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Pretrial Hearings

A Pre-Trial hearing also known as a pretrial conference is a joint conference when a judge will meet with both the prosecution and attorneys for a defendant facing a jury trial. The judge has various options available to him for sanctions if the parties fail to appear as directed. Various documents are exchanged and a trial date is usually set.

Pre-trial describes the timeframe between a defendant's arraignment and the start of the actual trial. During this period, attorneys may file motions, such as reducing charges, obtaining additional time and excluding evidence to name a few. When a Motion to reduce charges is filed it can be principally advantageous in a case involving a felony when a misdemeanor is a lesser charge included in the allegations against the defendant. Realization of this Motion can exclude the felony charge from consideration. Two techniques are used to accomplish this; filing a motion to reduce charges or by a reduction of charges at a preliminary hearing.

A pre-trial hearing also acts to allow the judge to make a determination if there is actual and fair cause for a trial, and if the prosecution should be allowed to proceed.

Mainly, this type of hearing is directed with all parties and their attorneys present in front of a judge for five central reasons:
The primary purpose is to advance disposition of the case against the defendant. It's also held to assist the court initiate administrative or managerial control over the case as well as discouraging inefficient and wasteful pre-trial activities. It is also used to attempt to increase the quality of the upcoming trial through comprehensive planning, and when possible, hasten a solution to the case such as a plea agreement, prior to going to trial.

It is important to note that in criminal cases pre-trial hearings are managed to resolve issues that do not inquire into the innocence or guilt of the accused. *The Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure Rule 17.1 (see footnote below) explains that pre-trial hearings may be directed to encourage an expeditious (speedy, efficient) and fair trial for criminal cases. State and federal courts use the pre-trial hearings in criminal cases to decide such preliminary matters as what evidence will be excluded from trial and which witnesses will be acceptable to give testimony.

A Pre-trial motion is used as a device by both the defense as well as the prosecution. These mechanisms are used in the attempt to put into place restrictions and limitations for the upcoming trial, if in fact one does transpire: The first proposition being if there is sufficient foundation why the accused should or shouldn't be mandated to stand trial?

Typically, some of the subjects that are examined are what testimony and physical evidence can be brought into play when the pending trial inaugurates and what lawful arguments can be presented and which of those should be excluded?

Some examples of Motions are as follows:
Most of us are familiar with television shows such as Law and Order, Boston Legal, The Good Wife, and others that deal with fictional stories based on actual case law. A Motion that is often presented by the defense on these shows at times attacks the prosecution concerning whether the defendant was properly given his rights under Miranda by arresting officers. In these situations of art imitating real life, if the defense can clearly prove that the issuance of Miranda wasn't properly presented to the defendant, a judge can quickly end a case entirely, based on those substantiations. The judge may also allow the exclusion of a confession because it was delivered to the arresting officer before the Miranda rights were given. Another instance (Motion to dismiss) could be the defense asking the judge to dismiss all charges because the arresting authorities never had probable cause to arrest the accused, or there is inadequate evidence for their client to be found guilty by a rational jury.  

An illustration of what the prosecution may use is the discrediting of a key defense witness who has been proven to have Alzheimer's disease or dementia, poor eyesight in a matter that necessitates what he viewed in defense of the accused, or in other ways where they are judged not to be legally competent to give testimony. In most cases, the bulk of motions that are filed by the prosecution involve issues regarding evidence.

Based on all of these Motions, a judge will make a decision if a witness may or may not be allowed to testify, certain items should be excluded for being brought before a jury, and whether the case should move forward at all or not.  

Attending a pre-trial hearing without a knowledgeable attorney to provide proper representation can leave an individual at the sole mercy of the prosecutor and the presiding judge.

A defendant that has reached the pre-trial hearing stage of a case against them must be properly represented. The arguments and motions delivered by a well-versed criminal trial attorney can decide the outcome of an approaching trial, or have possible charges reduced, and in a best case scenario have all charges fully dropped.

Michael B. Cohen, Esq. is a board certified criminal trial attorney who has had major successes in the pre-trial hearing phase of cases he's defended throughout his more than 35 year career. He is also "of counsel" for the New York City based law firm of McLaughlin & Stern, LLP.

His credentials include an AV rating by Martindale Hubbel, (pre-eminent).

Mr. Cohen's practice focuses on federal criminal defense and is also experienced in handling all classifications of cases that fall under the legal statutes of the State of Florida He is a member in good standing of both the Florida Bar and New York Bar, and is admitted to practice law in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh and Second Circuit.

He is also recognized among Florida lawyers as a "Super Lawyer" which represents a performance of being in the top 5% of criminal trial law which is his specialized field.

Additionally, he is registered in the 2013 edition of "Best Lawyers in America" as well as being considered an expert by the Florida Bar in the field of federal criminal defense.

To contact Mr. Cohen in Fort Lauderdale  call: 954.928.0059 or in West Palm Beach call: 561.366.8200

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*Rule 17.1: Pretrial Conference

"On its own, or on a party's motion, the court may hold one or more pretrial conferences to promote a fair and expeditious trial. When a conference ends, the court must prepare and file a memorandum of any matters agreed to during the conference. The government may not use any statement made during the conference by the defendant or the defendant's attorney unless it is in writing and is signed by the defendant and the defendant's attorney"
Source: Cornell University Law School