In Idaho there are two ways that a case gets to district court – that is the court of general jurisdiction for the state. The first way is by indictment. An indictment results when a grand jury finds that there is evidence that indicates more likely than not, the person committed a crime.
That is the standard for probable cause – more likely than not. Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is not required until trial.
The second method is the use of an information charging a crime followed by a preliminary hearing. The preliminary hearing is held in public – not private like a secret grand jury. And the defendant and defense lawyer are at the hearing and have the opportunity to hear the witnesses and cross-examine the witnesses. This is a big advantage as the case goes forward. It allows everyone an opportunity to examine the facts and the law as the charges proceed to district court.
And there is always the possibility that the magistrate judge handling the preliminary hearing may not find probable cause – resulting in the dismissal of the charges. In sharp contrast, grand juries almost always do the state’s bidding. As the saying goes – a good prosecutor could indict a ham sandwich.
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