The purpose of a Preliminary Hearing is to establish reasonable cause that a crime occurred and that the defendant committed it. The victim is present to testify at the hearing. The defendant and his attorney
are present. The District Attorney questions the victim about the crime. The defendant's attorney can then cross-examine the victim. After hearing the testimony, the Judge makes one of the following decisions:
- Reasonable cause exists, and the case can be presented to the Grand Jury.
- Reasonable cause exists, but the elements of a felony charge do not. The charge may be reduced to a misdemeanor.
- Further proceedings will take place in the local criminal court, or
- Reasonable cause does not exist, and the charges will be dismissed.
For various legal reasons, sometimes the preliminary hearing is not held, and the case is presented to the Grand Jury. Or, in some jurisdictions, the Early Resolution Hearing replaces the Preliminary Hearing.
Preliminary hearings occur within 10 days of arrest (or longer if defendant out of jail on bond) in some jurisdictions.