Do I Need a Lawyer for a Preliminary Hearing in Utah?

Salt Lake City criminal lawyer

The criminal justice system involves many different components, and, after you have been cited or arrested for a crime, there will be numerous court dates for different proceedings. One proceeding that is perhaps somewhat little know is what is called the preliminary hearing. Its lack of notoriety may be due to the fact that it is only a step in the process for felonies and class A misdemeanors, and even then it is often waived by the defendant. However, in some situations, this hearing can be a turning point in the case, especially if you have retained an experienced Salt Lake City criminal defense lawyer like those at Overson Law, PLLC who is able to aggressively cross-defense witnesses and to make a skillful argument that no probable cause existed for your arrest. Below, our lawyers explain what a preliminary hearing is and how counsel can assist your case at the preliminary hearing and beyond.

What is a Utah Preliminary Hearing?

In cases involving felonies or class A misdemeanors, such as aggravated assault and robbery, there will be an optional proceeding known as the preliminary hearing. This hearing will function sort of like a mini-trial, where the prosecution will have to put on their evidence and witnesses and your attorney will be given a chance at presenting a rebuttal and cross-examining any witnesses. The judge will then decide if there is enough there to constitute probable cause for the case to proceed.

How Can A Lawyer Help at a Preliminary Hearing in Utah?

You should always have counsel by the time of your preliminary hearing. Usually, the prosecutor will request your consent for the preliminary hearing to be waived. You should never consent to the waiver of this hearing without first consulting with an experienced Utah attorney for preliminary hearings like those at Overson Law, PLLC. While in some cases we may feel that the hearing will not be fruitful, in others where we feel the prosecution’s case is weak, it gives us a chance show the judge that the prosecutor’s case does not pass even the most basic smell test.

Through our years of training and experience, our skilled criminal defense attorneys understand how to make the most persuasive legal arguments at the preliminary hearing that probable cause does not exist to charge you with this crime based on the law and the particulars of your case.  If the judge agrees, the charges will be dropped and you will not have to waste months to years of your life fighting these charges at trial. If the judge believes there is probable cause to proceed, however, this does not mean you will be found guilty at trial, as the burden of prod will be higher and a jury may feel very differently than a judge. Furthermore, we will at least have had a chance to get a look at the prosecutor’s evidence, see how they are framing the case, and see how their witnesses hold up to cross-examination, which is all valuable information if the case ends up going to trial.

How Can a Lawyer Help after a Utah Preliminary Hearing?

Since the burden of proof at the preliminary hearing is much lower than it is at trial, most of the time the judge at this hearing will find probable cause to proceed. As noted above, however, this is far from the end of the defense our attorneys can wage on your behalf. If the judge finds probable cause, we will proceed to request any outstanding discovery from the prosecutor, file any motions, like motion to suppress evidence obtained as the result of an illegal search and seizure, and begin negotiations for a potential plea deal if this is something that you may be interested.

In some cases, depending on how serious of a crime you are charged with and whether or not this is your first offense, we may be able to convince the prosecutor to let you into a pre-trial diversion program for first-time offenders or to enter a plea in abeyance. A pre-trial diversion program might involve you complying with such components as mandatory drug and alcohol counseling, community service, or taking a defensive driving course in order for the charges to be dropped. A plea in abeyance is when you plead guilty on the condition that your plea will never be entered and your charges will be dropped if you stay out of further trouble for a certain period of time, usually up to a year. If you get charged with another crime, however, your plea will be entered and you will be sentenced for the first crime.

In some cases, there will be no offer of plea by abeyance or pre-trial diversion no matter how hard we advocate, such as when you have an extensive criminal record. However, there are other potential deals that we can negotiate with the prosecutor, such as the prosecutor downgrading your charge, like from murder to manslaughter, in exchange for you entering a guilty plea. The prosecutor may also offer to recommend a lenient sentence to the judge if you plead guilty and save the state the time and cost of trial. Of course, if you wish to take your case to trial, our skilled trial lawyers at Overson Law, PLLC will leave no stone unturned fighting for a not guilty verdict in the courtroom.

Call Our Skilled Utah Attorneys for a Preliminary Hearing Today

The preliminary hearing will not occur in all cases, but when it does occur, it can be a chance for you to get your charges dismissed without having to go through the time and expense of the full trial process. An experienced Park City criminal defense attorney like those at Overson Law, PLLC will know how to best use their time at the hearing to show that the prosecutor has not met their burden of showing that there is probable cause for these charges to proceed. Even if the judge finds probable cause, we can use what we learned at the preliminary hearing to work to get your charges downgraded or dismissed. For a free consultation, call our office today at (801) 758-2287.


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