In cases where a complaint is filed alleging a felony offense, the defendant has a right to a preliminary hearing. The preliminary hearing is usually conducted within 10 days of the defendant’s initial appearance on the complaint
The preliminary hearing is sometimes referred to as a probable cause hearing. At the hearing, the prosecutor presents evidence that is subject to cross-examination by the defense attorney and the judge. The defendant also has the opportunity to present evidence. After hearing the evidence, the court determines whether there is probable cause that the defendant committed the charged offense, or any other offense. If probable cause is found for a felony offense, the defendant is bound over to the common pleas court. If probable cause for a misdemeanor is found, the case remains in the municipal court. If no probable cause is found, the defendant is free to leave.
Preliminary hearings are rarely held. In most instances, the defendant is either indicted prior to the preliminary hearing, or the prosecution dismisses the case for what is termed a future indictment (meaning the case will be presented to the grand jury sometime in the future).