A preliminary hearing in a Pennsylvania criminal defense case is a step in the criminal process. It's an early step, but it's an incredibly important step, and in some instances, it can make or break the defendant's case. The preliminary hearing, the district attorney's office or the attorney general's office, whoever's prosecuting the case for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, needs to establish a prima facie case against the defendant, meaning that it's more likely than not that the person accused of the crime committed the crime.
It's a low burden of proof, the preliminary hearing. It's not as is in the case where, if a matter were to go to trial, a defendant needs to be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The preliminary hearing, essentially, is a step in the process where if charges were to be held for court, the case would proceed to the Court of Common Pleas. It goes from a preliminary hearing to a formal arraignment, which is the Court of Common Pleas. Again, the Commonwealth needs to establish a prima facie case against the defendant for charges to be held for court.
An experienced Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney can help you best understand the criminal process in Pennsylvania. If you're facing a preliminary hearing, they should be involved as early as possible.