How to Get Charges Dismissed at the Preliminary Hearing
While going through the criminal process is often frightening, knowing what to expect can make it much more bearable. After your arrest and arraignment, you will attend your preliminary hearing. This is an opportunity for your Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney to get your charges dismissed.
At lot can happen at the preliminary hearing that can hurt or greatly help your case. As a result, it’s best to work with an experienced and skilled attorney.
What is a Preliminary Hearing?
The preliminary hearing in PA is a crucial part of your case. It should happen within three to 10 days of your arraignment. During the preliminary hearing, the state must prove that a crime took place and that you were likely the culpable party.
Why a Preliminary Hearing is Important
A preliminary hearing protects the accused’s rights. Prosecutors often count on defendants to waive their right to a preliminary hearing to have bail reduced or gain other benefits.
Keep in mind that the prosecutor does not have your best interests in mind, so this is often not the best strategy. It is essential to retain a criminal defense attorney to advise you on the best path forward.
How Your Attorney Can Be Proactive
At this stage, the prosecution could fail to meet the burden of proof. When this occurs, your charges are dismissed. This is relatively uncommon, since the prosecution only has to present a prima facie case. They only have to show that it is more likely than not that you committed the crime; they do not have to prove their base beyond a reasonable doubt. However, there are other ways that your charged could be dismissed at this step.
Your attorney can use this time to draw attention to evidence the prosecution does not produce. Generally, the prosecution does not have to do too much to get a case to move forward, so questioning their evidence is not always an effective strategy. Your attorney may choose to draw attention to the holes in their evidence to indicate that the available evidence does not align with their charges. They may also look at the role of hearsay evidence. While hearsay evidence is permitted, the entire case cannot hinge on it.
This is also an opportunity for your defense attorney to negotiate a plea, should that be a good option for your case. If your goal is to have charges completely dismissed, you may be resistant to the idea of a plea. In some situations, though, it can help you avoid more serious charges, return to your normal life much sooner, and limit your legal expenses.
Motions in a Preliminary Hearing
Your attorney can also submit some pretrial motions at this stage, like a motion for bail. After your preliminary hearing, your attorney can begin preparing pretrial motions. These can be submitted at your arraignment. Your attorney may move to suppress evidence or dismiss the charges against you. This is one of the reasons that the preliminary hearing is so important; your attorney gets the chance to hear the other side’s evidence, look for legal errors, and prepare to move to have evidence dismissed.
It should go without saying that you need an experienced criminal defense attorney by this point. In fact, you should have an attorney as soon as possible after your arrest. If you wait until your preliminary hearing to begin looking for an attorney, you could lose valuable opportunities to have charges dismissed or reduced.
Find Out We Can Help You
As soon as you have been accused of a crime, reach out to Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys and our team of Pittsburgh criminal defense lawyers to protect your rights. We will review your case, discuss your options for a successful result at the preliminary hearing stage, and fight to achieve the best possible outcome.