After the arraignment, the plaintiff's lawyer tries to allow the defendant to enter into a plea bargain. If the defendant admits one or more of the charges, then the court can speed up the process for the decision. However, if the defendant pleads not guilty; then a preliminary hearing will follow.
Preliminary hearing is the stage wherein the judge examines if there are sufficient evidence to have the defendant face trial. The judge determines if the "probable cause" is established. This standard helps the court decide whether the government has substantial evidence to let the defendant face the charges.
What happens in a preliminary hearing
The judge hears the arguments from the prosecutor or plaintiff's attorney and the defendant's attorney. The plaintiff's attorney will use the testimony of witnesses and present evidence to prove the wrongful or negligent act of the defendant. The prosecutor will have to persuade the judge that the case deserves a trial.
The defendant's attorney will cross-examine the prosecutor's witnesses and question the credibility and sufficiency of the evidence. The defense should be convincing enough for the judge to dismiss the opportunity for a trial.
Some states conduct preliminary hearing only for felony charges. Other states prefer a "grand jury indictment", in which a group of qualified citizens decide if the case deserves trial. If the defendant enter into a plea agreement and admits the charges prior to preliminary hearing, this stage can be skipped.
After the preliminary hearing, the plaintiff's attorney and the defendant's attorney will argue on which evidence and whose witnesses should be considered for the trial. The defendant tries to nullify or question the sufficiency of the evidence, convincing the court that the case deserves dismissal.
Pre-trial motions set the limitation for trial. It screens the presented witness statements and physical evidence. The court determines if the defendant deserves to face trial through the sufficiency of the evidence.
Point of argument for Pre-trial motions:
1. Drug paraphernalia solicited from an illegal search
2. Exclude the defendant's answer to a police officer who failed to consider his Miranda's rights.
3. The witness has been suffering from a mental illness and such statement cannot be considered as credible.
4. The police officer has no probable cause and the plaintiff has no sufficient evidence to prove the allegation against the defendant.
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