When a person is charged with a crime, they often face a number of hearings, all of which seem similar. It can be hard to know which ones are the “most important” and which ones are just essentially paperwork. Of course, you can always ask your criminal defense attorney by calling Chambers Law Firm at 855-397-0210. In the meantime, keep reading to learn what a preliminary hearing is and how it differs from a grand jury.
The Simple Definitions
First, let us discuss the actual definitions of these terms. A “grand jury,” under California law, refers to a group of citizens who come together and hear the evidence on a particular case. They determine whether or not there is enough evidence to bring charges. A preliminary hearing occurs before a judge and that judge determines if there is enough evidence to require a trial. The main similarity is that they both involve felony criminal cases.
Felony Charges Can Be Brought in Two Ways in California
There are two ways that felony charges can be brought in this state. First, is through an “information” that the district attorney files after a preliminary hearing. The second is an “indictment,” which is brought by the grand jury.
Misdemeanor Charges are Different
When a person is arrested for a misdemeanor, they will face arraignment. This is where they will hear about the charges that have been filed against them and can enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. Note that even if you are charged with “just” a misdemeanor, you could still face up to a year in jail. You still need the advice of a criminal defense attorney.
Grand Juries Are Nothing Like a Trial Jury
Some people imagine grand jury members being similar to those on a trial jury (technically known as a petit jury). This is not true. A trial jury hears a single case and makes a determination on it. They have no control over whether or not someone is charged – they only determine if the charges a person is facing are accurate.
On the other hand, a grand jury hears the evidence for many cases (in most instances). They will determine if the prosecution has enough evidence for the accused to be formally charged. Note that the accused’s criminal defense team does not get a chance to speak up for the defendant. They get that chance at trial.
If you are facing criminal charges, or worry that you might, we invite you to contact Chambers Law Firm at 855-397-0210 now to request a free legal consultation. We are ready to help you find the best way forward – all it takes is a phone call.