The criminal justice system in Utah is complicated, and there are many different court proceedings that can and might occur after you have been charged with a crime. While you may be familiar with certain events like the trial and the bail hearing, you are less likely to be familiar with other, more obscure proceedings if you have no prior experience with the criminal justice system. If you are charged with a felony or a class A misdemeanor, one of the proceedings you may not be aware of is the optional preliminary hearing, which functions as a sort of mini-trial.
At Overson Law, PLLC, our battle-tested Salt Lake City preliminary hearing attorneys have years of experience successfully working with clients in Salt Lake City and across the state to make their case at the preliminary hearing. If our arguments are successful, the charges against you will be dropped. Even if we lose at this hearing, we will have many more chances to help you work out a deal to get your charges downgraded or dismissed. For a free consultation, call us today at (801) 758-2287.
When a Preliminary Hearing Occurs in Salt Lake City Criminal Court
The preliminary hearing occurs after your initial appearance and bail hearing, and is only a step in the case process for those charged with felonies or class A misdemeanors, so none of this applies if you are charged with a lower misdemeanor or an infraction. Furthermore, while the preliminary hearing is automatic in the sense that you are not required to affirmatively request it, it is waivable, and usually the prosecutor will ask the defendant to waive it. This is why it is vital to contact a skilled Salt Lake City preliminary hearing attorneys like those at Overson Law, PLLC as soon after your arrest as possible, so we can be sure you do not waive this hearing before consulting with us about whether or not it may be beneficial in your case. In some cases, even if we feel that we will probably not prevail at the preliminary hearing, we may still want to have it so we can get a sort of “preview” of the prosecutor’s evidence, witnesses, and theory of the case that could ultimately give us a leg up at trial.
What Happens at a Salt Lake City Preliminary Hearing
The preliminary hearing itself essentially functions as a mini-trial, where the prosecution will have to convince the judge that there is probable cause for the charges against you to proceed. The standard is much lower than at a trial, but it still provides a way for ferret out cases at an early point in the process that simply do not pass the smell test. In order to prove their case, the prosecution will submit evidence and call on witnesses to testify, including the arresting officer in most cases. In turn, your attorney will have a chance to challenge the evidence and cross-examine the witnesses. As mentioned above, this can be a valuable experience even if we ultimately lose at the preliminary hearing, as, if the prosecutor sees that their witness does not perform well on the stand, they may be more inclined to make a deal. Further, it can help us with trial strategy.
Our veteran Salt Lake City preliminary hearing attorneys at Overson Law, PLLC will advise you as to whether or not we believe waiving the preliminary hearing might be a good idea, such as in cases where the prosecutor has offered or is likely to offer a deal and we do not want to antagonize them by making them go through this time-consuming process. In other cases, we will use our experience and judgment developed over years of these hearings to make the most persuasive argument to the judge that the prosecutor has not met their burden of showing that probable cause exists for the case to proceed. If the judge agrees and finds that the prosecutor has not shown probable cause, the case against you will be dismissed.
What Happens After the Preliminary Hearing in Salt Lake City
If the judge finds probable cause exists, as is usually the case, or if we choose to waive the preliminary hearing, felony cases will continue to a formal arraignment where you will enter your initial plea of guilty or not guilty. This occurs at the initial appearance in class A misdemeanor cases. Our attorneys are likely to advise you to enter an initial plea of not guilty while we request all of the evidence from the prosecutor and assess the strength of the case against you. Then, we will file any necessary motions, like a motion to suppress illegally-obtained evidence, and begin working with the prosecutor to try to get your charges downgraded or dismissed.
For those with limited criminal records or who are first-time offenders, we may be able to get you a plea in abeyance or into a pre-trial diversion program, both of which end with your charges being dropped if you successfully complete the court’s requirements. Other deals could include the prosecutor agreeing to downgrade the charges, like from a felony to a misdemeanor, in exchange for you pleading guilty, or the prosecutor agreeing to recommend a lenient sentence to the judge. If you are not interested in a deal or not satisfied with the deal offered, our skilled trial attorneys at Overson Law, PLLC are always ready and willing to fight for a not guilty verdict in the courtroom.
Call Our Veteran Salt Lake City Preliminary Hearing Attorneys Today
If you have been charged with a class A misdemeanor or a felony, the preliminary hearing can be a great chance to test the strength of the state’s case against you and get charges that do not pass the smell test dismissed without having to go through the time and cost of a trial. At Overson Law, PLLC, our battle-tested Salt Lake City preliminary hearing attorneys have years of experience fighting for our clients at this hearing and beyond. We will leave no stone unturned fighting to get your charges downgraded or dismissed. Call us today at (801) 758-2287 for a free consultation.