Preliminary Examinations in Michigan District Courts are best described in MCL 766.4. A Preliminary Examination is best described as a mini trial. At this hearing, the prosecutor will be required to show that there is probable cause that the charged crime was committed and that it is more likely than not that the accused committed that crime. It is important to remember at this stage of the criminal proceedings; it is the prosecutor’s burden of proof. This means that the prosecutor through the evidence they present must show that probable cause exists. It is important to have an experienced criminal defense attorney at this hearing. This is because the accused’s criminal defense attorney will have an opportunity to cross-examine the prosecutions witnesses.
After the Preliminary Examination hearing the District Court Judge will make a ruling. He or she will either find that probable cause exists and will “bind over” the defendant to Circuit Court for Trial. If the District Court Judge determines that probable cause does not exist against the defendant, upon motion of the defendant’s criminal defense attorney, the charges will be dismissed. Often, some but not all charges are dismissed, and some charges are bound over for trial. Being bound over for trial at Circuit Court does not mean you have been convicted of a crime, nor does it mean that a trial will automatically take place. Being bound over for trial simply means that, there is probable cause that a crime was committed and that the accused is the person who committed it.
The defendant also has the ability to waive the Preliminary Examination and forgo having this hearing. This means that witnesses will not have to testify, and the prosecution does not have to meet their burden in open court. This is essentially consenting to binding the case over to Circuit Court for Trial. There are advantages and disadvantages of holding a preliminary examination or waiving your rights to a preliminary examination. Waiving any rights in the criminal justice system should only be done after careful consideration and review by an experienced criminal defense attorney.
It is extremely important to have the best representation by an experienced criminal defense attorney at the Preliminary Examination Hearing phase of a felony in Macomb, Oakland, or Wayne County. An experienced criminal defense attorney will know what questions to ask the prosecutors and witnesses, will know what arguments to make on the defendant’s behalf, and understand burden of proof the prosecutor holds and how to aggressively attack their position.
If you or someone you know is charged with a felony, you will have the right to a Preliminary Examination. Do not wait to get an experienced criminal defense attorney involved in your case. At DeMatteis and Ricciardello, PLLC we are ready to defend the rights of the criminally accused every step of the way