Defense Lawyers Handle Preliminary Hearings in Pittsburgh, PA
Diligent advocates represent clients in probable cause proceedings
Each step in the criminal justice process is important and should be handled with great care by a proven attorney. In Pennsylvania, the preliminary hearing is a critical proceeding where each side’s position is outlined and a decision is made as to whether the case will proceed toward trial. Our Pittsburgh firm, Phil DiLucente & Associates, LLC, provides diligent representation in these hearings to attempt to disprove in court that probable cause does not exist and the case should go no further. Even if the case does eventually move forward, we can use the knowledge gained in this stage to provide valuable insight regarding the prosecution’s argument in order to craft an effective strategy for plea negotiations and, if necessary, litigation.
What happens in a preliminary hearing and what is its purpose?
Preliminary hearings are conducted in each county. When you work with one of our diligent criminal defense attorneys, we will prepare you for this proceeding and outline the legal aspects of these hearings, such as:
- Probable cause — The criminal justice system recognizes that defending against a charge presents a burden to the defendant and may harm their reputation, even if he or she is eventually exonerated. Accordingly, the preliminary hearing is held between 3 and 10 days after an arrest to determine whether the case should continue. This is sometimes referred to as the prima facie case and means that probable cause exists to show that a crime occurred and that the defendant committed it.
- Hearsay evidence — Certain types of hearsay evidence that usually would not be admitted at trial can be used by the Commonwealth to make its case at the preliminary hearing. This includes written or recorded statements from witnesses who would face an undue hardship by having to appear at the proceeding. However, prosecutors cannot base their entire argument on hearsay evidence.
- Witnesses — A defendant can call witnesses during a preliminary hearing, but they can only be used to refute elements of the prosecutor’s probable cause argument. You cannot bring in people you know to attest to your good character at this stage of the justice process.
During a felony and/or misdemeanor preliminary hearing, both the prosecution and defense counsel will have a chance to discuss the evidence that supports their position with each other before the hearing takes place. If probable cause cannot be established, the case is most likely dismissed or charges may be reduced. Defendants can waive their right to a preliminary hearing. This might occur for a reduced charge and/or tentative agreement on how the case will most likely proceed.
What your Pittsburgh criminal defense should do at a preliminary hearing in Pennsylvania
Though a preliminary hearing does not always provide a full opportunity to determine guilt or innocence, it does offer a good opportunity to assess what type of preliminary physical and witness evidence the prosecutor may plan to use against you. Under state law, you have the right to be represented by counsel during these proceedings. Our lawyers can introduce evidence on your behalf, point out holes in the Commonwealth’s case, cross-examine the individuals brought in to testify that you committed the crime and question rebuttal witnesses where appropriate.
Contact a Pennsylvania defense lawyer for advice on a preliminary hearing
Phil DiLucente & Associates, LLC in Pittsburgh advocates on behalf of accused clients in preliminary hearings and at every other stage of the Pennsylvania criminal trial justice process. Please call 1.800.GET.PHIL or contact us online to schedule a free consultation regarding your case.