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What Comes After the Preliminary Hearing?

Understanding the Criminal Justice Process

Preliminary hearings are critical in the criminal justice process. The Constitution of the State of Illinois states that “no person shall be held to answer for a crime punishable by death or by imprisonment in the penitentiary” unless “the person has been given a prompt preliminary hearing to establish probable cause.

Held after an arraignment (where a person makes a not guilty or guilty plea), this proceeding is where the judge decides whether there’s enough evidence to proceed to trial. If a person has already been arrested, a preliminary hearing is the stage where the judge determines if there was probable cause for the person’s arrest.

What Happens During Preliminary Hearing?

During a preliminary hearing, the prosecutors present evidence against the defendant to demonstrate probable cause—a reasonable suspicion backed by evidence—that the defendant committed the crime charged. Witnesses may be called to testify, physical evidence can be scrutinized, and both sides are given the opportunity to argue their positions. However, unlike a full criminal trial, the rules of evidence are often less stringent, allowing for some hearsay.

A skilled criminal defense attorney from Hirsch Law Group will work to contest the government’s indictment or persuade the court that probable cause is lacking. It’s a delicate dance of questioning witnesses, including law enforcement, and challenging the information presented.

The burden of proof in these court proceedings, known as a probable cause hearing, is significantly lower than at trial. No conviction can be made here, but a decision by the judge can change the trajectory—the charges may be dismissed, reduced, or altered. The case may proceed to either a grand jury for an indictment or straight to a criminal trial.

Navigating the criminal justice process requires extensive legal knowledge and litigation experience. As your defense counsel, we are committed to guiding and representing you at any and all stages of this process.

After the Preliminary Hearing: What’s Next?

The preliminary hearing’s aftermath can be as divergent as the cases presented. A judge may determine there is unconvincing or insufficient evidence and dismiss the case. Alternatively, the evidence might suggest that a reduction of charges is warranted. Often, though, if probable cause is found, the case is bound for trial.

If the judge decides to charge a person formally, the court will set a date for their formal arraignment. A trial judge is assigned to hear the case and determine the accused’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

In scenarios where guilt appears incontestable, the parties may enter into plea negotiations to possibly mitigate potential penalties. A plea agreement

Preparing for Possible Trial

If a trial looms, the bulk of the work of the defense lawyer. Evidence such as police reports and CCTV footage are gathered, and witnesses are located and scrutinized. Your criminal lawyer will also prepare to cross-examine witnesses of the prosecution.

Bail and Bond Considerations

After the hearing, bail may be revisited. The conditions of release hinge on various factors, from the nature of the crime to the defendant’s ties to the community. If you or your loved one is unable to post bail, we can discuss alternatives such as surety bonds or release on their own recognizance. We will provide guidance to secure our clients’ release with as much ease as the law permits.

Legal Strategies After the Hearing

In the wake of the hearing, strategic legal maneuvers are imperative. From challenging the prosecution’s evidence to brokering plea bargains, our focus turns to altering the trajectory of the case in our client’s favor. Leveraging insights from the preliminary hearing, we customize defense strategies tailored to our client’s unique case.

Your Rights and Next Steps

Section 8 of Article I of the Bill of Rights under the Constitution of the State of Illinois enumerates the rights of the accused after an indictment or preliminary hearing. They are:

  • The right to appear and defend in person

  • The right to be represented by counsel

  • The right to demand the nature and cause of the accusation against them

  • The right to confront the witnesses

  • The right to compel the attendance of witnesses

  • The right to a speedy public trial

  • The right to an impartial jury

How Hirsch Law Group Can Help

At Hirsch Law Group, we understand the gravity of this phase and the impact it has on your life. Each step should be approached with a clear, strategic plan tailored just for you. We stand ready to provide that guidance and advocate for your rights with the professionalism this adversarial proceeding demands.

Should you have questions or need assistance with your criminal case, do not hesitate to reach out to us for personalized legal advice. Remember, the steps you take after a preliminary hearing are critical. From calling witnesses to presenting evidence and delivering your closing arguments, we will stand beside you. Contact us today to set up an appointment.

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens after a preliminary hearing?

After a preliminary hearing, if the magistrate finds probable cause, the defendant will be held to answer the charges. This transition into the criminal justice process involves several steps:

  1. Arraignment: The criminal defendant is formally charged and enters a plea—guilty, not guilty, or no contest.

  2. Trial Preparation: Both the prosecution and defense prepare their cases, which might include filing motions and conducting discovery.

  3. Jury Selection (for a jury trial): A group of peers is chosen to hear the case.

  4. Trial: Evidence is presented by both sides, and the jury (or judge in a bench trial) makes a determination about guilt.

  5. Verdict: The jury or judge delivers a verdict of guilty or not guilty.

  6. Sentencing: If found guilty beyond reasonable doubt, the judge will determine the punishment.

  7. Appeal: The defendant can appeal the conviction to a higher court.

Is bail returned after a preliminary hearing?

Bail may continue to be held to ensure the defendant’s appearance at further proceedings, especially if the case is bound over for trial.

Can charges be dismissed after a preliminary hearing?

Yes, if the judge finds insufficient evidence, the charges may be dismissed.

What if new evidence is found after a preliminary hearing?

New evidence could lead to a re-trial or affect the current trial strategy. Legal advice is crucial in such scenarios.