As your criminal case progresses through the Court process, one procedural step along the way is the preliminary hearing. Occurring in General Sessions Court, the preliminary hearing is the gateway, of sorts, to your case moving along to the trial court level.
Why Have It, Why Not Waive It?
Many criminal defense lawyers overlook the importance of the preliminary hearing. Because of this, many defendants waive or give up their right to a preliminary hearing. This is a huge mistake. In your preliminary hearing, the State of Tennessee typically calls its most important witness or multiple witnesses to the stand to testify about what you are accused of doing. Why are you charged with this crime, how can the State prove you had anything to do with the crime, what other witnesses may have information about the case? Not only does this crucial information get presented in open court, your defense attorney gets to cross examine all witnesses who testify. This is so very important for two reasons: 1) More information comes out- meaning you and your lawyer learn more about the case and how to prepare in the future; and 2) The witnesses will be tied to their sworn testimony- locking them into a story or version of the facts that can be used in future hearings and at trial.
Preliminary Hearings In My Practice
I had a preliminary hearing just a few weeks ago, where my client was accused of something very serious. The State called its most important witness to testify. I was then able to cross examine that witness. I got all the information that I needed to establish what I believe to be a strong defense to the charges against my client. Definitely a good day in court! EVEN MORE IMPORTANT- after the hearing, a member of the Court staff approached me, complimented me on the hearing, and stated that the witness could not have been telling the truth and that the testimony given made no sense! This will be critical as we move forward in defending my client in the trial process. If we had waived the preliminary hearing, we would have missed out on all of the useful information, as well as the very strong defense that was made clear by the State's own witness.