Federal Criminal Defense Lawyers in Chicago Illinois

Preliminary Hearings in Federal Court

Don't give up your right to a preliminary hearing. If you have been accused of a crime that will be tried in a Federal court, call us today at (312) 466-9466.

In Federal court, just like in State court, if an individual who has not been indicted is charged with a felony then he has the right to a preliminary hearing.

According to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 5.1, if a defendant is charged with an offense other than a petty offense, a magistrate judge must conduct a preliminary hearing unless: (1) the defendant waives the hearing; (2) the defendant is indicted; (3) the defendant waives his right to an indictment; (4) the government files an information charging the defendant with a misdemeanor; or (5) the defendant is charged with a misdemeanor and consents to trial before a magistrate judge.

Some defense attorneys in Federal Court waive the preliminary hearing in almost every case. While there can be valid reasons for doing so in some cases, attorney Steven R. Hunter believes in vigorously contesting the prosecution's case in most preliminary hearings.

The biggest difficulty with contesting a preliminary hearing in federal court is that the prosecution can admit hearsay testimony. This means that the prosecution can call an agent, usually the case agent, and he testifies about what other agents saw, heard or learned during the investigation.

This makes cross-examination difficult, and the trial transcript is useless for impeaching other agents during a future trial. For example, if case agent A testifies that surveillance agent B saw your client hand drugs to another individual, and you ask him where agent B was located when he made his observations, you will likely get "I don't know" as an answer.

Nevertheless, you can learn a great deal about the prosecution's case. While the government typically will not put on every bit of evidence they possess, they will err on the side of caution and put on quite a bit of evidence rather than risk losing the preliminary hearing. It can often be an outline of the evidence you can expect to see should you choose to go to trial. In addition, the case agent is the agent in charge of the investigation. A preliminary hearing is a great opportunity to evaluate his competence and knowledge of the investigation.

Sometimes there are good reasons to waive a preliminary hearing. If you feel that the government has a strong case and believe that you will be entering into plea negotiations, it may be wise not to antagonize the prosecutor who will be making you an offer.

One situation that arises frequently is that the Assistant United States Attorney prosecuting the case will promise "early discovery" in exchange for a waiver. In some cases this may be worthwhile. However, in the experience of Steven R. Hunter, this rarely works out. The prosecutors sometimes give some early discovery, but nothing of real value. Other times "early" winds up being a few weeks before you would receive it anyway.

Don't give up your right to a preliminary hearing based on some vague promises from the prosecutor. Call the Law Office of Steven R. Hunter to learn how he can help you fight! Our phone number is (312) 466-9466.

Chicago Criminal Defense Lawyer - (312) 466-9466 

Chicago Office

900 W. Jackson Blvd.

Suite 7E

Chicago, IL 60607

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