One step in the criminal court process in the State of California is “the hearing.” The legal definition of a hearing is: a relatively formal proceeding during which arguments and evidence are presented concerning the issue at hand to a court or another person with the power to decide on the matter. The main purpose of a hearing is so each side of a matter, often known as the case, are given the chance to present their position. The hearing serves as a time for a person, who may have been deprived of his or her rights, to have a say in what has taken place, usually through the voice of his or her attorney. A hearing is when information is presented and testimonies related to the case are heard.

Hearing Vs. Trial
When seeking to understand the purpose of a hearing, one must understand that a hearing is different than a trial. While a hearing is a procedure before a court or another decision-making body, a trial is when two disputing sides – the prosecution and defense – get to present their evidence before a court or higher authority through a formal process. Do they sound similar? Well, they are, actually. However, a hearing is less formal and shorter than a trial. Typically, a hearing will take place before a trial occurs to see if a trial can be avoided. Hearings primarily are a discussion to see if the matter can be resolved at that time, without going to trial. A hearing also is a time when evidence and testimonies are considered, which could be part of a trial, if the case gets to that point. Though hearings before a court or any authority have many similar features as that of trial proceedings, they are not termed as trials. Hearings come in several forms. Some hearings involve civil issues and others involve criminal issues.

Hearing Also Can Be Known as a Preliminary Hearing
When going through the criminal court process, know the hearing also may be referred to as the “preliminary hearing.” Whether it is called a hearing or preliminary hearing, the process serves the same means – to present the case facts to a higher authority before a jury is brought in and a formal trial begins. Not everyone who requests a hearing or preliminary hearing is granted one. The decision usually is decided upon by a solicitor after a hearing is requested by the defense. The hearing is presided over by a judge, or magistrate, primarily to see if enough probable cause exists to continue the case to trial. If probable cause is not established, the judge or magistrate can dismiss the case all together. The hearing often is known as the “trial before the trial.”