A preliminary hearing is held before a judge to determine whether there is enough evidence to move forward to trial in a felony case. The prosecution must show through evidence and witnesses that there is probable cause that a crime was committed and that the defendant was the one who committed it. If the judge finds there is probable cause to move forward, the prosecution will file an information within 15 days and the defendant will be arraigned on those charges. The charges in the information may be different that the charges in the original complaint. If the judge does not find probable cause to move forward, she will discharge the complaint.
A defendant will be present at the preliminary hearing and will sit next to his attorney. In only rare cases would the defendant testify at a preliminary hearing. There is no jury because it is not a trial and there is no verdict or possibility of a conviction at this stage of the court proceedings. A preliminary hearing can be short. It may be half an hour or it could last a couple days for a complex case.
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