A pretrial hearing refers to a meeting between parties in a case that occurs before a trial. In criminal cases, these parties are often the prosecution, the person being charged with the criminal offense, that individual’s lawyer, and a judge.
During a criminal trial, a pretrial hearing helps to resolve a number of obstacles including administrative issues. While often required by a court of law, it is often also possible for the defendant to request a pretrial hearing.
The following will review some of the helpful steps that should be followed in the preparation of a pretrial hearing.
Discuss Matters With Your Attorney Before the Pretrial Hearing
Instead of waiting until immediately before the pretrial hearing to discuss details about your case with your attorney, it is possible to review matters with your lawyer in advance to make sure that any potential issues are fully addressed.
In some situations, it is possible for important details related to your case, including police reports and plea offers, to be given to your attorney in advance of the trial.
By discussing matters with your lawyer a sufficient amount of time in advance, you can make sure that you are as prepared for the pretrial hearing as possible.
Write Down the Key Events in Your Case
To prepare yourself for what will be discussed during your trial, it is important to write down what occurred following your arrest or charge. Some of the details that it can be helpful to record include where witnesses were located at the scene, what statements were made, what law enforcement said, and a timeline of the events that occurred in your case.
In some cases, your version of events might contrast with what law enforcement report happens. Being able to pinpoint these small differences can sometimes make a substantial impact on the outcome of a case.
Determine the Accuracies (and Inaccuracies) in the Police Report
If you are able to contact your attorney before a pretrial hearing, it is likely that the lawyer will be able to provide you with a copy with a police report. You should take time to read this report and determine the areas that the responding officer recorded correctly and incorrectly. You should then raise these concerns with your lawyer so that they can be brought up during the pretrial hearing. In the most serious cases, it might even be possible to demonstrate through a police report that your constitutional rights were violated during an arrest and that the charge should be reduced or dismissed.
Determine How a Criminal Conviction Could Affect You
Many people discover that a criminal conviction can affect their lives in a number of ways. If you are professionally licensed, there is a possibility that you might lose your license, which can create a number of substantial obstacles in achieving your career and financial goals.
Many people also discover that their reputation in the community is negatively impacted as the result of a criminal charge and conviction. By understanding exactly what is on the table during these negotiations, you will gain a better understanding of what is involved.
Bring Your Calendar
During a pretrial conference, later court dates will be set. By understanding the various commitments that you will have, you can schedule appropriately with the court and opposing attorneys.
Failure to appear before the court can result in very serious consequences, which is why it is important to write down the date for later court sessions and make sure that you appear on time.
By being responsible and proactive about scheduling a date, you also convey to the judge that you are taking matters seriously.
Prepare for the Unexpected and Stay Focused
There are a number of other unexpected things that can happen as your criminal case works its way through the legal system. It is a wise idea to prepare for the numerous contingencies that can arise. You should try to predict the worst possible thing that the other side could say as well as what the weakest elements of your case might be.
The other side will likely emphasize these points. By preparing in advance, however, you can create a strategy to handle or respond to these complications. If there are any weaknesses, you can determine how to treat them or preempt them. Some people even go so far as to practice what they will say during the hearing.
Know What to Expect During a Pretrial Hearing
By understanding the role the pretrial hearings play, you can better prepare for this part of your case. Some of the reasons why pretrial cases are heard are to allow parties to exchange details about their case in preparation of trial as well as to help judges gain a better understanding of the parties and issues involved in the case.
A few of the issues that arise during a pretrial hearing include:
- Establishing basic rules for future court proceedings
- Making motions for dismissal or summary judgment
- Presenting arguments about what evidence and witnesses can be used in the trial
- Scheduling a trial date as well as other pending proceedings
Judges will often issue immediate rulings on any issues that are raised during the pretrial conference. In situations in which more time is needed to resolve a case, a judge might establish an additional meeting to resolve the issue.
In other cases, issues presented during the pretrial hearing will not be resolved until the trial. While these are not all of the issues or elements that can arise during a pretrial hearing, by understanding the basic role that pretrial hearings play, you can better prepare for your own.
Consult Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer for Your Pretrial Hearing
The pretrial process is just one of many aspects of the pretrial process. If you have questions or concerns about how to navigate the system after being charged with a criminal offense, you should not hesitate to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney.