The San Francisco 49ers will continue their offseason legal journey as cornerback Chris Culliver has a preliminary setting hearing today at 9 a.m. PT. That is different than a preliminary hearing. I did a little bit of research on what a preliminary setting hearing is, and came across this reference that some of my lawyer friends said hit on most of the pertinent points.
As I understand it, this hearing is set up to determine a date for an actual preliminary hearing. The preliminary hearing is the next step in which they determine if there is enough evidence to go to trial. At the preliminary setting hearing, the judge can determine if any progress has been made toward a potential plea bargain. It varies by county, but there can be sentencing reports or pre-plea reports from probation. The report would contain a recommendation as to whether Culliver would be a suitable candidate for probation. This is based on his prior history, age and the factors of crime, both in mitigation and aggravation.
A plea bargain seems like a decent possibility, with the decision to continue this hearing to today as a potential indicator of plea discussions. If Culliver pleas out before the season starts, the NFL could consider discipline under its personal conduct policy. However, given that this is his first offense, and it's probably on the lower end of the spectrum of "bad" crimes for NFL discipline purposes, I just don't see a suspension happening. This would speed up a suspension for a future bad act, but for now, I would think the NFL gives him a finger wagging to clean up his act. Now we just need to hope he gets it together and avoids this kind of knuckle-headed behavior moving forward.