WATCH THE CLOCK: THE 10-DAY AND 60-DAY RULES FOR PRELIMINARY HEARINGS
By Mark Hanasono*
The preliminary hearing can be one of the most critical stages of a felony case. It is the first, and often the only, opportunity to observe the witnesses testify. It allows both the prosecution and the defense to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the case. Above all, it provides the defendant with his proverbial day in court.
Along with these features, the primary purpose of the preliminary hearing is to protect the accused from defending unsupported charges at trial. With this recognition that criminal allegations need to be tested at an early stage of the case, statutory provisions exist to prevent prolonged periods of incarceration for the accused prior to the preliminary hearing. Penal Code section 859b effectively provides a defendant with the right to a speedy preliminary hearing.1