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Preliminary Hearing

One of the most critical steps of the Florida criminal process is the preliminary hearing. Sometimes known as “the trial before the trial,” the preliminary hearing is where the evidence is reviewed to determine if probable cause exists. This step is incredibly important because if an attorney can prove there is no probable cause, there would not be a trial.

Additionally, an experienced attorney can fight in the preliminary hearing to have pieces of evidence or even the entire case thrown out. The outcome of the preliminary hearing is crucial due because of its impact on the rest of the proceedings in a defendant’s case.

St. Petersburg Preliminary Hearing Attorney

The preliminary hearing is a vital part of the criminal defense process, and it requires extensive knowledge and meticulous preparation on the part of the defense attorney. Melinda Morris of Morris Law Firm, P.A. has more than a decade of experience stemming from both sides of the courtroom, which allows her to build a strong defense while exposing cracks in the prosecution’s case.

If you have been charged with a criminal offense in St. Petersburg, Tampa, Pinellas Park, Palm Harbor, Dunedin, Clearwater, Largo, High Point, Seminole, Bellaire or Bradenton, the dedicated criminal defense lawyers of Morris Law Firm, P.A. will fight to have your case thrown out every step of the way, including in the preliminary hearing. Call (727) 388-4736 for a free consultation.


Florida Preliminary Hearing Info Center


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Probable Cause and the Preliminary Hearing

If your case proceeds to trial, the prosecution will have to prove you committed the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. The evidence is introduced at the preliminary hearing often in a similar way it will be introduced at trial, but the same standard of proof is not used. Instead, only the lesser standard of probable cause is required in the preliminary hearing for the case to move forward in the Florida criminal process.

The standard of probable cause in a preliminary hearing is whether or not a prudent and cautious person could reasonably believe both that the crime was probably committed and it was the defendant that probably committed it, given the evidence and circumstances of the case. For evidentiary matters, probable cause is where a prudent person would believe that the defendant had committed, was committing or was going to commit a crime and a search would produce evidence proving such.

If the prosecution fails to prove reasonable cause for evidence or the evidence was obtained without violating the defendant’s rights, pieces of evidence can be thrown out in the preliminary hearing. If the prosecution fails to prove probable cause as a whole in your preliminary hearing, the whole case can be thrown out. An experienced criminal lawyer in Pinellas County can fight for a favorable outcome in your St Petersburg area preliminary hearing.


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Nonadversarial Preliminary Hearings in Florida

A nonadversarial probable cause determination can occur in two different circumstances. The first scenario is in a hearing before a judge within 48 hours of the defendant’s arrest on a Florida criminal charge, but only if such necessary proof is available.

The second is if a defendant on pretrial release files a motion for a nonadversarial preliminary hearing for probable cause determination within 21 days of his or her arrest based on the grounds that the pretrial release conditions are a significant restraint on his or liberty.

A probable cause determination by nonadversarial preliminary hearing will not occur if probable cause already has been determined by a judge in issuing a warrant for the defendant’s arrest for the same charge.


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Adversarial Preliminary Hearing

An adversarial preliminary hearing for probable cause also can occur in two different circumstances. If a defendant charged with a felony has been retained in custody or returned to custody by a nonadversarial probable cause determination, he or she will be allowed an adversary preliminary hearing. Additionally, a defendant not charged in an indictment within 21 days of being served or arrested also has the right to an adversary preliminary hearing on any felony charge against him or her.

At the adversarial preliminary hearing, any witnesses may be called, examined and cross-examined, and evidence will be presented to the judge. At this point, the judge can decide if any evidence was obtained unlawfully or if the whole case lacks probable cause. Evidence obtained unlawfully may be thrown out. If the case lacks probable cause, it may be dismissed.

If the judge finds the case has probable cause, it will move forward to trial. An experienced criminal attorney in Pinellas County will fight to expose cracks in the prosecution’s case in order to have key evidence or your entire case dismissed.


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Finding A St. Petersburg Preliminary Hearings Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you have been arrested and charged with a criminal offense in Pinellas County or the surrounding areas, contact the experienced St. Petersburg criminal defense lawyers of Morris Law Firm, P.A.. Melinda Morris and her team will work against probable cause being determined. Call (727) 388-4736 today to schedule your free consultation.