What is an Omnibus Hearing?

The term ‘omnibus’ is a French term with Latin origins. ‘Omni’ stands for ‘all’, ‘every’ or ‘for all’. It was first used as ‘voiture omnibus’, which means ‘carriage for all’. Many are familiar with the usage of this term in relation with a publication that holds several things at once or in relation with transportation. In legal terms, an omnibus is used to describe a legislation like an omnibus bill, which has the right to pass numerous amendments to a law, or multiple laws.

An omnibus hearing is a legal proceeding that takes place before the actual trial. It is scheduled at the same time the trial date is established, usually two weeks from the date of the arraignment, unless otherwise mentioned in court. The length of the hearing can vary depending on the complexity of the case. The main purpose of the hearing is to introduce evidence and facts like testimony from police officials, and any evidence seized at the time of arrest from the defendant, to the legal representative counsel and defendants (if they wish to be present). These evidences and facts are used in the actual trial in the court. An omnibus trial is to confirm that the legal rights of the defendant are being protected. Before a hearing can be held, the arraignment (or accusation in simpler terms) must occur. In this stage, the charges are read to the defendant, and he has an opportunity to file a petition. Such a hearing is held to guarantee that both the parties acquire any critical information concerning the case held by the other. It serves as an agreement that the evidence presented is considered as admissible and can be used in the trial. It also determines whether the findings like the available evidence, the witnesses pertaining to the case are sufficient for a fair trial, and in case it is not complete, what more is needed. An omnibus trial is normally followed by a trial, a guilty plea, or a plea bargain. In an omnibus hearing, the attorneys can litigate legal issues and motions before the judge, prior to the court case.

Omnibus Bill
An omnibus bill is a single document that is accepted in a single vote by a legislature. It packages several measures together. It makes amendments to a number of other laws or even entirely new laws. We can say that, it combines diverse subjects into a single bill. Reconciliation bills, combined appropriations bills, and private relief and claims bills are all examples of the omnibus bill. The Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1968-69 is another famous example of such a bill. It was an amendment running into more than 100 pages, with 120 clauses to the Criminal code of Canada, and dealt with numerous unrelated issues, ranging from abortion, homosexuality, to drunk driving as well as gambling. It is a draft law before a legislature, which contains more than one substantive matter, or several minor matters which have been combined into one bill. The items are grouped together in an attempt to get them passed, mostly for the sake of convenience. In the 1970s, Congress began taking all the federal agency appropriations and combining them into a single bill. This is when it adopted the omnibus approach. Though this bill consists of a main or primary subject, it also contains various amendments addressing a wide range of other subjects. The unrelated and extra amendments which are not related to the main subject are often the result of deal-making and negotiation in the legislative process. These items are added to get support from certain legislators, which in turn guarantees that the bill is passed.