Rule 5.1


Rule 5.1 Preliminary Hearing

(a) In General. If a defendant is charged with an offense other than a petty offense, a magistrate judge must conduct a preliminary hearing unless:

(1) the defendant waives the hearing;

(2) the defendant is indicted;

(3) the government files an information under Rule 7(b) charging the defendant with a felony;

(4) the government files an information charging the defendant with a misdemeanor; or

(5) the defendant is charged with a misdemeanor and consents to trial before a magistrate judge.

(b) Selecting a District. A defendant arrested in a district other than where the offense was allegedly committed may elect to have the preliminary hearing conducted in the district where the prosecution is pending.

(c) Scheduling. The magistrate judge must hold the preliminary hearing within a reasonable time, but no later than 14 days after the initial appearance if the defendant is in custody and no later than 21 days if not in custody.

(d) Extending the Time. With the defendant's consent and upon a showing of good cause—taking into account the public interest in the prompt disposition of criminal cases—a magistrate judge may extend the time limits in Rule 5.1(c) one or more times. If the defendant does not consent, the magistrate judge may extend the time limits only on a showing that extraordinary circumstances exist and justice requires the delay.

(e) Hearing and Finding. At the preliminary hearing, the defendant may cross-examine adverse witnesses and may introduce evidence but may not object to evidence on the ground that it was unlawfully acquired. If the magistrate judge finds probable cause to believe an offense has been committed and the defendant committed it, the magistrate judge must promptly require the defendant to appear for further proceedings.

(f) Discharging the Defendant. If the magistrate judge finds no probable cause to believe an offense has been committed or the defendant committed it, the magistrate judge must dismiss the complaint and discharge the defendant. A discharge does not preclude the government from later prosecuting the defendant for the same offense.

(g) Recording the Proceedings. The preliminary hearing must be recorded by a court reporter or by a suitable recording device. A recording of the proceeding may be made available to any party upon request. A copy of the recording and a transcript may be provided to any party upon request and upon any payment required by applicable Judicial Conference regulations.

(h) Producing a Statement.

(1) In General. Rule 26.2(a)–(d) and (f) applies at any hearing under this rule, unless the magistrate judge for good cause rules otherwise in a particular case.

(2) Sanctions for Not Producing a Statement. If a party disobeys a Rule 26.2 order to deliver a statement to the moving party, the magistrate judge must not consider the testimony of a witness whose statement is withheld.

(Added Apr. 24, 1972, eff. Oct. 1, 1972; amended Mar. 9, 1987, eff. Aug. 1, 1987; Apr. 22, 1993, eff. Dec. 1, 1993; Apr. 24, 1998, eff. Dec. 1, 1998; Apr. 29, 2002, eff. Dec. 1, 2002; Mar. 26, 2009, eff. Dec. 1, 2009.)

Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1972

Rule 5.1 is, for the most part, a clarification of old rule 5(c).

Under the new rule, the preliminary examination must be conducted before a “federal magistrate” as defined in rule 54. Giving state or local judicial officers authority to conduct a preliminary examination does not seem necessary. There are not likely to be situations in which a “federal magistrate” is not “reasonably available” to conduct the preliminary examination, which is usually not held until several days after the initial appearance provided for in rule 5.

Subdivision (a) makes clear that a finding of probable cause may be based on “hearsay evidence in whole or in part.” The propriety of relying upon hearsay at the preliminary examination has been a matter of some uncertainty in the federal system. See C. Wright, Federal Practice and Procedure: Criminal §80 (1969, Supp. 1971); 8 J. Moore, Federal Practice 504[4] (2d ed. Cipes 1970, Supp. 1971); Washington v. Clemmer, 339 F.2d 715, 719 (D.C. Cir. 1964); Washington v. Clemmer, 339 F.2d 725, 728 (D.C. Cir. 1964); Ross v. Sirica, 380 F.2d 557, 565 (D.C. Cir. 1967); Howard v. United States, 389 F.2d 287, 292 (D.C. Cir. 1967); Weinberg and Weinberg, The Congressional Invitation to Avoid the Preliminary Hearing: An Analysis of Section 303 of the Federal Magistrates Act of 1968, 67 Mich.L.Rev. 1361, especially n. 92 at 1383 (1969); D. Wright, The Rules of Evidence Applicable to Hearings in Probable Cause, 37 Conn.B.J. 561 (1963); Comment, Preliminary Examination—Evidence and Due Process, 15 Kan.L.Rev. 374, 379–381 (1967).

