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  • Writer's pictureJay Ingrum

Understanding Preliminary Hearings: What You Need To Know

Legal Lens: Viewing Law Through Ingrum Expertise

Preliminary Hearing Terminology - Ingrum Law

What is a preliminary hearing? A preliminary hearing is a probable cause hearing in General Sessions Court. The purpose of a preliminary hearing is to determine whether or not a crime occurred in Sumner County and whether or not the person charged with the crime probably or maybe committed the crime. One must remember that probable cause is a much lower burden of proof than the one required to prove someone's guilt, which is the burden of beyond a reasonable doubt. Therefore, most cases are bound over to the grand jury after a preliminary hearing.

If most cases end up bound over, then why would a defendant ever have a preliminary hearing? Why wouldn't a defendant simply waive the preliminary hearing and bind his or her case over the to the grand jury? The answer is that sometimes valuable information and/or sworn testimony can be learned from a preliminary hearing and this information can be utilized in a defendant's jury trial in Criminal Court at a later date. No defendant charged with a crime should ever attempt a preliminary hearing without an attorney. You don't know the rules of criminal procedure and the rules of evidence and consequentially you could make a crucial mistake during the hearing. This mistake could make it harder for your attorney to successfully take your case to trial in Criminal Court. Typically, even with an attorney, the defendant does not testify during a preliminary hearing. The defendant has a 5th Amendment right to remain silent and should remain silent unless advised to testify by their attorney.

If your case is bound over after a preliminary hearing or if you waive your preliminary hearing, then you will usually remain on the same bond that you previously posted. You will have to re-sign your bond and make sure that all of your bond information such as your address and phone number have not changed. You will be given your arraignment date in Criminal Court, which is the date that you will be formally indicted.

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