What is a Preliminary Hearing in Utah?

A preliminary hearing is kind of like an abbreviated trial. It’s not a full-blown trial, the prosecution does not have to present all of its evidence. However, it is an opportunity for them to present their evidence to the court to show that they have enough evidence to go forward. The court process for Felony cases and Class A misdemeanors is very long and if there is no evidence in the case, the court’s don’t want somebody to have to endure that long process.

The preliminary hearing is a chance for the prosecutor to show the judge that the state has enough evidence to go forward. The judge wil then make the decision whether or not to bind the case over for trial. Most of the time if the state files charges that means there is some evidence and usually enough evidence to go forward to trial so the purpose of the preliminary hearing is often for the defense to see how strong the case really is and then decide what strategies may work best when preparing a defense. Also, the preliminary hearing is an opportunity for the prosecution to see if there are holes in their case and if there are then oftentimes a preliminary hearing will lead to a negotiated result, a plea bargain, or sometimes even a dismissal.