Importance of your Pennsylvania Preliminary Hearing and the Motion to Quash

Understanding the importance of Your Pennsylvania Preliminary Hearing and the Importance of the Motion To Quash

Man in handcuffs

If you are charged with a crime in Pennsylvania, you have the right to a preliminary hearing at the District Court where the offense occurred before proceeding to trial at the Court of Common Pleas. Your attorney should try to accomplish the following at your preliminary hearing:

  • Get the charges withdrawn, dismissed or discharged
  • Get the charges reduced from felony to misdemeanor or misdemeanor to summary;
  • Collect information by identifying potential witnesses;
  • Evaluate the credibility of anyone who testifies.
  • At a preliminary hearing the Commonwealth, through the district attorney will have to establish a prima facia case against you. A prima facia burden of proof is much lower than the proof needed to convict you at trial which is guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. A prima facia burden of proof is the same as the civil standard which is “by a preponderance of the evidence”.

    A prima facia burden of proof asks whether the Commonwealth has established that it is more likely than not that a crime was committed and that you committed it. The District Attorney, therefore, doesn’t have to present nearly as much evidence as he or she would have to at trial. In fact, the District Attorney does not have to share the evidence against you with your attorney until the day of the preliminary hearing.

    If a lower court district justice finds that the District Attorney has met the prima facia burden of proof, your case will be held for court and transferred from the District Court to the Court of Common Pleas. If your defense attorney believes that the District Justice made the wrong decision, he can file a Motion to Quash which is also called a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus.

    This Motion to Quash argues that the district attorney failed to establish the necessary burden of proof and that the evidence was insufficient. The motion asks that the Court of Common Pleas find that the lower court district justice ruled incorrectly and that the case be dismissed for lack of evidence. Although a Motion to Quash is a difficult motion for your attorney to win, it is important to consider filing it if your case is held for court. At the very least, it will give your attorney the opportunity to learn more about the District Attorney’s case and what it will focus on at trial.

    If you are charged with a crime, call Gregory J. Spadea at the Law Offices of Spadea & Associates, LLC at 610-521-0604.

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