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Probable Cause Hearings

The Official Version

The official purpose of a probable cause hearing is for the judge to determine whether (1) a crime was probably committed, and (2) the person accused probably committed the crime.

When a person is accused of a felony, the matter often starts out at the lower (district) court level for preliminary hearings. At arraignment, the court will determine bail and conditions that will stay in place until the Probable Cause Hearing. If the court determines that there is probable cause, then the case will be transferred to the Superior Court for indictment.

The hearing can be used for several purposes. If there is an issue involving bail, such as a “no contact” provision or bail set to high, that issue can be addressed in a variety of ways during a probable cause hearing.

The police evidence regarding probable cause can be challenged during the hearing. If the police are unable to provide the judge with evidence to show that a crime was probably committed and the accused probably committed it, then the case will be temporarily dismissed. These are often hollow victories, however, since the charges can be brought back if more evidence is obtained.

Examine the Admissibility of the Evidence

If there are suppression issues, the probable cause hearing can be used, both to investigate those issues with the officer involved, and to lock them into a detailed statement that can be used for a later motion to suppress.

Explore Opportunities for the Best Outcome

Probable cause hearings, however, are most often used to attempt to reach agreement with the prosecutor on some (or all) issues in the case. Prior to the probable cause hearing, there is almost always some discussion between the attorney and the prosecutor regarding resolution of the case at the district court (misdemeanor) level before the case is transferred over to the superior court for felony prosecution. If the client and the prosecutor are unable to reach agreement on the overall case, the attorney will usually try to gain some agreement on some aspect of the case before it goes to the superior court. These discussions also often result in the client receiving “early discovery” in exchange for a waiver of the hearing.

Detailed Understanding Early

We will first need to examine the discovery and investigate the case. We have investigators and experts available for all types of issues. We will obtain the discovery early and investigate the allegations. Once we have enough information, we will have a more clear idea of the evidence that the police have and determine the position we are working from. We will then schedule a meeting to discuss the status of the case and prepare for the probable cause hearing.

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