Criminal Procedure: Lesson III

In Lesson 3, you as the client will find yourself at your Preliminary Hearing. This hearing is one of your Constitutional protections as an American citizen.

The Constitutional Protection is that the Commonwealth must establish evidence that a crime has been committed and evidence that the client is the one who did the crime before the case proceeds. The determination is whether the Commonwealth can establish a Prima Facie

case. Here is the definition of that term from the website

prima facie

: (pry-mah fay-shah) adj. Latin for “at first look,” or “on its face,” referring to a lawsuit or criminal prosecution in which the evidence before trial is sufficient to prove the case unless there is substantial contradictory evidence presented at trial. A prima facie case presented to a Grand Jury by the prosecution will result in an indictment.

Example: in a charge of bad check writing, evidence of a half dozen checks written on a non-existent bank account makes it a prima facie case. However, proof that the bank had misprinted the account number on the checks might disprove the prosecution’s apparent “open and shut” case.

The short answer to “What does this mean?” is that although this is not a trial, the District Magistrate for the Commonwealth needs to present evidence that establishes each element of the crime charged.
The District Magistrate does not have to prove that the client has committed the crime like the Commonwealth would have to at trial. Whether you as the client has a defense to the alleged criminal charges is also not relevant at this point.
The reason for this is that the District Magistrate is only viewing the evidence as to whether the Commonwealth has evidence to establish each element of a crime.
This hearing is also the place where bail can be argued for the client.
In addition, I use this hearing to talk with local District Attorney to determine their position on the case. In certain cases, a client should have a hearing – like in sexual assault cases or domestic violence cases.
In other cases where the presenting evidence is from Police Officer, the hearing may not be necessary. In some cases, a hearing is waived to enter into some sort of deal, such as a deal to reduce bail. Waiving the preliminary hearing is not admitting to the facts but rather stating you understand that the Commonwealth has the evidence for the case to be filed in the Court of Common Pleas.
Later lessons will go over these steps.

Whether to have this hearing or not is up to the client. As the client you are the one to choose whether you will have this hearing or whether you decide against it. Our job is to provide you counsel; our job is not to make your decisions for you.

We want to make the judge happy with your great presentation and behavior!!


Dress like you are going to trial.

– Listen to your attorney’s advice. If you choose MCP, we have lots of experience and good relationships with the District Attorney’s, Judges, and Law Enforcement. We know how these hearings regularly turn out depending on the evidence and bail originally set.

– This hearing is very important because you can cement testimony of witnesses or acquire deals from the Commonwealth. Act like it.

– Your presentation and demeanor toward the District Magistrate and others will go far for you during this early hearing.

Thanks for reading, friends, and call us with your legal needs!
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Franklin, PA 16323
Phone: 814-758-5659
Fax: 814-518-5567
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