Your Preliminary Hearing


You got pinched.

You got pulled over.

You got busted

Somehow, someway, the long arm of the law put the cold hand of justice on your shoulder, tapped it, and said, “Right this way.”

So what happens next?

Well, you’re going to be arrested, cuffed, and taken to jail. You’ll go to the nearest district lockup first. Then be taken to 26th and California, aka CCDOC, aka Cook County Jail. In there, you’ll be processed (if you weren’t possibly earlier, not all district lock ups will process you). This means mugshots, vital info and fingerprints.

Next, you’ll get a bond hearing. Now, bond hearings are an interesting beast. We’ll tackle those right here.

But the next step, that’s your preliminary hearing. Or, if the State chooses not to, your Grand Jury indictment.

You’re headed to 51st and Wentworth, just off the Dan Ryan, on the southside. Or to Belmont and Western. Or 111th and Ellis. Or Kedzie and Flournoy. Or Grand and Central. Lots of feeder courtrooms where these take place. There, in a two room court house and police station you will be brought out before a judge who will spend a whole five minutes determining probable cause on your case.

The case cannot proceed unless there is a finding of probable cause, which in this case, is a nexus or connection between the criminal activity alleged and your involvement. This is a very low standard. If you win today, if there is no finding of probable cause, you’re on your way home, a free man. If there is a finding (and over 90% of the time, there will be) you begin your criminal odyssey.

Your lawyer won’t be asking a lot of questions. He can’t. Not legally. Depending on the judge, the state has to put up the minimum amount of information to show probable cause. The defense attorney is not allowed to ask questions beyond the parameters (purposefully) set by the State’s Attorney that are very, very narrow. As such, while I stand next to you and ask questions about who else was there (objection!), what else they saw (objection!), anything, anything beyond what was brought up by the State (objection!) you’ll see that there is little to be done besides trying to slip a fast one past the judge now and then.

The purpose of most preliminary examinations, for most lawyers, is to try to establish space, time and distance. That is to say, where were you (the police officer I’m questioning) in relation to the defendant, how long did the (deal, traffic stop, assault, interaction) take place, how far from the defendant were you, etc. All other attempts at information gathering are stabs in the dark.

Remember, it NEVER matters what really happened, it matters what you’re allowed to address in court. And at your prelim, that answer is very, very little.

No witnesses testify for you. No argument is made (or at least, very little). It’s a cattle call, it’s assembly line justice. It’s your prelim.


One response to “Your Preliminary Hearing

  1. Pingback: Can’t Make This Up « 26th St. Bar Association

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