Preliminary Hearing

Preliminary Hearing

preliminary hearing
Photo by Tracie Hall

Preliminary hearings are granted to every person charged with a felony. A preliminary hearing is the second step in the criminal process after the initial appearance. At the hearing, a court commissioner hears the case instead of a judge. The prosecutor must present evidence to show that you probably committed a felony or felonies in the county in which you are charged.


Not looking for reasonable doubt

The standard at a preliminary hearing is not beyond a reasonable doubt, like it is at trial. Instead, the standard is merely whether you probably committed a felony. This is a very low standard for the prosecutor to meet. Also, hearsay is admissible at a preliminary hearing. Hearsay is generally not admissible at a trial. (See this article discussing the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s decision to allow hearsay at preliminary hearings for more info.)

Experienced lawyers make a difference

A preliminary hearing is a valuable hearing for criminal defense lawyers and can be used effectively to discover weaknesses in the prosecutor’s case or to discover facts that may support your defenses. Many inexperienced criminal lawyers waive preliminary hearings. This is often a mistake because waiving the preliminary hearing wastes a valuable opportunity to cross-examine the prosecutor’s witnesses and to possibly dismiss the case or have any felony charges against you amended to misdemeanor charges.

If the prosecutor does not present sufficient evidence at the hearing your case will be dismissed. Also, if the prosecutor presents evidence that you committed a misdemeanor rather than a felony the court commissioner should amend the felony charge against you to a misdemeanor charge. However, your lawyer must request that the charge be dismissed or amended to a misdemeanor. If your lawyer does not request dismissal or amendment the charges against you will stand. Waiving the preliminary hearing waives your ability to argue that the case against you should be dismissed or amended to a misdemeanor charge.

Changing Your Bond

The preliminary hearing also presents an opportunity to argue for a lower amount of bond or to argue for less restrictive conditions of bond. The court commissioner who presides at the preliminary hearing has the authority to lower the amount of your bond or to remove conditions from your bond. So if you are in custody it is important that your lawyer request a lower cash bond so you can get out of jail. Also, if a condition of your bond is making your life difficult, your lawyer should request that the condition should be removed or amended to make it easier for you to follow. Many criminal defense lawyers miss this golden opportunity to lower your bond or remove restrictive conditions of bond.

Free consultation with an experienced lawyer on your preliminary hearing

Contact preliminary hearing lawyer Christopher Glinski at (262) 632-1555 for a free consultation on criminal defense cases. Don’t risk hiring an inexperienced preliminary hearing lawyer and miss out on an opportunity to cross-examine the prosecutor’s witnesses and lower the amount of your bond.

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