Jun 07, 2019 Preliminary hearing defense according to Fairfax criminal lawyer
Preliminary hearings are a critical stage for the defense, says Fairfax criminal lawyer
Preliminary hearings (PH’s) in Virginia are an opportunity for the criminal defense lawyer to challenge “whether there is reasonable ground to believe that he committed” the alleged felony(ies). Va. Code § 19.2-218. As a Fairfax criminal lawyer, I know how important is the PH date and the time period that precedes the proceeding.
Fairfax criminal attorney says there is little preliminary about a PH
The phrase “preliminary hearing” may sound to the untutored ear like a rather inconsequential proceeding. Nothing could be further from the truth. The pre-PH period is an opportunity for the Virginia criminal defense lawyer fully to investigate the case and to obtain discovery. The period leading to the preliminary hearing date is an opportunity to work to negotiate for the most favorable outcome for the defendant. In some counties, prosecutors often decline to extend settlement offers as favorable as what was offered by the preliminary hearing date.
When a Virginia criminal lawyer is unable to reach a settlement by the preliminary hearing date
When the parties are unable to settle the felony case by the PH date, the Virginia criminal attorney needs to have advised his or her client of the option to consider seeking a postponement of the preliminary hearing, to waive a PH (in the hopes that such a waiver will enhance ongoing settlement negotiation prospects), or proceeding with a preliminary hearing.
Fairfax criminal lawyer on using open-ended questions at preliminary hearings
Preliminary hearings are for challenging reasonable grounds whether the defendant committed the alleged felony or felonies charged against him or her. Such hearings are not discovery hearings, so any discovery obtained at such a hearing is a fringe benefit of challenging reasonable grounds, through asking relevant open-ended cross examination questions, rather than the common controlled-questioning approach of cross examination at trial.
Because a Virginia prosecutor can seek an indictment against the defendant whether or not the preliminary hearing is won or lost, the only incentive to win a preliminary hearing rather than to obtain critical information thereat about the strengths and weaknesses of the prosecutor’s case, is to give the prosecutor a talking point not to indict, or to obtain the release from jail of a client being detained without bond before the preliminary hearing.
Virginia criminal attorney on asking open-ended cross exam questions at a PH and motions hearing
As a Fairfax criminal lawyer, I know that it is common — and for good reason — for a criminal defense lawyer to ask open-ended cross examination questions not only at a preliminary hearing, but also at a hearing on a motion to suppress evidence. To do the opposite deprives the defense of obtaining critical information that can get recorded on the official record by hiring a court reporter. Civil litigants have the opportunity to conduct such pretrial open-ended questioning through the deposition process, which process is not available to Virginia criminal defendants.
Virginia preliminary hearings being so critical, criminal defendants are best advised to hire a qualified lawyer early on for this and all other criminal court proceedings.
Fairfax criminal lawyer Jonathan L. Katz pursues your best defense against Virginia prosecutions alleging felony, misdemeanor, DUI, drug, marijuana and sex offenses. To discuss your case with Jon Katz, please call his staff at 703-383-1100 to schedule a confidential consultation.