Also referred to as a pretrial hearing, a pretrial conference is a meeting between the parties participating in a legal dispute. Although most people associated a pretrial conference with a civil case, the meetings are also part of the criminal defense process.
The following parties attend a pretrial hearing:
- Plaintiff and legal team
- Defendant and legal team
- The judge overseeing the case
The primary purpose of a pretrial conference is to clarify any legal issues and administrative procedures that if taken care of before the beginning of a trial, can expedite the judicial process. Clearing up legal issues and administrative procedures allows the attorneys for both parties to focus on litigating the case, without having to deal with other issues.
Here are some of the issues that can get clarified during a pretrial conference:
- Agreeing to the undisputed facts of a case
- Presenting plea bargain arrangements
- Filing and accessing pretrial motions
- Denying or agreeing to claims and accusations
What Gets Accomplished at a Pretrial Conference?
Several legal maneuvers can occur at a pretrial hearing. The judge presiding over the criminal case has the power to set some fundamental rules on how the case should proceed, as well as schedule additional pretrial legal matters and any procedures that need clarification for a trial to begin. A pretrial conference represents the perfect opportunity for a defense attorney to argue for the exclusion of certain types of evidence and argue for the inclusion of certain witnesses.
One or both parties can request a change of venue during a pretrial hearing, especially if the case has received considerable media exposure.
Does the Defendant Need to Attend a Pretrial Conference?
Since California requires a pretrial conference, a defendant should attend the hearing. However, some states do not require pretrial hearings and if one is requested, the request comes from the defense attorney. A defendant should attend a pretrial conference in California to exercise the following rights, many of which a criminal defense lawyer exercises during a trial.
- The right to an attorney
- The right to ask the prosecutor to prove probable cause
- The right to confront and cross interrogate witnesses for the prosecution
- The right to call defense witnesses
- The right not to be restrained
- The right to discovery of evidence relevant to the pretrial conference
The Importance of a Lawyer Representing You at a Pretrial Conference
Defendants need to remember that the judge presiding over a pretrial conference issues rulings on motions and legal matters that pertain to the case. This makes a pretrial conference similar to a trial and during a trial, you need to work with an experienced California criminal defense attorney to win an acquittal.
Your lawyer knows which evidence to submit and which evidence to exclude, as well as argues that the prosecution does not have enough physical evidence and corroborating witness testimonies to earn a conviction at trial. You might avoid a trial if the judge ruling on a motion to dismiss agrees with your attorney.
An experienced criminal defense lawyer protects your rights during a pretrial conference. If you face a criminal charge, you need to act with a sense of urgency by contacting a California criminal defense attorney before any of the legal proceedings begin.
Schedule a free case evaluation with Dan E. Chamber of the Chambers Law Firm by calling our office at 714-760-4088.