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What happens at a pretrial for a felony?

by Sarah Johnson
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What happens at a pretrial for a felony?

In the American criminal justice system, a pretrial hearing is one of the most critical stages of any felony case. It is an essential process that aims to resolve a case before it goes to trial. A pretrial hearing is a preliminary legal procedure, which takes place after the criminal defendant has been charged with a crime, but prior to the trial.

What is a Pretrial for a Felony?

Overview of a Pretrial Hearing

A pretrial hearing is a legal proceeding that occurs at the criminal court before the trial begins. During this process, both the prosecution and the defense will meet to discuss the details of the case. The main goal of this process is to set clear expectations between both sides and settle the case without going to trial.

Pre-Trial Process

The pre-trial process begins when the defendant is arrested and charged with a crime. After this, the defendant will go through an arraignment hearing where they will be asked to enter a plea. If the defendant pleads not guilty, the case goes to trial.

Role of the Criminal Defense Attorney in a Pretrial Hearing

The role of an experienced criminal defense attorney is critical in the pretrial process. They will scrutinize the prosecution’s case, examine any legal issues, and analyze the strength of the evidence presented by the prosecution. After evaluating these factors, they will come up with a defense strategy to defend against the criminal charge(s) their client is facing.

What Happens at a Felony Pretrial Hearing?

Preliminary Hearing

A preliminary hearing may occur during the pretrial hearing phase, and it is sometimes called a felony pretrial hearing. This occurs if there is a possibility that probable cause against the defendant may not exist. A judge will determine, based on evidence presented, if charges against the defendant should be dismissed or go forward to trial.


During an arraignment, the defendant is informed of the charges they are facing, the maximum penalty that accompanies those charges, and their constitutional rights. They will be asked to enter a plea in response to the charges made against them.


During the pretrial hearing, motions may be filed by both sides. These could relate to evidence, pretrial publicity, or any other issues related to the case. A hearing is set to determine whether the motion is valid and will be granted.

What Does the Defendant’s Criminal Defense Attorney Do at the Pretrial?

How a Criminal Defense Attorney Prepares for a Pretrial Conference

The criminal defense attorney prepares for the pretrial conference by analyzing the evidence, preparing written motions related to the case, discussing the facts of the case with their client, and crafting a winning strategy.

What Happens When a Defendant Pleads Guilty?

If the defendant pleads guilty, the matter can be resolved without going to trial. In such a case, a plea agreement may be reached, and the terms of sentencing can be discussed between the defense attorneys and the prosecution.

Defense Attorney Strategies for a Successful Pretrial Conference

The criminal defense attorney comes up with strategies that aim to win at the pretrial conference. The defense attorney may use various tactics such as negotiating a plea bargain, filing motions, and discussing options with the prosecution.

Can a Felony Case be Resolved at the Pretrial Conference?

How to Resolve a Felony Case Before Going to Trial

A felony case may be resolved at the pretrial conference. If the defendant enters a plea, a plea agreement may be reached, and the case will be settled without going to trial.

Plea Bargaining

Plea bargaining is a common way to resolve a case before going to trial. A plea bargain is an agreement between the prosecution and the defense to reduce the charges made against the defendant in return for a guilty plea.

Waiving a Preliminary Hearing

If the prosecution agrees, the defendant can waive their right to a preliminary hearing. This may speed up the process and lead to a quicker resolution of the criminal case.

What Happens at a Pretrial Conference?

Motions Hearing

A motions hearing is a legal proceeding where the judge hears arguments from both sides regarding any motions that were filed. The judge will make a decision whether to grant or deny a motion.

Role of Prosecutor at a Pre-trial Conference

The prosecutor presents the case to the court and discusses the evidence against the defendant. The prosecutor will also work on negotiating a plea bargain if that option is presented.

Role of Defense Lawyer at a Pre-trial Conference

The defense lawyer attempts to achieve the best possible outcome for their client, negotiates with the prosecutor, files motions when necessary, and challenges evidence presented by the prosecution. Their ultimate goal is preferable to resolve the case without going to trial.


A pretrial conference is an essential legal procedure that aims at settling the case before going to trial. A competent criminal defense attorney is crucial for success in these proceedings. Both the prosecution and the defense must present their case and strategies during pretrial hearings to reach a suitable resolution.

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