II. PRELIMINARY PROCEEDINGS
Rule 5.1: Preliminary Hearing.
(a) Procedures. The following rules apply to a preliminary hearing:
(1) Evidence. The finding that an offense has been committed and that there is probable cause to believe that the defendant committed it shall be based on evidence which may not be inadmissible hearsay except documentary proof of ownership and written reports of expert witnesses. Rules excluding evidence acquired by unlawful means are applicable.
(2) Defendant’s Right to Present Evidence and Cross-Examine. The defendant may cross-examine witnesses against him or her and may introduce evidence.
(3) Content and Access to Record of Proceeding. The evidence of the witnesses does not have to be reduced to writing by the magistrate, or under the magistrate's direction, and signed by the respective witnesses; but the proceedings shall be preserved by electronic recording or its equivalent. If the defendant is subsequently indicted, such recording shall be made available to the defendant or defense counsel so they may listen to the recording in order to be apprised of the evidence introduced in the preliminary hearing. Where the recording is no longer available or is substantially inaudible, the trial court shall order a new preliminary hearing upon motion of the defendant filed not more than 60 days following arraignment. The indictment shall not be dismissed while the new preliminary hearing is pending. If the magistrate conducting the new preliminary hearing determines that probable cause does not exist, the magistrate shall certify such finding to the trial court and the trial court shall then dismiss the indictment. The discharge of the defendant by the dismissal of the indictment in such circumstances does not preclude the state from instituting a subsequent prosecution for the same offense.
(b) When Probable Cause Found. When the magistrate at a preliminary hearing determines from the evidence that an offense has been committed and there is probable cause to believe that the defendant committed it, the magistrate shall bind the defendant over to the grand jury and either release the defendant pursuant to applicable law or commit the defendant to jail by a written order.
(c) When Probable Cause Not Found. When the magistrate determines from the evidence that there is not sufficient proof to establish that an offense has been committed or probable cause that the defendant committed it, the magistrate shall discharge the defendant. The discharge of the defendant does not preclude the state from instituting a subsequent prosecution for the same offense. The recording of the preliminary hearing shall be made available to the defendant in the event the defendant is subsequently prosecuted for the same offense by indictment or presentment. The remedy for the failure to preserve the recording in this circumstance shall be as set forth in subsection (a)(3).
(d) Transfer of Records. At the conclusion of a proceeding where probable cause is found, the magistrate shall promptly transmit to the criminal court clerk all papers and records in the proceedings. When probable cause is not found, the magistrate shall return the records and papers to the general sessions court clerk.
Advisory Commission Comment.
The subject of the preliminary hearing has been the focus of a considerable amount of litigation in recent years. The purpose, scope, and quality of evidence to be admitted upon a preliminary hearing have likewise been the subjects of intense debate. Despite the language in McKeldin v. State, 516 S.W.2d 82 (Tenn. 1974), suggesting that this stage of the proceeding is a discovery procedure for the accused, it is the commission's position, to the contrary, that McKeldin does not convert the preliminary hearing into a "fishing expedition," with unlimited potential for discovery. The case holds that the preliminary hearing is a probable cause hearing, which can result in providing discovery to the defendant, an important byproduct of its probable cause function.
Discovery is specifically addressed elsewhere in these rules, and the rights of the accused and of the state clearly spelled out. As stated above, the preliminary hearing is a probable cause hearing, and the scope of the proceeding is under the control of the magistrate in the exercise of a sound discretion. It is unnecessary for the magistrate to hear more of the state's proof than is necessary to establish probable cause, and the magistrate may terminate the hearing at any time that probable cause has been established and the accused has been afforded the opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses called by the state and to present defense proof reasonably tending to rebut probable cause. There is no right of the accused to call as witnesses all of the state's witnesses and question them. The magistrate may permit the accused to call witnesses summoned by the state, if in the exercise of a sound discretion the magistrate determines such testimony to be of use to the magistrate in determining probable cause, or the absence thereof. To repeat, the scope of the hearing is under the control of the magistrate, in the exercise of a sound discretion and governed by principles of fundamental fairness. The purpose of the hearing is to adjudicate the existence or absence of probable cause, and not to discover the state's case.
The quality of the evidence required is clear; it may not be inadmissible hearsay, except in those two instances deemed by the commission to be sufficient to warrant their being exceptions, i.e., documentary proof of ownership and written reports of expert witnesses.
Rule 5.1(a)(3) is drafted to make it clear that the constitutional right of the defendant to have access to a recording of the proceedings must be honored. See Britt v. North Carolina, 404 U.S. 226 (1971). There is no requirement that a written transcript of the proceedings be made; and certainly the requirement for an electronic recording can be waived, if knowingly and voluntarily done.
[Amended by order filed December 29, 2015; effective date July 1, 2016.]
Advisory Commission Comments .
The amendments provide remedies when the recording of a preliminary hearing is lost or damaged.
Advisory Commission Comment .
Consistent with simultaneous amendments to Tenn. R. Crim. P. 5, Tenn. R. Crim. P. 5 .1 and its original Advisory Commission Comments are amended to substitute the term "preliminary hearing" for the obsolete term "preliminary examination." No substantive changes are made to the Rule.Back to Top