Probable Cause Hearings in North Carolina
At the Powers Law Firm PA, we understand that being charged with a crime can be a very scary and nerve-wracking situation. You may not know where to turn or understand what is going to happen with criminal charges.
Our defense lawyers have substantial experience handling criminal matters in North Carolina and are eager and willing to help and guide you during this difficult time in your life.Can I Request a Probable Cause Hearing Prior to Trial?
Under North Carolina criminal law, defendants who are charged with a felony or whose crime falls under the jurisdiction of the superior court are statutorily granted the right to request a probable cause hearing.
In NC, you may serve as your own attorney. However, there are strict time frames that you must adhere to or your right to a probable cause hearing can be lost.
Therefore, it is in your best interest to contact an experienced criminal law attorney who can request and prepare for a probable cause hearing on your behalf.What is Probable Cause in NC?
Probable cause means that the circumstances and evidence would lead a prudent and cautious person to believe that the events described are probably true. Probable cause is not the same a Reasonable Suspicion or Reasonable Doubt.
Defense attorneys may also refer to it as “Reasonable Grounds.” The standard is more akin to the preponderance of the evidence (i.e., greater than 50%).
Under North Carolina law, a person charged by a criminal warrant with a felony case is entitled to have a probable cause hearing within 15 working days of the first appearance date. The probable cause hearing takes place in the District Courts of North Carolina.
A probable cause hearing is where the State (prosecutor) must present evidence to establish probable cause that the offense charged has been committed and probable cause to believe the defendant is the one who committed the charged offense. For an exhaustive description of probable cause hearings and the requirements under North Carolina law click here.
The probable cause hearing provides the defense an opportunity to determine what evidence the State may and/or will use in its prosecution of the defendant. Therefore, a probable cause hearing can be very beneficial in developing a strategy for challenging the prosecution’s case in subsequent court appearances.
In very rare instances, the State may produce no evidence at the probable cause hearing and the case will be dismissed.
Once a judge determines that sufficient probable cause exists, the case is transferred to the jurisdiction of the Superior Court. At this stage, a grand jury proceeding takes place where a group of no less than 12 and no more than 18 or more individuals hear evidence from the State. The grand jury is a secret proceeding and neither the defense lawyer nor the defendant present evidence at the proceeding.
If at least twelve individuals of the grand jury find that there is probable cause to believe the charged crime has been committed and there is probable cause to believe that the defendant committed the crime, the grand jury will issue a true bill of indictment. A true bill of indictment means that the crime for which the defendant is charged can be formally brought in Superior Court.
If the grand jury does not find probable cause, the grand jury will return the indictment as not being a true bill of indictment.
It is important to remember that the grand jury’s responsibility is not to find whether the defendant is guilty or innocent of the charged crime. The jury in a criminal trial is responsible for determining whether the defendant is guilty or innocent of the crime for which he or she is charged.Call Now for a Free Case Evaluation
If you have been charged with a criminal offense in North Carolina, the attorneys at our Charlotte law office provide a free consultation. We understand when it is necessary to request a probable cause hearing and can adequately prepare you for this initial proceeding of the criminal process.
The Powers Law Firm, PA
2412 Arty Avenue
Charlotte, NC 28208
Charlotte, NC Office
*By Appointment Only
Attorney Bill Powers is licensed in NC and only handles North Carolina criminal charges. Attorney Chris Beddow is licensed in North Carolina and South Carolina and handles DWI charges, DUI charges, and criminal defense matters in both states.