Preliminary Hearing

Preliminary Hearing / Probable Cause Hearing

After a criminal felony complaint is filed by the district attorney, a short evidentiary hearing known as a "preliminary hearing" is held. There is no jury at a preliminary hearing—just a judge.

The prosecution must present enough evidence to the court to make the judge believe that there is probable cause to believe that a crime was committed and that the defendant committed it. If the prosecutor meets that burden, the judge "holds the defendant to answer" and the prosecution may then file an information.

If the prosecution fails to show probable cause, the judge will dismiss (or discharge) the complaint and the defendant is free to leave.