Drunk Driving:

Preliminary Hearing

The purpose of a DUI preliminary hearing is for the judge to determine whether or not there is enough evidence for the defendant to have to stand trial. Using the “probable cause” standard, the judge decides whether or not there is enough evidence to convince a jury that the defendant committed the crimes that he or she is charged with. At a preliminary hearing, the prosecution presents evidence of and witnesses to the crime. The defense is also allowed to present evidence and may cross-examine the prosecution’s witnesses. The goal of the prosecution is to, of course, get the case to move to trial. The defense, on the other hand, in addition to trying to get the case dismissed, may also work toward lessening the severity of the charges.

However, most DUI cases never reach the preliminary hearing stage. Often, the evidence for DUI cases is strong and the defendant will plead guilty during his or her arraignment. Also, preliminary hearing practices vary from state to state. Some states do not allow preliminary hearings for DUI cases unless it involves a felony charge. Some states use the “grand jury indictment” process. Here, a group of citizens is selected to decide whether, based on the evidence, the defendant will face trial. Finally, in a few cases, a plea bargain may be reached between the government and the defendant before the preliminary hearing stage.