The Nelson Law Group

What are Preliminary Hearings in Georgia Criminal Cases?

By Pierce Blitch

In the complex world of criminal law, the concept of probable cause stands as a threshold checkpoint before a case can advance to trial. This brings us to the critical role of a preliminary hearing in Georgia, also known as a probable cause or committal hearing. This hearing, typically scheduled shortly after an arrest, is not a battleground over guilt but rather a litmus test for evidence sufficiency.

The Venue of Justice: Where Preliminary Hearings Unfold

These hearings predominantly take place in front of magistrate court judges. However, for incidents within a municipality, a municipal court judge may preside. In exceptional cases, such as capital offenses, a Superior Court judge may preside over the hearing.

Who Attends and What’s at Stake?

Both misdemeanor and felony charges can have preliminary hearings. Attendees include the judge, prosecutor, your defense attorney, and, usually, the arresting officer. Whether you are in custody or out on bond, you are entitled to this hearing, where your bond amount may be set. In especially serious cases, a bond hearing might be necessitated in Superior Court.

The Core Objective of Preliminary Hearings

More often than not, these hearings result in the case progressing to grand jury presentment or accusation due to sufficient probable cause. But their true value lies in enabling a defense attorney to scrutinize the State’s case and evidence. As the rules of evidence are in play (except for the hearsay rules), these hearings are golden opportunities for well-informed defense attorneys.

Your Role in the Hearing: To Speak or Not to Speak?

It’s important to remember that any testimony given during this hearing is on record and can be used in subsequent trial phases. Most attorneys, prioritizing your defense strategy, would advise against testifying at this stage, using the hearing primarily for discovery purposes.

Partnering with Expertise: The Role of Your Attorney

The essence of a preliminary hearing is to uncover evidence that the State intends to use against you. This is where the expertise of an attorney from The Nelson Law Group becomes invaluable. We have a wealth of experience in conducting preliminary hearings as defense attorneys and as prosecutors and are ready to bolster your defense. Don’t hesitate to reach out for a comprehensive case evaluation.


We fight for you, and we don’t back down. Every criminal charge holds potentially life-altering consequences. We don’t hold back on providing our clients the best possible criminal defense available. Nearly all the attorneys at The Nelson Law Group are former Assistant District Attorneys, so our unique insight on how the prosecution approaches cases equips us with the ability to see the case from all sides. If you, a family member, or a close friend faces criminal charges, contact The Nelson Law Group today at 706-434-8770 or visit us at 7004 Evans Town Center Blvd., Third Floor, Evans, Georgia 30809 to discuss your unique case and our creative defense strategies with one of our experienced criminal defense attorneys.

DISCLAIMER: The content on this site is offered solely for informational purposes and might not represent the current law in your jurisdiction. None of the details provided here should be interpreted as legal advice from The Nelson Law Group or from the individual writer. Additionally, it is not meant to replace professional legal advice. Readers should not base their actions or decisions to abstain from actions solely on the information found in or available through this site. Instead, they should seek tailored legal or other expert counsel regarding their specific situation from an attorney or other professional authorized to practice in the reader’s state, nation, or other relevant licensing area.