Understanding Criminal Case Procedures, Maricopa County AZ

Understanding Criminal Case Procedures, Maricopa County AZ

Are you facing criminal charges in Maricopa County, Arizona? If so, it is important for you to understand the criminal law process and what to expect if you have to go to trial. Further, it is important to have an experienced criminal defense attorney by your side from the beginning.

Understanding Criminal Case Procedures, Maricopa County AZ

The criminal case procedures for felony charges are as follows:

  • Formal Criminal Charges are Filed
    • If the prosecutor believes there is sufficient evidence to indicate that the alleged offender has committed a crime and that the case has a reasonable likelihood of a conviction at a trial, the prosecutor will file a direct complaintor seek a Grand Jury indictment.
    • Both of these methods constitute a formal filing of criminal charges.
  • Initial Appearance
    • The IA is the first time the suspect―now referred to as a defendant―appears before a Judge.
    • After a suspect is arrested at the scene of an alleged crime or as a result of an arrest warrant, he or she is taken to jail and booked (registered in the criminal justice system). A defendant must be taken before a Judge or Commissioner for an IA within 24 hours of booking.
      • At the IA the defendant is informed of the criminal charge(s) filed against him or her.
      • Conditions of the defendant’s release are established.
    • Arraignment
      • An arraignment is held within ten days after the filing of an indictment or direct complaint, unless the defendant has not been arrested or has negotiated a plea agreement.
        • At the arraignment the defendant is informed of the criminal charge(s) filed against him or her.
        • The defendant is asked to enter a plea to the charge(s).
        • A pretrial conference and a trial date are set.
        • Conditions of the defendant’s release are established.
      • Pre-Trial Actions & Hearings
        • Before a trial there are many activities, hearings, and motions, that will be performed in preparation for trial.
        • Initial Pretrial Conference: After arraignment, a defendant who pleads not guilty is scheduled for an initial pretrial conference, which is a hearing designed to narrow the issues in controversy surrounding the case and perhaps settle it prior to the trial date.
        • Discovery: The formal process by which the prosecution and defense exchange information regarding the witnesses and evidence they plan to present at trial. The prosecution and defense must disclose the information and evidence they plan to present at trial. Our criminal justice system does not allow trial by ambush.
        • Pretrial Motions: Each side has the opportunity to ask the court for something prior to the start of trial. For example, the defendant may ask the court to rule a piece of evidence inadmissible, which would prohibit the prosecutor from presenting that evidence at trial. The defendant may argue the evidence is unduly prejudicial, was gathered in violation of the defendant’s constitutional rights, or is inadmissible for some other reason.
      • Plea Negotiations
        • Plea negotiations occur between the defendant (and his or her criminal defense attorney) and the prosecutor. Your criminal defense attorney can help negotiate a plea bargain on your behalf.
        • When a plea deal is made, the defendant agrees to plead guilty to some or all of the criminal charges filed against him or her in exchange for concessions from the prosecutor, such as reduced punishments.
        • The majority of criminal cases are resolved through plea agreements. A defendant may choose to accept a plea agreement to avoid the uncertainties of trial and the prospect of harsh sentencing that can follow from a jury conviction.
        • Plea negotiations and subsequent agreements can occur at any point after formal charges are filed. If an agreement is reached, the attorneys and the defendant appear before a Judge for a Change of Plea Hearing.
      • Trial
        • If a plea agreement is not reached, the case goes to trial.
        • A criminal trial will typically follow these steps: jury selection, opening statements, witness testimony and cross-examination, closing arguments, jury instructions, and finally jury deliberations.
      • Verdict
        • The jury must agree unanimously in order to find the defendant guilty or not guilty.
          • If the jury returns a not guilty verdict, it means the jurors found that the State failed to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and the defendant is released.
          • If the jury returns a guilty verdict, then the Judge will set a sentencing date.
        • Sentencing
          • At sentencing the Judge will deliver the defendant’s punishment, including the length of any prison sentence, fines, restitution, and any other punishment the Judge deems appropriate and has the power to impose.
          • The Arizona Criminal Code provides sentencing provisions that lay forth sentencing ranges. The prison term ranges considers the felony class, dangerousness of the offense, and prior criminal history. The sentencing provisions include a presumptive term of imprisonment, a minimum, maximum, and a longer term for aggravated offenses depending on the type and severity of the crime.
          • Pre-Sentence Report: Discusses the circumstances of the offenses, the defendant’s life and criminal history and recommends a specific sentence. The victim(s) are allowed to make a statement to the Judge at the Sentencing Hearing and may submit a written statement to the Judge as well.
          • In felony cases in Maricopa County, Arizona criminal courts, the sentencing hearing will generally be held about 30 days after a guilty jury verdict or change of plea.

Maricopa County Criminal Defense Attorney

Your Maricopa County criminal defense attorney can help you weight the benefits and drawbacks of entering into a plea agreement, assess the risks of going to trial, and to understand factors that can help mitigate the severity of sentencing. You want a skilled, experienced, and aggressive defense attorney by your side.

Ashley D. Adams is a former prosecutor with the United States Attorney’s Office. She understands how prosecutors operate, and the best tactics to use to get criminal charges dropped or dropped to lesser charges. Given her prior work, she also has a longstanding and positive relationship with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Attorney General’s Office, and the Department of Justice.

At ASHLEY D. ADAMS, PLC our emphasis is on white collar crime and defending the most complex criminal cases. There is no white collar criminal case that is too complex or too challenging for us. We have successfully defended charges for healthcare fraud, mortgage fraud, and other alleged large-scale fraud schemes. Our firm also handles other criminal matters, including DUI defense, drug crime defense, and domestic violence cases.

Contact us for the legal protection you need. Our firm handles state criminal cases throughout Arizona and federal criminal cases throughout the United States, including Arizona, Oklahoma, Utah, and California.

We practice excellence, one client at a time.