Preliminary Hearing Law and Legal Definition

A preliminary hearing, in the context of criminal law, is used to determine whether probable cause exists to believe that the offense charged in the information has been committed by the defendant. The hearing officer considers the evidence and reaches a decision on the issue of probable cause. The detained or arrested probationer or parolee typically has the right to confront and examine any person who may have made allegations or given evidence against him or her unless the hearing officer determines that such a confrontation would present a substantial present or subsequent danger of harm to such person. In such instance, a written general summary or the evidence, without disclosure of the identity of the witness, can be provided to the probationer or parolee at the hearing. He or she shall have the opportunity to submit evidence relevant to or controverting any information contained in the summary. If probable cause is found the hearing officer may receive additional evidence and argument relevant to recommendations. Procedures vary by state, so local law should be consulted.