Preliminary hearings are available only on General Sessions level offenses. At a preliminary hearing, the arresting officer will testify as to why he or she arrested you, to establish probable cause. Your criminal defense attorney can then cross-examine the officer, to demonstrate that there was no probable cause for your arrest. Then the magistrate or municipal judge who conducts the hearing will either dismiss your case for lack of probable cause or will "bind it over" to General Sessions for prosecution.
If your case is dismissed at the preliminary hearing, the prosecutor can still send your case to the grand jury for indictment, which will "revive" your charges. In some cases the solicitor will "direct indict" cases after they have been dismissed at preliminary hearings, but not always. You must request a preliminary hearing on or before your First Appearance date; otherwise you waive your right to a preliminary hearing.
Preliminary hearings are an important part of an aggressive and effective defense, because even if your case is not dismissed for lack of probable cause, this is our opportunity to hear what the evidence is in your case, and to test the officer on the stand. Because there are no court reporters in South Carolina magistrate or municipal courts, often we will recommend that you retain a court reporter for your preliminary hearing, so that there will be a transcript of the officer's testimony that we can refer to later in your case.
We routinely request preliminary hearings for our clients. If you have been arrested but have not yet retained an attorney, call our Myrtle Beach office at 843-444-6122 or contact us online for a free consultation; if you choose to go forward with an aggressive criminal defense, we can request your hearing for you and begin preparing your case.