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Understanding the preliminary hearing process

Facing criminal charges is a serious matter. Such charges may carry serious penalties, such as large fines and possible incarceration.

For those looking to fight criminal charges, the trial process is vital. Also, there are a few pre-trial elements to be aware of.

Preliminary hearing

As the name indicates, a preliminary hearing is a hearing that occurs before the case goes to a grand jury. It is important to note that this aspect of the trial process is not required; some prosecutors may skip it and proceed straight to the grand jury. However, if the judge does institute a preliminary hearing, both sides can present their sides of the case, along with any evidence or witness testimonies. If the prosecutor does not create a strong enough argument for the proposed charges, the judge may reduce the charges or issue a dismissal of the case altogether. On the other hand, if the prosecutor has a compelling case, it continues to the grand jury. 

Grand jury

The grand jury is a jury of the accused party's peers who review the case to determine if it is valid and should stand trial. The grand jury hears witness testimonies and reviews evidence, then votes to reach the final determination. Considering their similarities, it is understandable why many courts skip the preliminary hearing process and opt to advance straight to the grand jury hearing.

Plea bargaining

In some cases, parties may choose to pursue a plea bargain. Either side may suggest it, and both the prosecution and defendant must agree to the terms of the plea. However, it is important to note that the final determination must still come from the judge, even if both parties accept the plea bargain in lieu of trial. 

Going through the various aspects of a trial can be long and stressful, but understanding the process can aid parties in navigating it properly. It may also be beneficial to review the laws that apply to the case.

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