A grand jury indictment may properly be based upon hearsay evidence. Costello v. United States, 350 U.S. 359 (1956); 8 J. Moore, Federal Practice 6.03[2] (2d ed. Cipes 1970, Supp. 1971). This being so, there is practical advantage in making the evidentiary requirements for the preliminary examination as flexible as they are for the grand jury. Otherwise there will be increased pressure upon United States Attorneys to abandon the preliminary examination in favor of the grand jury indictment. See C. Wright, Federal Practice and Procedure: Criminal §80 at p. 143 (1969). New York State, which also utilizes both the preliminary examination and the grand jury, has under consideration a new Code of Criminal Procedure which would allow the use of hearsay at the preliminary examination. See McKinney's Session Law News, April 10, 1969, pp. A119–A120.

For the same reason, subdivision (a) also provides that the preliminary examination is not the proper place to raise the issue of illegally obtained evidence. This is current law. In Giordenello v. United States, 357 U.S. 480, 484 (1958), the Supreme Court said:

[T]he Commissioner here had no authority to adjudicate the admissibility at petitioner's later trial of the heroin taken from his person. That issue was for the trial court. This is specifically recognized by Rule 41(e) of the Criminal Rules, which provides that a defendant aggrieved by an unlawful search and seizure may “* * * move the district court * * * to suppress for use as evidence anything so obtained on the ground that * * *” the arrest warrant was defective on any of several grounds.

Dicta in Costello v. United States, 350 U.S. 359, 363 –364 (1956), and United States v. Blue, 384 U.S. 251, 255 (1966), also support the proposed rule. In United States ex rel. Almeida v. Rundle, 383 F.2d 421, 424 (3d Cir. 1967), the court, in considering the adequacy of an indictment said:

On this score, it is settled law that (1) “[an] indictment returned by a legally constituted nonbiased grand jury, * * * is enough to call for a trial of the charge on the merits and satisfies the requirements of the Fifth Amendment.”, Lawn v. United States, 355 U.S. 399, 349, 78 S.Ct. 311, 317, 2 L.Ed.2d 321 (1958); (2) an indictment cannot be challenged “on the ground that there was inadequate or incompetent evidence before the grand jury”, Costello v. United States, 350 U.S. 359, 363, 76 S.Ct. 406, 408, 100 L.Ed. 397 (1956); and (3) a prosecution is not abated, nor barred, even where “tainted evidence” has been submitted to a grand jury, United States v. Blue, 384 U.S. 251, 86 S.Ct. 1416, 16 L.Ed.2d 510 (1966).

See also C. Wright, Federal Practice and Procedure: Criminal §80 at 143 n. 5 (1969, Supp. 1971) 8 J. Moore, Federal Practice 6.03[3] (2d ed. Cipes 1970, Supp. 1971). The Manual for United States Commissioners (Administrative Office of United States Courts, 1948) provides at pp. 24–25: “Motions for this purpose [to suppress illegally obtained evidence] may be made and heard only before a district judge. Commissioners are not empowered to consider or act upon such motions.”

It has been urged that the rules of evidence at the preliminary examination should be those applicable at the trial because the purpose of the preliminary examination should be, not to review the propriety of the arrest or prior detention, but rather to determine whether there is evidence sufficient to justify subjecting the defendant to the expense and inconvenience of trial. See Weinberg and Weinberg, The Congressional Invitation to Avoid the Preliminary Hearing: An Analysis of Section 303 of the Federal Magistrates Act of 1968, 67 Mich. L. Rev. 1361, 1396–1399 (1969). The rule rejects this view for reasons largely of administrative necessity and the efficient administration of justice. The Congress has decided that a preliminary examination shall not be required when there is a grand jury indictment ( 18 U.S.C. §3060). Increasing the procedural and evidentiary requirements applicable to the preliminary examination will therefore add to the administrative pressure to avoid the preliminary examination. Allowing objections to evidence on the ground that evidence has been illegally obtained would require two determinations of admissibility, one before the United States magistrate and one in the district court. The objective is to reduce, not increase, the number of preliminary motions.

