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As its name implies, a preliminary hearing is sort of a first step. It is a step that is taken before an actual trial can be held. Specifically, it is a step taken to try to determine whether a trial can and should be held in a certain jurisdiction.
In order to determine that a trial can and should be held in a give jurisdiction, the preliminary hearing must be held to determine the following things:
- Was a crime committed?
- Was the crime committed in an area that is under the jurisdiction of this particular court.
- Is there probable cause to believe that the defendant is the one who committed the crime. This is not the same as finding the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt -- it is just a finding that says that there is enough reason to believe that the defendant is guilty and that there should therefore be a trial.
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