Arraignment: Your First Court Appearance Regarding a Criminal ChargeJanuary 10, 2023
Grand Jury & IndictmentMarch 10, 2023
The Preliminary Hearing (also known as an examining hearing or probable cause hearing) is Step 3 of the 7 Steps of the Criminal Trial Process in Kentucky.
What is a Preliminary Hearing?
A preliminary hearing is a legal proceeding where the district court judge decides if there is enough evidence to send a defendant's charges to the grand jury.
The judge, the defendant's attorney, the prosecutor and any necessary victims/ witnesses are present at this proceeding.
There are three possible outcomes of the preliminary hearing
Charges are Dropped
What is the proof standard?
At the preliminary hearing, the prosecution has to prove to the Judge that it is more probable than not that the defendant committed the crime charged.
Is there a right to have a preliminary hearing?
No. A defendant has no constitutional right to a preliminary hearing.
However, the Commonwealth is entitled to a preliminary hearing on demand at any time prior to indictment.
Who hears preliminary hearings?
Jurisdiction to hear preliminary hearings is with the district court.
Why are there preliminary hearings?
What is a Waiver of a Preliminary Hearing?
A defendant can waive a preliminary hearing. This allows the case to proceed to circuit court without going to the grand jury for indictment.
(Even if a defendant waives the preliminary hearing, the prosecutor can demand that one occur.)
When Should a Defendant Waive a Preliminary Hearing?
- an essential prosecution witness is able to testify at the preliminary hearing but may be unavailable at trial;
- a complainant is likely to "mellow" with time if he or she is not required to put his or her testimony "on the record" at this point;
- the preliminary hearing may add to adverse publicity that will make it difficult to obtain a fair trial;
- the preliminary hearing will call the prosecutor's attention to a curable defect in the Commonwealth's case that otherwise would not be noticed until trial, when it would be too late to correct; or
- the preliminary hearing will alert the prosecutor to the fact that the defendant is undercharged.