When you are charged with a criminal offense a preliminary hearing is the initial court hearing normally held the magistrate's office where the offense occurred. In Lancaster County certain preliminary hearings are held downtown at the courthouse (DUI's and domestic violence cases). The arresting officer will file the the criminal charges. The District Attorney's Office will prosecute those charges by offering evidence against you. Evidence can take the form of testimony from witnesses, scientific testing, and statements made to the police. A preliminary hearing does not determine guilt or innocence. Instead, the purpose of a preliminary hearing is to determine whether there is enough evidence for the case to move forward. If so, the case will move downtown to "big court". If they can not, your attorney can make a motion to dismiss. At that point the case may be over for good. But not always.
You have the right to be represented by an attorney at your preliminary hearing. Your attorney will be able to explain to you the charges, what form of punishment you may be facing (probation or prison) and make arguments on your behalf. A preliminary hearing will provide your attorney with an important opportunity to analyze the evidence against you and begin to formulate a strong legal defense. In addition, your attorney may be able to negotiate a lighter sentence or a reduction of charges. Your legal options may depend on matters such as your prior criminal record and the seriousness of the offense. As you may imagine, a petty theft and an aggravated assault carry very different penalties. An experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney will be able to help guide you through the process.
Our firm has been handling criminal cases for over a decade in Lancaster County and beyond. We frequently go to York, Daughin, Lebanon, Berks and Cumberland counties.
A criminal charge can be life altering. Loss of sleep, embarassment and even the fear of losing your job are very real consequences that our clients want to discuss. It is important these matters are known early on in the legal process.
Call today to discuss your charges with an experienced criminal defense attorney before your preliminary hearing.