Criminal cases generally require that the defendant be arraigned after he/she is arrested. Defendants usually have the right to a preliminary hearing after they are arraigned. It is critical that defendants have legal counsel at both the arraignment and the preliminary hearing. Experienced defense lawyers can explain what happens at each court proceeding and explain and assert your rights.
The arraignment is the court process where the defendant is formally charged. This means the defendant is informed which criminal statutes he/she is being charged with violating. At the arraignment, the defendant pleads either guilty or not guilty. Almost always, clients are advised to plead not guilty. Generally, at the arraignment, defendants waive the reading of the charges but are given a copy of the charges and the court schedules the next court dates.
If a bail has not already been set, the Court will set it at, or near, the time of the arraignment.
The preliminary hearing
The preliminary hearing is a court hearing before a local judge. The purpose of the preliminary hearing is to determine if the State probable cause to submit the case to a jury on the basis that:
- A crime was committed
- The defendant likely committed the crime
As a general rule, defendants do not give testimony at the hearing. The State may present witnesses, but only enough witnesses to show there is probable cause. The defense lawyer has the right to question and cross-examine the witnesses. The benefits of questioning the witness are:
- To show there is no probable cause
- To preserve the testimony of the witness so his/her credibility can be attacked if he/she later changes their version of events
- To help provide a basis for negotiating a plea reduction or even a dismissal based on the weakness of the witness’ testimony.
Depending on the circumstances, there are times when waiving the preliminary hearing serves a client’s interests.
At the Law Office of Perry A. Craft PLLC, we recommend that anyone who is arrested call us immediately. The prosecutors are not your friends. You need an experienced tough defense lawyer who will assert your constitutional and legal rights at every stage of the criminal case starting with the arraignment and the preliminary hearing. Early intervention does help. To schedule an appointment with a skilled defense attorney, call us at 615-953-3808 or fill out our contact form.
Perry A. Craft has dedicated his life to helping people in need. He has tried, settled, or resolved numerous civil and criminal cases in State and Federal courts, and has represented teachers and administrators before school boards, administrative judges, and the state Board of Education. Learn more about Attorney Craft.