Waiving the right to a preliminary hearing gives the court permission to send the defendant's case directly to trial, according to Rule 541 of the Pennsylvania Code. To initiate a waiver, the defendant agrees in writing with all of the court's conditions attached to the waiver.
Choosing to waive a preliminary hearing is a decision to be made after consulting with an attorney. According to Nolo, there are several reasons to go this route. One reason is when the defendant accepts his guilt and wishes to plead guilty. A defendant who is guilty on one charge waives the hearing to avoid additional charges that would come to light during the hearing. In a strong case for the prosecution, notes Nolo, an angry witness may testify under oath and subsequently refuse further interviews with the defense.
Sometimes waiving is a defense strategy to avoid unwanted negative publicity, Nolo notes. In addition, some damaging witness testimony may be avoided by a preliminary hearing. Preliminary hearings are designed to establish the validity of charges brought against the defendant, FindLaw states. Evidence produced at a hearing may include sworn affidavits, physical evidence and compelling witness testimony. In high-profile cases, such evidence could taint a jury pool once it becomes public, according to FindLaw.