Probable Cause Hearing

There have been changes made to Michigan’s probable cause hearing process.  A probable cause hearing is also known as a preliminary exam in Michigan.  This article will examine what those changes are, when they will take effect and why these changes were made to amend how preliminary exams are run. 

The preliminary hearing is where a prosecutor has to show the court that there is probable cause, or a reasonable basis to believe that a crime was committed, that the defendant is the person who committed that crime and that the case should be bound over to circuit court.  A defendant has a right to hear the evidence against him within 14 days of his arraignment.

The vast majority of the times, preliminary exams are waived and do not take place.  There are several reasons for this.  For example,  negotiations are going on between the prosecutor and the defense attorney.  A defendant may waive a preliminary examine to preserve the initial offer the prosecutor is making at the preliminary exam.  Many defendants waive their preliminary exam to save time as the burden of proof the prosecution has to reach is so low that there is almost no chance of the defendant having the case thrown out.

Under the new law, which will start on January 1st, 2015, a pre-exam conference will take place within 10 to 14 days of the defendant’s arraignment.  If the case is not settled or the pre-lim exam is not waived, the preliminary exam will take place within 5 to seven days after the pre-exam conference.

There are numerous reasons for the new law.  Police officers under the old law had to spend a lot of time subpoenaing a witness for hearings that were consistently being waived or adjourned.  Officers were also showing up at court and sitting in courtrooms waiting to testify only to find out their testimony would not be needed.  This was a waste of time and money to the judges, attorneys, police officers and the public.  Those who pushed for the new law are also confident that both the prosecutor and defense attorneys will be better prepared to run the preliminary hearing which will benefit all those involved in the process.

The new law will also allow for some hearsay evidence to be allowed, which previously was not admitted at a preliminary exam.  An example of such hearsay that will now be admitted are: lab reports, pathology reports, arson reports and crime reconstruction reports.

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