What is a Preliminary Hearing in SC

What is a Preliminary Hearing in SC

Today we’re talking about preliminary hearings. What are they and why they’re important? Hi, my name is Dale Savage, and I’m a criminal defense attorney here in Charleston, South Carolina.

Anyone arrested for a general sessions offense in South Carolina may request a preliminary hearing provided you do it in time. These hearings are important from a criminal defense point of view because they typically represent the first time that your attorney can actively participate in the case.

So what is a preliminary hearing? A preliminary hearing is a request where you’re asking the state to prove that they have established probable cause to make the arrest in the case. Probable cause is a reasonable belief that a crime was committed and that the person arrested is the one who did it.

How do preliminary hearings work?

Because the state has the burden of proof of establishing that probable cause, they get to go first. They would typically call a witness in the case, which will either be the arresting officer or the lead investigator. That person will then take the stand and will be sworn under oath by a judge. They will then present the evidence in the case to establish probable cause for the arrest. Now, this typically means that they won’t present all the evidence in the case but just enough to establish that probable cause for the arrest. Once that officer’s finished testifying, then your defense attorney will have a chance to cross examine that officer on the evidence that they’ve just presented in that hearing.

After the testimony is complete, your defense attorney will typically make a motion to dismiss the lack of probable cause or that probable cause was established but for a lesser offense. A judge will make one of two decisions that will leave the state that they found probable cause and that the case will then proceed forward to the grand jury and general sessions. If no probable cause is found, then the case is dismissed. However, this doesn’t mean that the case is done forever. The state may still go ahead and prosecute you for the same offense by what’s called a direct indictment.

Charleston Criminal Defense Attorney

From a criminal defense point of view, preliminary hearings are important because your lawyer gets to hear the main point of the case and possibly any weaknesses. Most importantly, you get to cross examine the officer, and the only other time that that will happen is during trial. So for that reason alone, preliminary hearings can be vital to your case. So if you’d like to learn more about preliminary hearings, please give me a call at 8435307813. I hope this video was helpful and thanks for watching.

Scroll to Top