In law, a hearing is a proceeding before a court or other decisionmaking body or officer. A hearing is generally distinguished from a trial in that it is usually shorter and often less formal.
During a hearing the decisionmaking body typically hears evidence and or arguments.
In the United States, one aspect of the "Due Process Revolution" is that many administrativedecisions that were once made much less formally must now be preceded by a hearing. An important step in this development was the Supreme Court decision in Goldberg v. Kelly, 397 U.S. 254 (1970). There the Court held that an agency could not terminate a recipient's welfare benefits without a pre-termination hearing. The decision also illustrated that what constitutes a "hearing" can depend on the context. In Goldberg, the goal of a speedy decision was held to "justify the limitation of the pre-termination hearing to minimum procedural safeguards," which included such basic matters as the right to appear and to cross-examine witnesses, but did not include "a complete record and a comprehensive opinion".
Within some criminal justice systems, a preliminary hearing (evidentiary hearing) is a meeting, after a criminal complaint has been filed by the prosecutor, to determine whether, and to what extent,criminal charges and civil cause of actions will be heard (by a court), what evidence will be admitted, and what else must be done (before a case can proceed). At such a hearing, the defendant may be assisted by counsel. In the US (and some other locations), a person may be charged, instead, by agrand jury; where counsel is not permitted. Should court decide in the affirmative, a formal indictmentwill be made; and a trial date set. If the defendant feels that evidence against them is "strong", then they may request a plea bargain.
Some important questions, generally addressed in such a hearing, are:
1. Did the alleged crime occur within the court's jurisdiction?
2. Is there probable cause, to believe that the defendant committed the crime?
The jury trial (not to be confused with grand jury proceedings or trial by jury) is a bench trial wherein the Judge uses a jury to advise him on the facts while he determines the law. These "peers of the accused" are responsible for listening to a dispute, evaluating the evidence presented, deciding on the facts, and making a decision in accordance with the rules of law and their jury instructions. It is most commonly seen in common law jurisdictions, but is also present in some civil law jurisdictions.
In a trial by jury the "peers of the accused" are responsible for determining both the facts and the law and may ignor the instructions of the judge in making a decision in accordance with their concience.
Some jurisdictions allow the defendant to waive their right to a jury trial, this leading to a bench trial.Trial by jury is rarely used in civil law jurisdictions, although many civil law jurisdictions do have lay assessors. Jury trials tend to occur only when a crime is considered serious. Because jury trials tend to be high profile, the general public tends to overestimate the frequency of jury trials. In the United States, for example, the vast majority of cases are settled by plea bargain which removes the need for a jury trial.
In many nations particularly the United Kingdom and the United States, trials by jury are seen as acheck against state power, and the belief is that a jury is likely to be more sympathetic to the defendant than the state is.
This belief contrasts sharply with popular beliefs in many other nations, in which it is considered bizarre for a person's fate to be put into the hands of untrained laymen. Consider Japan, for instance, which used to have optional jury trials for capital or other serious crimes between 1928 and1943. The defendant could freely choose whether to have a jury or trial by judges, and the decisions of the jury were non-binding. During the T?j?-regime this was suspended, arguably due to the popular belief that any defendant who risks his fate on the opinions of untrained laymen is almost certainly guilty.
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