Preliminary Hearing Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Preliminary Hearing, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Preliminary Hearing?

In the court of law where criminal cases are concerned, the proceeding known as preliminary hearing, takes place before the judicial officer, after the prosecutor files a criminal lawsuit against the defendant.This initial hearing takes place to determine whether the accused defendant has commited any crime, and whether the crime has been commited in the courts’ jurisdiction and finally whether there is sufficient explanation or cause to believe whether the defendant have commited a crime.In the preliminary hearing, the accused defendant are sometimes counselled by the counsel too.

History and Meaning of Preliminary Hearing

The preliminary hearing is an essential part of the legal system, which acts as a screening process to sift through the prosecutions, which would help the judge decide whether there is enough evidence against the defendant. This hearing is conducted early in the process to determine whether there is enough evidence to proceed with the charge, and also determines whether the trial should proceed in the same court, or if it is an appropriate case to proceed to trial. The judicial officer hears testimony from witnesses and evidence presented by the prosecutor and, if appropriate, the defense counsel before determining whether the case should proceed.

Examples of Preliminary Hearing

  • A person has been charged with a crime they did not commit. They are presented before a judge in a preliminary hearing to see if there is sufficient evidence to proceed with the charges.
  • During a preliminary hearing, a judge hears arguments from both sides to decide whether an individual should be tried for a crime.
  • In a preliminary hearing, the prosecution presents the evidence they have against the defendant, and the defense counsel challenges the evidence to try to prove that the defendant is innocent.
  • During a preliminary hearing, the defense may file a motion to dismiss the case if they believe the prosecution is not sufficient to proceed with a trial.

Legal Terms Similar to Preliminary Hearing

  • Arraignment: This is the first step in the criminal process where an accused is presented in front of a judge and charges are read out.
  • Discovery: It is the process involved in obtaining evidence before a case goes to trial.
  • Burden of proof: It pertains to the legal duty of proof that a party must meet in trial to win a case.
  • Grand Jury: A group of citizens who decide if there is enough evidence to bring a criminal case to trial.