A Preliminary Hearing is held to determine whether there is enough evidence for a case to move forward toward trial. They are scheduled automatically in most criminal cases, including DUIs. The district justice presiding over the hearing will consider the evidence presented by the district attorney and decide whether there is probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed and that the defendant committed it. If the district justice finds that there is probable cause, the case will be "bound over" and proceed to trial. If not, the charges against the defendant will be dropped. Preliminary hearings are important because they provide defendants with an opportunity to challenge the evidence against them and ensure that their rights are protected.
Preliminary hearings serve an important role in our criminal justice system. They provide defendants with an opportunity to hear the evidence against them and decide whether to waive their right to a trial by jury. In some cases, defendants may choose to waive their Preliminary Hearing in order to avoid the cost and stress of a hearing. In other cases, they may believe that the evidence against them is overwhelming and that a conviction is inevitable. Often the District Attorney will make an offer to resolve the matter in such a fashion as to incentivize the Defendant to waive the hearing. Regardless of the reason, defendants who waive their Preliminary Hearing must be aware that they are giving up a valuable opportunity to challenge the evidence against them, though the District Attorney is not required to disclose all of the evidence against a him or her at the Prelim.
If you have recently been charged with a crime you likely have a Preliminary Hearing scheduled in the very near future. You should seek the advice of legal counsel ASAP as your entire life may be impacted by what happens there.