What is a Preliminary Hearing?

That is a very good question to ask your attorney if you are charged with a felony in Missouri. It is an important part of the felony proceedings. What is a preliminary hearing is a question that needs answering. Let me explain.

In Missouri there are two ways that felony cases begin. One is through an indictment. The other is by filing a complaint.

What is an Indictment?

An indictment is a charging document that is issued by a Grand Jury. In the Grand Jury the prosecutor present evidence to attempt to get the people serving as grand jurors to issue what is called a true bill. That is another word for indictment. That indictment is then filed with the Circuit Court and a warrant is issued for the arrest of the person indicted.

What is a Complaint?

The other way is for the prosecutor to file a complaint with the Associate Circuit Court. That complaint alleges that a crime, specifically a felony, was committed by the individual named in the complaint. A complaint is technically not a charge. That comes later.

After the complaint is filed, the defendant is allowed to have a preliminary hearing. That preliminary hearing takes place in the Associate Circuit Court. At the preliminary hearing the State must present enough evidence to show to the Judge that there is probable cause to believe that a felony was committed and that the defendant was involved.

What does “Bound Over” mean?

If the State is successful in meeting that burden, the case is bound over to the Circuit Court. That is where an Information is filed actually charging the defendant with a crime.

Can You Waive the Preliminary Hearing?

Many times the preliminary hearing is waived. That is not unusual. But the preliminary hearing can be a good way of learning more about what evidence the State has and how good the witnesses are.

There are times when the State will want to negotiate with the defendant about waiving the preliminary hearing in exchange for a better plea offer or even reducing the bond. Those situations have to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Get the Advice You Need

If you are charged with a felony, I can help you. Contact me. I believe in my clients being well informed about what is happening in their cases. I take the time to explain the law and the procedure so we can get the best possible result.