When a defendant is charged with a crime by the prosecutor, the judge has to determine if there is probable cause to maintain those charges so the case can go forward in the court system. This does not mean trial. Usually all the prosecutor has to do is put one police officer who worked on the case on the stand to tell the judge why it is the police think the defendant committed a crime. More often than not, the judge will give the police the benefit of the doubt and the case will proceed.
However, in Maricopa County, Preliminary Hearings almost never happen anymore. That is becasue if the defendant asks for the hearing, the prosecutor will just go to the Grand Jury instead and bypass the Preliminary Hearing. So for all intents and purposes, Preliminary Hearings do not exist in Maricopa County.
Sometimes it is still in the defendant’s interest to ask for a Preliminary Hearing for strategic reasons. If you or someone you love has an Preliminary Hearing scheduled, it is best to contact a lawyer with experience in criminal defense right away. Burges McCowan is an experienced criminal defense attorney and he can help.