To provide that a probable cause finding may be based upon hearsay does not preclude the magistrate from requiring a showing that admissible evidence will be available at the time of trial. See Comment, Criminal Procedure—Grand Jury—Validity of Indictment Based Solely on Hearsay Questioned When Direct Testimony Is Readily Available, 43 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 578 (1968); United States v. Umans, 368 F.2d. 725 (2d Cir. 1966), cert. dismissed as improvidently granted 389 U.S. 80 (1967); United States v. Andrews, 381 F.2d 377, 378 (2d Cir. 1967); United States v. Messina, 388 F.2d 393, 394 n. 1 (2d Cir. 1968); and United States v. Beltram. 388 F.2d 449 (2d Cir. 1968); and United States v. Arcuri, 282 F.Supp. 347 (E.D.N.Y. 1968). The fact that a defendant is not entitled to object to evidence alleged to have been illegally obtained does not deprive him of an opportunity for a pretrial determination of the admissibility of evidence. He can raise such an objection prior to trial in accordance with the provisions of rule 12.

Subdivision (b) makes it clear that the United States magistrate may not only discharge the defendant but may also dismiss the complaint. Current federal law authorizes the magistrate to discharge the defendant but he must await authorization from the United States Attorney before he can close his records on the case by dismissing the complaint. Making dismissal of the complaint a separate procedure accomplishes no worthwhile objective, and the new rule makes it clear that the magistrate can both discharge the defendant and file the record with the clerk.

Subdivision (b) also deals with the legal effect of a discharge of a defendant at a preliminary examination. This issue is not dealt with explicitly in the old rule. Existing federal case law is limited. What cases there are seem to support the right of the government to issue a new complaint and start over. See e.q., Collins v. Loisel, 262 U.S. 426 (1923); Morse v. United States, 267 U.S. 80 (1925). State law is similar. See People v. Dillon, 197 N.Y. 254, 90 N.E. 820 (1910; Tell v. Wolke, 21 Wis.2d 613, 124 N.W.2d 655 (1963). In the Tell case the Wisconsin court stated the common rationale for allowing the prosecutor to issue a new complaint and start over:

The state has no appeal from errors of law committed by a magistrate upon preliminary examination and the discharge on a preliminary would operate as an unchallengeable acquittal. * * * The only way an error of law committed on the preliminary examination prejudicial to the state may be challenged or corrected is by a preliminary examination on a second complaint. (21 Wis. 2d at 619–620.)

Subdivision (c) is based upon old rule 5(c) and upon the Federal Magistrates Act, 18 U.S.C. §3060(f). It provides methods for making available to counsel the record of the preliminary examination. See C. Wright, Federal Practice and Procedure: Criminal §82 (1969, Supp. 1971). The new rule is designed to eliminate delay and expense occasioned by preparation of transcripts where listening to the tape recording would be sufficient. Ordinarily the recording should be made available pursuant to subdivision (c)(1). A written transcript may be provided under subdivision (c)(2) at the discretion of the court, a discretion which must be exercised in accordance with Britt v. North Carolina, 404 U.S. 226, 30 L.Ed.2d 400, 405 (1971):

A defendant who claims the right to a free transcript does not, under our cases, bear the burden of proving inadequate such alternatives as may be suggested by the State or conjured up by a court in hindsight. In this case, however, petitioner has conceded that he had available an informal alternative which appears to be substantially equivalent to a transcript. Accordingly, we cannot conclude that the court below was in error in rejecting his claim.

Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1987 Amendment

The amendments are technical. No substantive change is intended.

Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1993 Amendment

The Rule is amended to conform to the Judicial Improvements Act of 1990 [P.L. 101–650, Title III, Section 321] which provides that each United States magistrate appointed under section 631 of title 28, United States Code, shall be known as a United States magistrate judge.

Committee Notes on Rules—1998 Amendment

The addition of subdivision (d) mirrors similar amendments made in 1993 which extended the scope of Rule 26.2 to Rules 32, 32.1, 46 and Rule 8 of the Rules Governing Proceedings under 28 U.S.C. §2255. As indicated in the Committee Notes accompanying those amendments, the primary reason for extending the coverage of Rule 26.2 rested heavily upon the compelling need for accurate information affecting a witness’ credibility. That need, the Committee believes, extends to a preliminary examination under this rule where both the prosecution and the defense have high interests at stake.

A witness’ statement must be produced only after the witness has personally testified.

