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Preliminary Hearing 101

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It's important to have counsel for the preliminary hearing

By Attorney Elisabeth Pasqualini, Criminal Law Division Leader, Harrisburg, PA

Once you've been cited or arrested for a crime, the next procedure you will face is the preliminary hearing.  Once bail has been set, in the case of a misdemeanor or felony offense, you will be given a notice of when and where to attend a preliminary hearing.  A preliminary hearing is the first court appearance where the charges filed against you will have to be proven by the Commonwealth or the officer.

A preliminary hearing is not designed to establish your guilt of an offense.  It is designed to establish if there is a prima facie (pronounced: Pri-ma Fash-ee) case against you.  This amounts to a probable cause showing.  Is there some evidence that a crime(s) occurred and is there some evidence that you committed the crime(s)?

A magisterial district judge hears the case against you.  They are not lawyers, but have to attend a school for guidance.  It is important to have counsel there to represent you.  It is the first place that a deal can be negotiated to lessen the charges.  Or, it could be the place where the charges are dismissed for lack of evidence.  In either event, you only get one shot.

If you've been cited or arrested, you will need competent counsel to represent you at the preliminary hearing.  Contact the attorneys at Shaffer & Engle Law Offices, LLC for a review of your case.  You may call us toll free or email us.

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