Each state varies for the process of preliminary hearings and arraignments, but both of these proceedings are part of criminal cases. The arraignment is held prior to the preliminary hearing. In order to better understand the difference, it helps to take a closer look at both of them.
An initial appearance occurs where a judge states the charges to the defendant, including possible sentences if convicted of the crime. A right to trial is discussed and decided as to whether the defendant wants to have a jury or accept the judge's verdict. The defendant has the right to have an attorney, and if it isn't affordable or if the defendant is indigent, one can be appointed as a public defender.
In most cases, a 'guilty' or 'not guilty' plea is stated. A 'not guilty' plea will indicate a trial date be set. If the defendant stated guilty, the judge would set a sentencing date. Bail can be set as an insurance policy for the defendant to return for the court date, and in some cases, the defendant can leave on his or her own recognizance. Special conditions may be rendered including that the defendant cannot have any contact with the victim bringing the case forward. A date might be set for a preliminary hearing.
The magistrate or judge may also plead no contest, otherwise called nolo contendere. In some locations, this plea is equal to a guilty plea. It just means the defendant has not accepted guilt.
A hearing is held which is basically the 'trial before the trial,' also called the prelim, so the judge can discover whether there is enough information or evidence (probable cause) to proceed with a trial. The prosecutor and defendant's attorney will provide physical evidence or witnesses to testify for the worthiness of a trial. The defense will be allowed to cross-examine the witnesses. 'Hearsay' is admissible during a preliminary hearing.
The defendant, in most cases, is 'bound over' for a trial into the circuit or district court. However, if the charge is a felony, the judge is capable of ruling it as a less serious felony or a misdemeanor. Some cases are dismissed by the judge but they can be refilled by the prosecution.
Both the hearings and arraignments are used in the most serious cases and both are used for decisions on probable cause for the case to continue. Whether decided by a judge, or a trial with jurors, the two are closely related. Contact a lawyer, like King Law Firm, for more help.