better option is to simply waive it and let the case go on, without one.

However, this overlooks the important fact that the preliminary hearing is where you will first hear the case that will be presented against you. Waiving the preliminary hearing, therefore, is something that you should discuss with your criminal defense attorney before making the decision, on your own. The ramifications of waiving the hearing can be dire, as the case progresses.

LLF Law Firm: Philadelphia's Criminal Defense Team

The LLF Law Firm is a criminal defense team that represents clients throughout Philadelphia. They know the value of an effective defense during the preliminary hearing and can help you prepare for one if you have been charged with committing a crime in the city.

Contact them online or by phone at 888-535-3686 if you have been charged with a crime, and are serious about your defense. Hiring them quickly after you receive your charges can give you the time to discuss your options and interests and prepare for the preliminary hearing. Once the hearing is over, there is no going back, and you must take the necessary steps to mount the strongest possible defense as early as possible.

Contact Us Today!

The LLF Law Firm Team has decades of experience successfully resolving clients' criminal charges in Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania counties. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you or a loved one, contact the LLF Law Firm today! Our Criminal Defense Team will go above and beyond the needs of any client, and will fight until the final bell rings.

This website was created only for general information purposes. It is not intended to be construed as legal advice for any situation. Only a direct consultation with a licensed Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York attorney can provide you with formal legal counsel based on the unique details surrounding your situation. The pages on this website may contain links and contact information for third party organizations - the Lento Law Firm does not necessarily endorse these organizations nor the materials contained on their website. In Pennsylvania, Attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout Pennsylvania's 67 counties, including, but not limited to Philadelphia, Allegheny, Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Chester, Dauphin, Delaware, Lancaster, Lehigh, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Schuylkill, and York County. In New Jersey, attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout New Jersey's 21 counties: Atlantic, Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Salem, Somerset, Sussex, Union, and Warren County, In New York, Attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout New York's 62 counties. Outside of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, unless attorney Joseph D. Lento is admitted pro hac vice if needed, his assistance may not constitute legal advice or the practice of law. The decision to hire an attorney in Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania counties, New Jersey, New York, or nationwide should not be made solely on the strength of an advertisement. We invite you to contact the Lento Law Firm directly to inquire about our specific qualifications and experience. Communicating with the Lento Law Firm by email, phone, or fax does not create an attorney-client relationship. The Lento Law Firm will serve as your official legal counsel upon a formal agreement from both parties. Any information sent to the Lento Law Firm before an attorney-client relationship is made is done on a non-confidential basis.