The third possible stage in criminal court proceedings is the preliminary hearing. The preliminary hearing is not necessary if the defendant pleads guilty or no contest. The preliminary hearing must be held within 30 days of the arrest unless the suspect waives his or her rights' to a speedy trial.Defendants have the right to "pro se", or to legally represent themselves in this hearing.
A preliminary hearing is held in front of one judge, without a jury, and it will be held in open court. Open court is where people from the public are granted to watch. What will be conducted at this hearing is a determination of probable cause to the defendants case.
The prosecutor will possibly bring witnesses to the stand to be questioned. You the defendant will also be able to bring your own witnesses and testimonies to the stand during this stage. However, during the preliminary hearing the defendant does not have to prove his innocence. Rather, the prosecutor has to at least prove probable cause of your guilt. By the end of the hearing the judge will decide to dismiss the charges, reduce the charges filed against you, or will make you stand trial in front of a jury.
Thank you for reading, next week I will be covering an in depth look at the "trial" part of the criminal proceedings.