In Kansas, when the State charges a person with a felony, that person has a right to a preliminary hearing on the charges. The purpose of the preliminary hearing is to determine:
(1) whether a crime has been committed, and
(2) whether there is probable cause to believe the accused committed the crime.
The State is not required, and often does not, present all of its evidence at a preliminary hearing. Instead, the State is only required to prove that “a felony has been committed and there is probable cause to believe that a felony has been committed by the defendant.”
The burden of proof is very low at a preliminary hearing. In order to prove probable cause at preliminary hearing, there must be evidence sufficient to cause a person of ordinary prudence and caution to conscientiously entertain a reasonable belief of the accused's guilt, and even if the evidence is weak, if some evidence tends to disclose the charged offense was committed by the defendant, the case should go to a jury. Further, the law provides that, a trial court must draw inferences favorable to prosecution from evidence presented at preliminary hearing. Although the preliminary hearing is not to be considered a mini-trial, a good defense attorney knows how to effectively use a preliminary hearing.
The preliminary hearing can help an attorney in many different aspects of a case. First, and foremost, a preliminary hearing can lock witnesses into testimony that may change at trial. A good attorney knows how to cross-examine a witness, and preliminary hearing is where it begins. Additionally, a good attorney can gain valuable information at a preliminary hearing that can help to get important evidence suppressed in a case. Finally, a preliminary hearing can be used to gain insight into a case that may not have been readily apparent in the police reports.