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Preliminary Hearings In Los Angeles Criminal Cases


How To Win Your Case At The Preliminary Hearing Level In Los Angeles

Anybody that’s charged with a felony crime in Los Angeles is entitled to have a preliminary hearing. A preliminary hearing is kind of like a mini trial where witnesses are called, and the prosecutors have to show that they have each element of whatever crime or crimes that are charged covered by way of the evidence.

Therefore, the prosecutors will have to bring forth witnesses and evidence to prove that the person they’re charging with certain crimes, committed those crimes. The standard at a preliminary hearing is basically, is there a reasonable suspicion that the person committed the crimes they are charged with. That’s not a very high standard.

It’s not the same standard as proving a case beyond a reasonable doubt, so most times people are going to be held at a preliminary hearing if the prosecutors can bring forth evidence to show they committed the crime or crimes they are charged with.

Where you can win a case at a preliminary hearing is if the defense can show that the prosecution basically has no evidence whatsoever to prove the charges that they’ve exacted against a particular defendant. This is done by way of cross-examination of the prosecutor’s witnesses at the preliminary hearing.

The defense is also entitled to put on an affirmative defense where they can call witnesses and put on evidence to show the prosecution hasn’t proved the case. At the end of the preliminary hearing, the judge will listen to all the evidence and decide whether or not the person is bound over to the trial court or whether or not the judge feels the prosecutor has not met their burden, then in that case, the judge will dismiss the charges.

Winning Your Case At The Preliminary Hearing

In order to win at a preliminary hearing, I look at it in two ways. One, you can either destroy the prosecutor’s case by an effective cross-examination and show that they do not have the evidence – which I’ve done many times over the course of the last twenty-five years – or which is probably more realistic, you can set up the case to be won at a jury trial.

In other words, you can lock some of their witnesses in under penalty of perjury with inter-positions, and then you can later come back and destroy those position by way of an effective cross-examination at a jury trial by way of investigation.

So, once you’ve set up the witnesses and the evidence at the preliminary hearing, you can then come back in at the trial and use that preliminary hearing transcript to attack and impeach the witnesses. This is a very effective tool in a criminal defense case in order to win the case.

Witness Impeachment

I can’t tell you how many times a witness takes the witness stand and says a bunch of stuff that’s in contradiction to the preliminary hearing testimony – which of course is under penalty of perjury – there’s a judge there, the person’s sworn in, and now here they are lying at the trial and I’m able to effectively impeach them and say, hey listen, you testified at a preliminary hearing under penalty of perjury just like you are now, and look, you’ve said this under penalty of perjury here in the trial and look what you said back a the preliminary hearing.

If you can show the jury that this person has lied under penalty of perjury either at the trial or the preliminary hearing, it is a highly effective way to just destroy and blow out of the water, the prosecution’s case.

So, preliminary hearings are very important stages. Another thing I use a preliminary hearing for is to point out problems in the prosecution’s case for purposes of negotiation. I do the preliminary hearing, we lock the testimony in under penalty of perjury and then I’ve got a transcript of everything that their main witnesses said and I can now take that to the prosecutor’s boss and say, look at what this person said at the preliminary hearing under penalty of perjury, now compare that to what they said in the police report, and compare that to whatever evidence that we have, and this is very effective.

The prosecutors will look at it and will be able to say, yes, we do have a problem here. Evidence is going to be able to attack them at the preliminary hearing and destroy the case, so this is a very effect forum of winning a case or negotiating a case and getting a result that is considered a win under the circumstances.

So, if you’ve got a case and you think you’ve got some good issues, let’s sit town. I will utilize my experience to talk to you about what we can do at the preliminary hearing and what we can do overall to effectively handle your case and get you the result you must have.

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Ronald D. Hedding, ESQ.

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