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Can you be a "Witness Of Character" at a Preliminary Hearing?

Marcus Hook, PA |

My boyfriend caught a new case while on probation. His P.O said I could be a "Witness Of Character" but someone else said I couldn't because its just a preliminary hearing. I really don't understand the legal system. So when he gets arrested and see the judge and he gets bail "which couldn't happen because of a detainer". What does he go to court for the first time? Is it to get sentenced? After he couldn't make bail, he got a court date for next week.

Attorney Answers 4

  1. Best answer

    I agree with the remarks of my learned colleagues from the eastern part of the state. I write separately in an attempt to provide you with some addition understanding of the situation faced by your boyfriend. I'm unable to account for the information that you received from his PO about being a "Witness of Character". Unless you were a witness to some aspect of the new charges, the only circumstances in which you could theoretically be a witness for him would only occur during a trial or sentencing on the new case or during the sentencing phase of a violation hearing on the probation case. All of those potential scenarios are well down the road. At the moment he is faced with a preliminary hearing on the new case to be conducted by a magistrate. What has been said already about the preliminary hearing is entirely correct, but I'm going to describe a bit differently in the hopes of adding to your understanding. A preliminary hearing can be likened to a test, and the magistrate acts as the professor grading the test. The test is graded on a pass/fail basis, and the only party to the case who is taking the test is the Commonwealth (DA's Office and Police). If the Commonwealth presents sufficient evidence to indicate his involvement in one or more of the charges filed, the magistrate will hold those charges over for final disposition by the Court of Common Pleas located in the Delaware County Court House in Media. If the Commonwealth fails to satisfy the magistrate with its evidence the charges, or some of them, will be dismissed. If any charges survive the preliminary hearing, your boyfriend's guilt or innocence on those will be determined in a courtroom in Media in the future. The level of proof required to "pass" the test is quite low and I advise all my clients expect the case to continue on to the court house if there is a preliminary hearing. In spite of the inevitability of the test results at the magistrate's office, the preliminary hearing is a vitally important first step in the defense of any criminal case, and importance of having a good criminal attorney representing him at this hearing can not be overstated. If he can not afford counsel of his own choosing he needs to apply for the services of the Delaware Co. Public Defender's Office. His other problem, and the one preventing his release from the jail, is his status on probation. His new arrest has resulted in a "detainer" being lodged against him which in turn means he will remain in jail until his new case is finally concluded and the probation violation process has come to an end or when a judge in Delaware Co. signs an order lifting the detainer to allow his release before. Depending on many factors including the nature of the charges for which he is on probation and those contained in the new case, he faces the potential of jail/prison time on either or both matters. He very much needs the help of a qualified criminal defense attorney, and he needs that help as soon as possible. Good luck.

  2. Basically, the purpose of the preliminary hearing is two-fold: 1/ a chance for the accused to see the Commonwealth's case before trial; 2/ for the district judge to see if there is enough probable cause to transfer the case to the court of common pleas. The accused do not need to present any evidence and I think your testimony will be important later on

  3. Character evidence is not relevant at a preliminary hearing and therefore not admissible.

  4. It would be considered irrelevant. The Judge does not make a determination of fact based upon "beyond a reasonable doubt." He or she determines whether, if taking everything the commonwealth presents is fact, it constitutes the crimes alleged. This standard is very low. Defense evidence is not really considered.

    Michael L. Doyle
    (215) 900-5565

    This is not intended as individual legal advice and there is no attorney client relationship established by this answer. It is advisable that you seek individualized legal assistance. This is not a substitute for hiring an attorney.

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