Changes Made to Rule 5.1 After Publication (“GAP Report”). The Committee made no changes to the published draft.

Committee Notes on Rules—2002 Amendment

The language of Rule 5.1 has been amended as part of the general restyling of the Criminal Rules to make them more easily understood and to make style and terminology consistent throughout the rules. These changes are intended to be stylistic, except as noted below.

First, the title of the rule has been changed. Although the underlying statute, 18 U.S.C. §3060, uses the phrase preliminary examination, the Committee believes that the phrase preliminary hearing is more accurate. What happens at this proceeding is more than just an examination; it includes an evidentiary hearing, argument, and a judicial ruling. Further, the phrase preliminary hearing predominates in actual usage.

Rule 5.1(a) is composed of the first sentence of the second paragraph of current Rule 5(c). Rule 5.1(b) addresses the ability of a defendant to elect where a preliminary hearing will be held. That provision is taken from current Rule 40(a).

Rule 5.1(c) and (d) include material currently located in Rule 5(c): scheduling and extending the time limits for the hearing. The Committee is aware that in most districts, magistrate judges perform these functions. That point is also reflected in the definition of “court” in Rule 1(b), which in turn recognizes that magistrate judges may be authorized to act.

Rule 5.1(d) contains a significant change in practice. The revised rule includes language that expands the authority of a United States magistrate judge to grant a continuance for a preliminary hearing conducted under the rule. Currently, the rule authorizes a magistrate judge to grant a continuance only in those cases in which the defendant has consented to the continuance. If the defendant does not consent, then the government must present the matter to a district judge, usually on the same day. The proposed amendment conflicts with 18 U.S.C. §3060, which tracks the original language of the rule and permits only district judges to grant continuances when the defendant objects. The Committee believes that this restriction is an anomaly and that it can lead to needless consumption of judicial and other resources. Magistrate judges are routinely required to make probable cause determinations and other difficult decisions regarding the defendant's liberty interests, reflecting that the magistrate judge's role has developed toward a higher level of responsibility for pre-indictment matters. The Committee believes that the change in the rule will provide greater judicial economy and that it is entirely appropriate to seek this change to the rule through the Rules Enabling Act procedures. See 28 U.S.C. §2072(b). Under those procedures, approval by Congress of this rule change would supersede the parallel provisions in 18 U.S.C. §3060.

Rule 5.1(e), addressing the issue of probable cause, contains the language currently located in Rule 5.1(a), with the exception of the sentence, “The finding of probable cause may be based upon hearsay evidence in whole or in part.” That language was included in the original promulgation of the rule in 1972. Similar language was added to Rule 4 in 1974. In the Committee Note on the 1974 amendment, the Advisory Committee explained that the language was included to make it clear that a finding of probable cause may be based upon hearsay, noting that there had been some uncertainty in the federal system about the propriety of relying upon hearsay at the preliminary hearing. See Advisory Committee Note to Rule 5.1 (citing cases and commentary). Federal law is now clear on that proposition. Thus, the Committee believed that the reference to hearsay was no longer necessary. Further, the Committee believed that the matter was best addressed in Rule 1101(d)(3), Federal Rules of Evidence. That rule explicitly states that the Federal Rules of Evidence do not apply to “preliminary examinations in criminal cases, . . . issuance of warrants for arrest, criminal summonses, and search warrants.” The Advisory Committee Note accompanying that rule recognizes that: “The nature of the proceedings makes application of the formal rules of evidence inappropriate and impracticable.” The Committee did not intend to make any substantive changes in practice by deleting the reference to hearsay evidence.

Rule 5.1(f), which deals with the discharge of a defendant, consists of former Rule 5.1(b).

Rule 5.1(g) is a revised version of the material in current Rule 5.1(c). Instead of including detailed information in the rule itself concerning records of preliminary hearings, the Committee opted simply to direct the reader to the applicable Judicial Conference regulations governing records. The Committee did not intend to make any substantive changes in the way in which those records are currently made available.

Finally, although the rule speaks in terms of initial appearances being conducted before a magistrate judge, Rule 1(c) makes clear that a district judge may perform any function in these rules that a magistrate judge may perform.

Committee Notes on Rules—2009 Amendment

The times set in the former rule at 10 or 20 days have been revised to 14 or 21 days. See the Committee Note to Rule 45(a).

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