Insights Into How Our Legal System Works

Insights Into How Our Legal System Works

What You Need To Know About Initial Criminal Hearings

by Yolanda Lane

A question many folks have when they retain criminal attorney services is, "How many hearings are there going to be before the case gets to trial?" It can seem like a lot of effort spent on little things, but a criminal attorney often sees this phase of a case as the best chance a client is likely to have. Here are some things you should know about how many initial hearings there might be and why the process may take some time.

From Days to Months

Much of the initial hearing process depends on the complexities of the case. Generally, the court spends more time on initial hearings if the case involves a felony or some risk that the defendant will go to jail.

You could be done in a day if you go in and plead guilty, but it's rare that a criminal attorney will encourage a client to do that. A lawyer will want to learn what the prosecution has, and that usually means the defendant will have to enter a "not guilty" plea to get a continuance. Expect the process to take somewhere between a few weeks and several months.

The First Hearing

An initial hearing is called an arraignment in most jurisdictions. The court will order the prosecution to state the charges against the defendant. Likewise, the prosecution may be asked to present evidence supporting the charges. If you were arrested due to an incident, this usually means a police officer's affidavit will be entered into evidence. If your criminal attorney has concerns about why you were charged, the officer may be called to testify and explain the affidavit.

Presuming the judge doesn't find fault with the charges, you will be asked how you plead. Your criminal attorney will almost certainly tell you to plead "not guilty."


It's normal for bail to be handled at the arraignment. If there are concerns about whether you'll be granted bail, a new hearing will be scheduled. The prosecution will have to explain why they want you held, such as being a flight risk or a threat to others. Absent compelling evidence, the judge will set a bail amount.

Additional Preliminary Hearings

During this period, the judge will also order discovery, the disclosure of all evidence and witnesses the prosecution plans to use against you at trial. Hearings may be required to determine if evidence should be allowed. Your attorney may request a hearing to ask the judge to dismiss the charges, too.

To learn more about initial hearings, reach out to a local criminal attorney.


About Me

Insights Into How Our Legal System Works

Hello, I'm Christina Miller. Have you ever been fascinated with why the law works the way it does? Ever since I was in junior high, I had an intense interest in anything related to our legal system, whether it be a crime drama on television, a judge show or a legal case covered on the news. I followed it all. As time progressed, I began learning about how the actual legal system worked and not just the fictionalized version of our legal system. This has lead me to start writing my own blog posts about law that I hope will help others.