What is a Preliminary Hearing?

The purpose of a preliminary hearing, or “probable cause” hearing, is to determine if there is sufficient reason to suspect that a crime has been committed, and that you are the one that committed it.  In Mississippi, these hearings are governed by Uniform Rule of Circuit and County Court Practice 6.04, and they are usually conducted in Municipal or Justice courts.  These hearings usually happen soon after you are arrested for a felony offense.

If, after seeing and hearing the available evidence, the judge finds enough to suspect you of committing the crime, then you will be “bound over” to await the action of the grand jury.  What does that mean?  It means that you will have to wait a little while.  If you are in custody, and can’t get a bond, then you are stuck until the next time the grand jury meets.  In some counties the grand jury meets frequently.  In other counties you may have to wait several months.

People get confused and assume that the preliminary hearing is their trial, because sometimes it looks like a trial.  But it is important to remember that a preliminary hearing is not a determination of guilt or innocence.  It is merely a procedural right that you have, and most of the time you and your lawyer should take advantage of the opportunity to find out certain things about your case.

Six things to expect at your preliminary hearing:

  1. Preliminary hearings are shorter than trials.
  2. There will not be a jury at your preliminary hearing, only a judge.
  3. The prosecution’s goal is to show “probable cause” at this hearing, not to get a conviction.
  4. You probably won’t testify at this hearing.  Try to resist the urge to tell your side.  There will be a better chance to do that later.
  5. The preliminary hearing is not a finding of fact.  It is very rare that a case is over at the conclusion of a preliminary hearing.
  6. The ultimate goal of you and your attorney at your preliminary hearing is to find out as much about your case as you can.

If you or a family member have been arrested, or are under investigation in the state of Mississippi and you need help, give me a call at 601-991-1099. If you live outside of Jackson, Mississippi, call my Toll-Free Line at 866-991-1555.  Or you can e-mail me at clarence@guthriefirm.com.