The first part of this article analyzes the preliminary hearing as a working institution. The second part sets out and evaluates current proposals and prospects for improving the hearing through reform. In the third part a set of alternative procedures is proposed which might function better than a judicial hearing with multiple functions, and comparisons are made with present and proposed hearing procedures. Throughout the article it will be assumed that any proposal for reform should fairly and effectively protect the interests of the accused while respecting the needs of law enforcement. In addition, any proposal for reform should take population growth into account and should be designed to help solve the problems of pre-trial criminal procedure in an urban setting. Finally, any proposal for reform at the preliminary hearing stage should be consistent with recent progressive proposals for reform that are being implemented at other stages of the criminal process.

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