If you’re facing criminal charges in Missouri, you’re entitled to due process, which means that your case must be adjudicated in accordance with criminal justice laws, and the court must respect all your rights throughout proceedings. During a particular phase, you must appear in court for a preliminary hearing. When your goal is to build a strong criminal defense, it’s helpful to learn about hearings and trials, so that you know what to expect and what options you have at your disposal to help mitigate your circumstances.
A preliminary hearing is like a trial in several ways, although it is also distinctly different regarding certain issues. A preliminary hearing is similar to a trial because prosecutors can put witnesses on the stand to question them. The defendant’s attorney may cross-examine such witnesses just as he or she would in a trial. Preliminary hearings are also like mini trials because one may present evidence to the court.
There’s a significant difference between preliminary hearings and trials
Regarding evidence, this is where a preliminary hearing differs from a trial. In a preliminary hearing, all evidence is admissible, no matter what. In a trial, a defense attorney might challenge a portion or all of the evidence against a client on various grounds, such as citing that a personal rights violation occurred when police conducted a search or seizure.
If the judge is convinced that a personal rights violation took place, he or she may prohibit the evidence in question. In a preliminary hearing, you may even present evidence that would otherwise not be admissible at a trial, which could have a markedly negative impact on a defendant’s case.
If you’re a defendant, you can waive your right to a preliminary hearing
A preliminary hearing is part of due process. You have the right to this time in court. If the judge determines that prosecutors lack sufficient evidence to try you for a crime, then your case could stop right there when the judge dismisses charges. However, if the judge overseeing proceedings is convinced that there’s enough evidence to put you on trial, then your case will move on to the next phase.
As a defendant, you can waive the preliminary hearing, which is essentially agreeing to move your case forward to a trial. You might choose to do this for numerous reasons. There is no penalty for waiving a preliminary hearing.
Preparing for criminal proceedings
Facing criminal charges in Missouri may have both an immediate and long-term impact on your life. Depending on your situation, you might have a lot at stake, including your freedom. It’s wise to learn as much as you can about criminal defense, especially to explore options that might help you achieve a positive outcome in court.