An omnibus hearing is a pretrial hearing in which the prosecution and defense present material related to the case, make any necessary motions and requests, and the court resolves the procedural details related to the case. The defendant does not have to be present at the omnibus hearing, and the length of the hearing can vary, depending on the complexity of the case. One of the primary purposes of the hearing is to confirm that the legal rights of the defendant are being protected.
Before an omnibus hearing can be held, the arraignment must occur. At the arraignment, the charges are read to the defendant, and the defendant has an opportunity to enter a plea. There are many steps in the process of bringing cases to trial, and people who are moving through the legal system should talk to their lawyers about what is going to happen and how long the process will take.
During the omnibus hearing, the court first confirms that the defendant has legal representation, and that the discovery period for both sides is over. A summary of the case and the evidence is presented, and the judge rules on admissibility of evidence. The defense may raise objections to various pieces of evidence with the hopes of having them eliminated or questioned. Both sides can also make motions, and the defense may make a motion to dismiss.
The judge rules on motions and deals with procedural errata including scheduling a court date, determining whether or not a continuance is needed, and so forth. As the “omnibus” implies, the omnibus hearing covers a lot of ground and deals with a wide variety of topics. Usually the lawyers, judge, and officers of the court try to move reasonably quickly so that the hearing is not interminable, but time will be taken to review contentious matters to confirm that the right steps are being taken.
In a contested omnibus hearing, the defendant wants to know if the case should go to trial at all, based on the material presented. In this case, during the pretrial hearing the prosecution must present supporting evidence to demonstrate that the case should be tried, or ask for a continuance to have time to gather more evidence. Probable cause must be demonstrated, members of law enforcement may testify, and the defense may challenge key pieces of evidence on the grounds that they were illegally obtained, and therefore cannot be used to support the case in court.