The Preliminary Exam

If you are charged with a felony, under Michigan Law, you are entitled to a preliminary exam. This exam is a Probable Cause exam to determine if there is probable cause that a crime was committed and probable cause that you committed the crime. If the Judge determines there is PC, then your case will be bound over to Circuit Court.
Probable Cause is a fairly low standard. Most people have heard the term “beyond a reasonable doubt” when an actual trial takes place. That is the standard of proof that the prosecutor must show to convict you of the crime. If I were to give it a number, it would be about 98% sure that you care guilty. However, in a PC hearing (a preliminary exam), that figure is much lower, about 51%.

Generally when holding a preliminary exam, it is unusual to have a Defendant take the stand, the prosecutor will call his witnesses giving me an opportunity to question them and maybe impeach them later if a trial is held. Did they something at the Preliminary Exam that they contradicted at trial. On the other hand, a Defense Attorney does not want to give the Prosecutor the same advantage, so the Defendant rarely testified.

All cases start in District Court but the Judges in District Court cannot rule on felonies. That happens in Circuit Court. But for many Defendants, seeing what evidence the Prosecution has and getting it on the record, is important.

Sometimes it is better to waive the exam and move the case quickly to Circuit Court. Make sure to discuss whether to hold a Preliminary Exam with your Attorney.