Within some criminal justice systemss, a preliminary hearing (evidentiary hearing) is a meeting, after a criminal complaint has been filed by the prosecutor, to determine whether, and to what extent, criminal charges and civil cause of actions will be heard (by a court), what evidence will be admitted, and what else must be done (before a case can proceed). At such a hearing, the defendant may be assisted by counsel. In the US (and some other locations), a person may be charged, instead, by a grand jury; where counsel is not permitted. Should court decide in the affirmative, a formal indictment will be made; and a trial date set. If the defendant feels that evidence against them is "strong", then they may request a plea bargain.
Some important questions, generally addressed in such a hearing, are:
- Did the alleged crime occur within the court's jurisdiction?
- Is there probable cause, to believe that the defendant committed the crime?