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What is the standard at a preliminary hearing in Pennsylvania. My case is not in Philadelphia County, but one of the surrounding counties. I have a copy of the affidavit of probable cause, and the story is ridiculous. What is the preliminary hearing standard to make it to a trial court? In other words, what does a government need to prove in their case to take me to trial.

The actual legal term for the preliminary hearing standard is called a prima facie case. Translated literally, “based on the first impression; accepted as correct until proved otherwise.” In practice in Pennsylvania in a Magisterial District Court, the judge is instructed to listen to all of the evidence presented at the preliminary hearing and assume everything the witnesses say is true. Then take the truthful testimony from the witness and apply it to the law. Then ask themselves, “if all of this is true, what charges under the PA Code would be appropriate for trial that have been charged?” If any charges are made out by the testimony, then a prima facie case has been established.

After that, the judge then rules those charges go to criminal court.

In your case, no matter how ridiculous the story, the judge is forced by the law, to accept all of the statements of the witness as true and apply them to the law. The judge may not consider if the witness is lying. The judge may not consider whether the witness’s story is ridiculous. The judge must simply apply the law.

In the counties, the judge basically sends everything to the trial court.

Author: Brian Zeiger
Brian Zeiger

Brian J. Zeiger, Esquire, is an experienced and successful criminal defense and civil rights attorney. He is a seasoned trial lawyer with significant experience before juries and judges. Brian understands civil rights cases, including Taser, Wrongful Death, Excessive Force, Police Brutality, Police Misconduct, Malicious Prosecution, Monell Claims, Sexual Assault, Prisoner’s Rights, Time Credit, Medical Malpractice, and Medical Indifference.