October 22, 2022 By Paul Wallin

What Every Person Accused of a Felony Must Make Sure Their Lawyer Knows About a Preliminary Hearing in California

When you or a loved one is accused of a felony crime, being prepared for your preliminary hearing is a crucial part of your defense. Unfortunately, not all criminal defense attorneys opt to use this opportunity aggressively. At Wallin & Klarich, our experienced attorneys know the strategies to use in any hearing in order to get you the best result possible in every felony case. Continue reading to discover what all lawyers and defendants accused of a felony should know about a preliminary hearing in California. 

What Is a Preliminary Hearing? 

A preliminary hearing arises after someone is accused of a felony in California.  A person can be charged with a felony by the prosecutor in two different ways. The first way is for the prosecutor to obtain a grand jury indictment. The second way is for the prosecutor to directly file a felony criminal complaint. After a criminal complaint is filed, the accused has a right to a preliminary hearing. At a preliminary hearing, the judge must determine whether there is sufficient evidence presented by the prosecutor for the case to go forward. If the judge does not find sufficient evidence, then the case must be dismissed.

At the preliminary hearing, the defense team has the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses, put on affirmative defense evidence, and argue that the charges should be dismissed or reduced to a misdemeanor crime. If the judge finds that there is sufficient evidence to establish probable cause, then the case will proceed toward trial. 

Why Are Preliminary Hearings Important? 

Although many defense attorneys see preliminary hearings as just another routine, low-stakes hearing, this is not the case. The preliminary hearing actually provides the defendant with fundamental procedural rights, allowing the accused to eliminate serious charges that are without merit. Under Penal Code Section 866(a), one of the most crucial rights provided to a defendant during a preliminary hearing is the right to present evidence and testimony to the extent that it is “reasonably likely to establish an affirmative defense, negate an element of a crime charged, or impeach the testimony of a declarant testified to by a prosecution witness.” It is important to note that even though it is not required under PC Section 866(a), a skilled criminal defense attorney often should provide notice of his intent to call witnesses and provide a written offer of proof as to each witness sufficient to establish the nature of their testimony and how it complies with the three categories described in the above statute. 

Presenting defense evidence at a preliminary hearing may help to avoid the uncertainty and costs of a jury trial. If a defendant is indicted by a grand jury rather than going through a preliminary hearing, then the first time he would be able to fight the charges would be at a jury trial. 

Often, the preliminary hearing is the defense’s only opportunity to challenge the prosecutor’s evidence and present its own evidence prior to trial. Furthermore, even if the court at the preliminary hearing denies a defendant’s request to present evidence, that can be litigated in a motion to dismiss under Penal Code Section 995. In short, a preliminary hearing provides many potential benefits to the accused if it is utilized properly by his criminal defense law firm. A skilled defense attorney should know how to use the preliminary hearing to the client’s advantage in order to secure the most favorable outcome. 

Contact Wallin & Klarich Today 

If you have been accused of a felony, contact Wallin & Klarich as soon as possible to see how we can help you prepare for your preliminary hearing as well as all aspects of the criminal case.With 40+ years of experience, Wallin & Klarich knows how to properly and aggressively defend persons accused of serious crimes. Our attorneys have helped thousands of clients facing felony charges, and our law firm has the skill and resources to help you as well. 

With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Victorville, Torrance, West Covina, Los Angeles, and San Diego to serve you, we will be there in your time of need. 

Discover how our team can assist you. Contact us today, toll-free at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation and evaluation of your case. We will be there when you call.

AUTHOR: Paul Wallin

Paul Wallin is one of the most highly respected attorneys in Southern California. His vast experience, zealous advocacy for his clients and extensive knowledge of many areas of the law make Mr. Wallin a premiere Southern California attorney. Mr. Wallin founded Wallin & Klarich in 1981. As the senior partner of Wallin & Klarich, Mr. Wallin has been successfully representing clients for more than 30 years. Clients come to him for help in matters involving assault and battery, drug crimes, juvenile crimes, theft, manslaughter, sex offenses, murder, violent crimes, misdemeanors and felonies. Mr. Wallin also helps clients with family law matters such as divorce and child custody.

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