criminal court records
A preliminary hearing is an additional step in the legal process required in felony cases. Often referred to as a probably cause hearing, a preliminary examination or simply a PX, this proceeding is conducted by a superior court judge before a felony case can go to trial.
In California, a preliminary hearing must be held within 10 days of a person's arraignment on a felony criminal charge (unless the defendant waives this right and agrees to a delay).
At the preliminary hearing the district attorney's office presents witnesses, often police officers, who describe the evidence in the case against the accused. The attorney for the defendant has the right to cross-examine the witnesses.
If the judge then decides there is significant evidence in the case and probable cause exists to believe a crime was committed and the defendant was responsible, the defendant is "held to answer" on the charges and "bound over" for trail.
This means the defendant with be arraigned again, the prosecutor will file an "information" re-stating the charges, and the case then will be set for possible trial. The trial must occur within 60 days of the defendant's original arraignment, unless the defendant waives this right (which is common).
If the judge rules at the preliminary hearing that there is insufficient evidence for the defendant to be held to answer on felony charges, then the case is dismissed (which is relatively rare).
Whatever the outcome, a transcript of the preliminary hearing will be filed in the court case.
This transcript of the preliminary hearing thus can provide a good summary of the prosecution's case against a defendant.
Sample Prelminary Hearing Transcripts
- Kobe Bryant sexual assault case - Smoking Gun website (the case against Bryant was later dismissed)