What is a Preliminary Hearing?
You were arrested for a pretty serious crime. You’ve been arraigned and are currently out on bail. Now you need to go to a preliminary hearing. What does this mean? And do you need an attorney present?
First, it’s essential that any time you have business with the court, no matter how minor the issue is, you should have an attorney present with you. The legal system can be extremely complex and if you say or do the wrong thing, it can come back to haunt you. A lawyer will advise you on what you should do as well as fight for your rights.
A preliminary hearing is the deciding factor of whether there’s a case against you. At this hearing, the judge will make the decision based on the amount of evidence present. A preliminary hearing only happens in cases that go before the New Jersey Superior Court; if you are charged with a disorderly persons or a petty disorderly persons charge, your complaint will be heard in municipal court.
Before the hearing, the prosecutor will take the time to go over the evidence to make sure there’s a case against you. A special team or prosecutors called the Case Screening Unit will review the evidence, such as examining police reports and interviewing witnesses. If there is insufficient evidence, then the charges are downgraded to a disorderly persons charge and will be sent to municipal court for a hearing or to be dismissed. In some counties in New Jersey, the prosecutors will prescreen the filing before the complaint is signed. So chances are if you have preliminary hearing, then the prosecutor believes the state has a case against you.
It is possible to avoid the preliminary hearing and trial all together through the process of a plea agreement. This can also occur after the hearing as well. This is when your attorney and the prosecutor reach an arrangement where you will get a reduced term of incarceration or probation in exchange of a guilty plea. It is possible that your charges can be reduced or even dismissed as part of a plea bargain. This happens quite often – according the New Jersey Courts website, more than 70 percent of all criminal cases that have been indicted are resolved without proceeding to a full trial.
If you were arrested for a crime in New Jersey and need a good criminal defense attorney to help you with your case, we’re prepared to fight for you. Contact the Law Offices of Anthony Carbone today for a free consultation.