What is a Preliminary Hearing?

What is a preliminary heaRING CRIMINAL LAW FARGO ND

If you have been charged with a felony in North Dakota, one of the early hearings that will be held in your case is known as a preliminary hearing. While the name of this hearing may make the hearing itself sound unimportant, your preliminary hearing can play a significant role in the future direction of your criminal case. Read on to learn what makes this hearing so important.

What is the Purpose of a Preliminary Hearing?

The purpose of a preliminary hearing in North Dakota is to present sufficient evidence to a judge so that the judge is confident there exists probable cause to believe you committed a felony crime. Probable cause is the same level of evidence that a law enforcement officer needs before he or she can arrest an individual. If the prosecution is successful in establishing probable cause, then you will proceed to the arraignment hearing, at which you will enter a plea to the charges. If the prosecution fails to establish probable cause, then the felony charges against you will be dismissed, although they could be refiled by the prosecution, if desired.

Misconceptions About the Preliminary Hearing

Some common misconceptions about the preliminary hearing include:

  • A preliminary hearing is required in all cases: Preliminary hearings are only required in cases wherein you are charged with one or more felonies. If you are charged with only misdemeanors or infractions, you are not entitled to a preliminary hearing.
  • A preliminary hearing is not important, so I can waive it: Although you have the right to have a preliminary hearing, this is a right that can be waived or given up. If you do so, the case will proceed as if the court found there to be probable cause to believe you committed a felony. You will not be able to receive another preliminary hearing in your case; once it is waived, it is given up permanently in that particular case.
  • A preliminary hearing is a “mini-trial”: While it is important to know what the prosecution’s main witnesses will say at trial by listening to their testimony at a preliminary hearing, it is usually not advisable to litigate your case at the preliminary hearing with the same vigor you would at trial. Because the burden of proof at preliminary hearing is so low, it is rare for a court not to find probable cause exists. Presenting your own evidence and witnesses may “tip your hand” and alert the prosecution as to your theory of defense, allowing them to be better prepared to counter you.

Seek Help with Your North Dakota Criminal Charges

 If you are charged with a felony crime in North Dakota, attorney Tatum O’Brien of O’Keeffe O’Brien Lyson Attorneys is experienced and resourceful in helping you prepare a successful defense to your charges. Tatum O’Brien takes a “big picture” view of your case and crafts a customized defense strategy designed to help you obtain the best results possible in your case. Contact O’Keeffe O’Brien Lyson Attorneys and attorney Tatum O’Brien online, or by calling 701-235-8023 or 877-235-8002.

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