When I moved to Oklahoma I was so confused. Preliminary Hearing (PH)? What in the world?! I am from Arkansas (one of the two greatest states and I won’t say which one is the best! Ha!). In Oklahoma, a criminal trial goes through many stages. First, there is the arrest. Then the bond hearing. Then there is . . . well, you get my drift. In Oklahoma, there are many, many hearings, each one geared towards 1. getting a fair trial and 2. making money (whoops, I didn’t say that, did I?)
So, what is a Preliminary Hearing. A Prelim or PH is the opportunity for the State to put on his or her evidence. This is similar to some states where they have a grand jury. But it is also an opportunity for the defense to see the evidence that the state has. The defense has the opportunity to question the state’s witnesses. It can help a good defense attorney prepare for the trial – if there is to be one. If the judge decides that there is enough evidence to convict, then the defendant is formally arraigned, often on the same day. 99% of the time, the judge will find there is enough evidence.
Why would a person waive their Preliminary Hearing? Prosecutors hate doing them. They have to prepare as if they were going to trial. They have to get all of their witnesses, prepare their questions, etc. So why would a defendant or a defense attorney care about causing a district attorney to work more? In Oklahoma, most prosecutors will make their offer worse if they have to go to prelim. So, a few weeks ago, I waived two prelims because the DA and I are just working out the details of the plea. If for some reason we can’t come to an agreement, we can still have a jury trial. But in these cases, the DA and I are essentially in agreement. They can convict, my client and I both know it, the question is what can we get the DA to agree on to make the sentence better.
Now I have another case that I just took and the previous attorney waived prelim and I want to smack him. Because we are going to trial and I would have loved to have seen the evidence. So, waiving or having the prelim can be a double-edged sword. Prelim is something that an attorney has to evaluate for each and every case. Should I or shouldn’t I? It’s all part of the defense’s strategic decisions.
That is why having a good attorney that cares about each and every client matters. Call me if you have any questions. 405-602-1998