[This post was originally made on my first blog - 10/24/2009]
A Preliminary Hearing in Tennessee is a pre-trial judicial proceeding in General Sessions Court where a judge decides, from the evidence presented, whether it appears an offense has been committed and whether there is probable cause to believe the defendant committed the offense. The Preliminary Hearing is a second stage for determining probable cause, after an Initial Appearance before a Judicial Commissioner or Magistrate.
"[T]he purpose of the preliminary hearing is to determine whether there is evidence sufficient to justify the continued detention of the defendant and subjecting him to the expense, embarrassment, humiliation, and inconvenience of a trial." Waugh v. State, 564 S.W.2d 654, 659 (Tenn. 1978). If the judge determines probable cause does exist, the case will be bound over to the Grand Jury for further consideration.
Another function of a Preliminary Hearing that may not be readily apparent to a criminal defendant is that of pre-trial discovery. Much can be learned of the State's/Prosecutor's case from the information and evidence presented at a Preliminary Hearing.
Bottom line: A Preliminary Hearing is not a place where guilt or innocence is determined. The Preliminary Hearing is a stage between the initial appearance and Grand Jury that forces the State to meet a burden to continue a criminal prosecution. Furthermore, you have the right to a Preliminary Hearing in all felony cases in Tennessee; before you waive your right to a Preliminary Hearing consider that this proceeding is very valuable to a criminal defendant.
If you are facing criminal charges and need an attorney in East Tennessee to assist you, head over to my webpage @ www.nablacklaw.com, call my office @ (865) 977-6899, or email me @ firstname.lastname@example.org.
My office is located in Maryville (Blount County), Tennessee and I would love to sit down and discuss your case.