In felony cases, there is an additional “safe guard” hearing between the Arraignment on Complaint and the Arraignment on Information. This hearing is known as a “Preliminary Hearing”, also known as a “Probable Cause Hearing” and is essentially a mini-trial. However, guilt is not determined at this hearing. The only issue to be considered at this hearing, is whether Law Enforcement had sufficient probable cause to arrest the individual for the alleged offenses. The District Attorney must present sufficient evidence to prove that the Defendant, more than likely, committed the offenses alleged. If the District Attorney fails to do so, the Judge may find the evidence insufficient and prevent the District Attorney from proceeding any further on those charges.
On the other hand, if, in the Judge’s eyes, the District Attorney presents enough evidence to show that the Defendant more than likely committed the offense(s) charged, the Defendant will be “held to answer” to the criminal charges alleged. This does not mean that the judge has found the defendant guilty. It just means that the case is allowed to proceed. There are some defenses that are not necessarily available during this hearing, that may be available at Trial. In addition, the standard of proof is much lower at the Preliminary Hearing than the Beyond A Reasonable Doubt standard required for a finding of guilty at Trial.