What Is an Omnibus Hearing?

By Beverly Bird - Updated June 05, 2017
Criminal court proceedings

Ideally, you’ll never have to worry about attending an omnibus hearing. These proceedings are scheduled for criminal matters, usually felonies, but also serious misdemeanors. The overall purpose of these hearings is to resolve as many matters as possible prior to trial. Exactly what happens at omnibus hearings can vary a little by state.

Issues Resolved at Hearing

An omnibus hearing typically covers many issues, thus the name. The proceeding paves the way for trial. The court must determine whether the defendant has an attorney or needs one appointed. The defendant can change his plea if he chooses, and either side may argue that the proceedings should be closed to the public when trial starts. The most significant aspect of an omnibus hearing is the opportunity for both the prosecutor and defense attorney to alert the court that they plan to file pretrial motions, such as asking the court to suppress certain evidence.

Establishing Probable Cause

In a few states, including Minnesota, an omnibus hearing also deals with whether the state has probable cause to believe that a defendant has committed the particular crime he’s charged with. This means the state’s evidence establishes the specific crime occurred and defendant likely committed it. At the omnibus hearing, your attorney can argue that the state does not have probable cause – usually because the prosecutor lacks sufficient evidence to support the charge. If this argument is successful, the proceeding may be stopped in its track.

About the Author

Beverly Bird is a practicing paralegal who has been writing professionally on legal subjects for over 30 years. She specializes in family law and estate law and has mediated family custody issues.

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