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Felony Pretrial Hearings Explained: A Closer Look in 2024

A felony pretrial hearing is a proceeding that takes place before a criminal trial whose purpose is to address various legal matters, facilitate communication between the parties involved, and ensure that the case is ready for trial.
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Elements of a Felony Pretrial Hearing

The specific felony pretrial hearing proceedings vary by jurisdiction and the nature of the case, but the common elements typically include:

  • Arraignment Review: The court may review the defendant’s arraignment, which provides an opportunity to ensure that the defendant understands the charges.
  • Plea Negotiations: The parties involved may engage in plea negotiations, which involve discussions about a potential situation where the defendant agrees to plead guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for a more lenient sentence.
  • Discovery and Evidence: The process of discovery, which is the exchange of evidence between the prosecution and defense, will be discussed. This includes sharing documents, lists of witnesses, and other materials that will be used at the trial.
  • Motions Hearing: The parties may file motions, requesting specific actions or decisions from the court. The judge may entertain arguments and make rulings on the motions at the pretrial hearing.
  • Witness List and Subpoenas: The defense and prosecution may present their witness lists at the pretrial hearing. The court may also address whether to issue subpoenas for witnesses who are reluctant to testify on their own.
  • Mental Health or Competency Issues: If there are questions about the defendant’s mental health or ability to stand trial, these issues may be addressed during the pretrial hearing.
  • Bail Review: The court may review the defendant’s bail status, which can involve discussions about modifying bail conditions or allowing the defendant’s release from custody before trial.
  • Scheduling and Trial Date: The court may set or confirm an actual trial date and discuss the timeline for other pretrial activities.
  • Case Status Updates: The parties may provide updates on the status of the case, including any new developments since previous hearings.
  • Resolution Discussions: The court may discuss resolving the case without proceeding to trial. This could involve plea deals or alternative dispute resolutions.

What Happens After the Pretrial Hearing?

After a felony pretrial hearing, several things may happen, depending on the nature of the proceedings, the issues discussed at the hearing, and the decisions made by the court.

In most cases, the goal is to ensure that the case is ready for trial and that both parties have the necessary information to present their cases in the most effective way possible. Defendants are advised to work closely with their attorneys to understand the outcome of pretrial hearings and prepare for their future trial.

What are the 3 Most Common Pre-Trial Motions?

The most common pre-trial motions are:

  • Motion to Dismiss – An attempt to get the judge to throw out a charge or the case.
  • Motion to Suppress – Attempt to keep certain statements or evidence from being introduced as evidence.
  • Motion for Change of Venue – May be made for various reasons including pre-trial publicity.

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