Between arraignment and trial, the judge may hold "pretrial hearings" to decide some matters. Many matters may be argued at trial while jury and witnesses wait, potentially delaying the trial while complex legal arguments and facts are argued.

Pretrial hearings can make trials run more smoothly and even prevent some trials from happening.

For example, a judge can hold a pretrial hearing to decide whether to throw out evidence that police obtained illegally, perhaps because the police made an arrest without probable cause. Illegally obtained evidence should not be heard by the jury, so the judge must determine whether evidence was illegally obtained before it can be allowed in front of the jury. A judge cannot make such a decision before hearing what happened. Having the judge hear testimony while a jury waits can be avoided by having a pretrial hearing.

Another important function of pretrial hearings is "discovery", a process in which the judge can order the prosecutor to give evidence to the accused.

Generally, a judge is not required to hold pretrial hearings, but most do. Some judges set pretrial hearing deadlines in every case, while others require the prosecutor or defense attorney to initiate hearings where needed.

Pretrial hearings can also set ground rules for trial, such as determining whether a witness must appear or whether witnesses can say certain words.

There is no end to what may be considered in a pretrial hearing. It depends only upon the originality of the attorneys and the willingness of a judge to hear the argument.

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*All answers are for people 21 years or older, do not involve enhancements, are not exclusive, and are limited to Texas.

**This page is for informational purposes ONLY and must not be relied upon as legal advice because it is NOT a substitute for the advice of a qualified attorney, nor does it establish an attorney-client relationship.

Not certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.

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