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A fair hearing is a legal concept that relates to the rights of the defendant. A hearing can serve as a preliminary step to a trial, or as an administrative arbitrator in certain types of legal disputes. There are several situations that the term fair hearing may be applied to, but it is important to note that a fair hearing is distinct from a fair trial.
In many cases, a fair hearing serves as means of securing a fast, binding decision about a dispute. In this case, the hearing may be held before a government administrative representative who is in no way affiliated with either party to the hearing. Fair hearings are often requested in cases where a person may lose his or her rights before a court-based trial can occur; for instance, if a person is in danger of being deported, he or she may be able to request a fair hearing with an immigration official.
Often, a fair hearing involves the loss of government-issued benefits or programs. This can include monetary aid such as welfare, disability benefits, or food stamps. It may sometimes involve child custody or child welfare agencies, or government medical benefits. If a person is in danger of losing any of these benefits, a fair hearing may be preferable to a court case, as court cases may take far longer to conclude and typically involve high fees.
Generally, a request for a fair hearing is issued by government agency; in the United States, this state based agency is usually called the Office of Administrative Hearing. The request for a hearing may need to be filed within a statute of limitations. If benefits or assistance have already been cut off for several months with no action on the part of the person requesting a hearing, the case may not qualify. If the hearing is accepted, a notification will be sent to all involved parties with the date and time of the hearing.
Fair hearing can also refer to the legal concept of due process, which is common law in many areas. This requires that the people involved in a hearing are given adequate notice of the date and time, so that they may have a reasonable chance to arrange attendance. In addition, it requires that the presiding judge listen to both sides of a case and examine all pertinent evidence. In many regions, these laws are officially built into the code of judicial law.