The Importance of Having a Lawyer at Preliminary Hearings

Whether you hire a Tower Attorney or not, it’s important to have a lawyer at your preliminary hearing. Here’s why:

After your arrest and bond hearing, your case is usually scheduled for a preliminary hearing. In Cook County, this scheduling is usually a formality to keep the process moving. Although a hearing has been scheduled, it often does not take place be had the state opts to have the case indicted by a grand jury.

If, however, a preliminary hearing is held, the judge is looking to answer two questions: 1) has the state satisfactorily presented evidence that a crime has been committed? and 2) is there reason to believe the person accused of the crime in fact committed the crime?
So, the state has the burden to set forth evidence to affirmatively answer both questions through witnesses, typically law enforcement and sometimes victims.
Unlike an actual trial where you’ve got to be found guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt” the evidentiary burden or burden of proof in a preliminary hearing is much lower. Judges have to determine that it’s more likely than not that both a crime has been committed and that the accused probably had something to do with it.
If you’re caught in the crosshairs of the criminal justice system the preliminary hearing process provides little if any comfort. However, as mentioned above, it’s paramount to have an attorney, even a public defender, present to question the state’s witnesses and memorialize their version of events.
This is an important part of the process. If the defendant wins the preliminary hearing, the judge says there is no probable cause for the charges, and usually the case is After the arrest and bond hearing, the case is usually scheduled for a preliminary hearing. In many counties this scheduling is a formality to keep the process moving. Although a hearing has been scheduled, it often does not take place, since the case is likely to be indicted by a grand jury. That will be discussed in the next section.
If a preliminary hearing is held, and they are typically held in Cook County for drug cases, it will proceed in the following fashion:
A judge hears evidence to determine two matters. First, was a crime committed? Second, is there reason to believe the person accused committed this crime? For this purpose the state presents witnesses, and the defense has the right to ask questions of the state’s witnesses. These witnesses provide evidence to the judge on the two issues above. The standard of proof is much lower than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” that exists at a trial, the question before the judge at a preliminary hearing is simply whether the answer to the two questions is more likely true.
If the defendant wins the preliminary hearing they are free to go and the charges are usually not pursued again.
However, even if the defendant loses the hearing, an experienced lawyer can bring out very important evidence. The chance to ask the police officers questions while they are under oath is to the defense. A record is kept of the hearing including the officer’s testimony. This record can be used later in defending the case in many ways. It is important to have a lawyer for this hearing.

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