Evidentiary Hearings Determine If Criminal Cases Go to Trial

Before a court in California authorizes a criminal case for trial, the prosecutor will prepare an evidentiary hearing. This hearing also goes by the name preliminary hearing. A judge will evaluate the evidence presented by the prosecutor to determine if a crime occurred and if you appear to be responsible for it. The possibility exists that a judge will dismiss the case if the evidence seems too weak for the state to invest resources in a trial.

Convincing a judge of probable cause

During an evidentiary hearing, the prosecutor explains to the judge why you should be prosecuted for the alleged crime. This is known as probable cause, and the prosecutor bears the burden of persuading the judge of this opinion. The prosecutor may call witnesses who testify under oath and present other evidence that links you to the crime.

Defense attorney’s role at evidentiary hearing

Defense attorneys rarely call witnesses for the defense at an evidentiary hearing. Doing so might prematurely alert the prosecutor to defense arguments that the defense counsel plans to use should your case proceed to trial.

The evidentiary hearing is not an opportunity to prove your innocence. The trial provides the venue for that. However, a defense attorney may question witnesses called by the prosecutor for the purpose of casting doubt on the strength of the evidence. Such an effort might cause the judge to believe that the prosecution has a weak case unworthy of a trial.

Preparing for court

The evidentiary hearing could provide an opportunity for you to avoid a trial if the judge dismisses the case. A case dismissal does not represent a decision regarding innocence or guilt. The decision simply ends the case due to insufficient evidence. Before appearing at your arraignment or evidentiary hearing, legal insights about criminal law defense could improve your legal position. When people speak with defense attorneys, they hope to gain a greater understanding about the strength of the evidence and how they should plea.