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One of the first and also the most important steps in the Florida criminal process is the preliminary hearing. A preliminary hearing is similar to a mini-trial before the trial. Preliminary hearings are used to determine whether there is sufficient probable cause to bring an individual to trial.
Probable cause is the standard for preliminary hearings, unlike a trial, where "beyond a reasonable doubt," is the standard. Probable cause is far less stringent.
In Florida, there are two types of preliminary hearings that serve similar purposes, nonadversarial and adversarial preliminary hearings.
If you or someone you know has been arrested in the Gainesville area for a felony or misdemeanor offense under Florida law, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
Galigani Law Firm represents clients charged with drug crimes and violent crimes, just to name a few, and both misdemeanor and felony cases in Starke, Lake Butler, Palatka, Oscala, Bronson, Trenton, or Lake City, FL. Our attorneys have experience counseling clients in the process of being charged with theft in Florida, and we work hard to get the best possible result.
With offices located on , just minutes from the University of Florida campus, we represent clients throughout the Gainesville Metropolitan Area including the surrounding counties like Bradford County, Union County, Putnam County, Gilchrist County, Levy County, Columbia County, and Marion County, Florida.
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When determining whether an individual may be brought to trial for a crime, the court looks at whether there was probable cause. Probable cause is twofold in these circumstances. Thus, the question is, under the totality of the circumstances, would a reasonable jury believe, (1) that a crime was committed, and (2) that the alleged defendant was the individual who committed the crime.
Many of the issues, facts, and evidence presented in preliminary hearings could also be brought out in a regular trial if the court does not dismiss the case.
Given that, the importance of the distinction between having probable cause to bring an individual to trial and meeting the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard cannot be understated.
Probable cause simply means that is reasonable to believe that a crime occurred. In other words, it is not so far out of the realm of possibility that no one would believe the crime took place.
Beyond a reasonable doubt, however, essentially means that if there is doubt in the minds of the jury as to the defendant's guilt, then he or she should not be convicted of the crime.
Preliminary hearings are important because if the prosecutor fails to show probable cause, then by definition, it cannot prove that the defendant committed the alleged crime "beyond a reasonable doubt." Thus, the State must drop the charges.
When a defendant is in custody, then a nonadversarial probable cause hearing must be held before a judge within forty-eight (48) hours from the time the defendant was arrested.
A defendant on pretrial release may also file a motion for a nonadversarial preliminary hearing for probable cause within twenty-one days of his or her arrest. The defendant must show that the pre-trial release conditions are a significant restraint on his or her freedom.
If a judge has already determined probable cause by issuing a warrant for that crime, then no nonadversarial proceeding will occur.
If a defendant has not been charged by an information (a charging document), or indictment (federal charging document), within twenty-one days (21) from the date when he or she was arrested, then he or she has the right to an adversarial preliminary hearing on a felony charge.
Adversarial preliminary hearings are more similar to trials in that both sides are able to call witnesses, present evidence, and make statements on the record before the court.
The preliminary hearing is the stage in the Florida criminal process where a defense attorney can truly argue to have his or her client's charges dropped. Having an experienced criminal defense attorney to explain these nonadversarial hearings and adversarial hearings will be invaluable if you or someone you know has found themselves being accused of a felony or misdemeanor crime.
The attorneys at Galigani Law Firm have handled multiple kinds of crimes, including misdemeanor or felonies under Florida law. We represent clients in the Gainesville Metropolitan area in surrounding areas like Starke, Lake City, Oscala, Trenton, Palatka, Bronson, or Lake Butler, FL.
With offices located on , just minutes from the University of Florida campus, we represent clients throughout the Gainesville Metropolitan Area including the surrounding counties like Levy County, Bradford County, Union County, Columbia County, Putnam County, Gilchrist County, and Marion County, Florida.
This article was last updated on Thursday, July 06, 2017.
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