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Stages of a Criminal Case in Maricopa County

Stages of a Criminal Case in Maricopa County

Stages of a Criminal Case in Maricopa County

Being arrested is a terrifying and humiliating event. It's also very confusing, and not knowing what is happening to you can what is going to happen next can be one of the scariest parts. There are multiple parts to criminal procedure in Maricopa County Courts. Having a knowledgeable guide through these difficult times could make a significant difference in the outcome of your case.

Maricopa County Criminal Procedure

Fortunately, you have a right to an attorney, and once you retain an attorney, he can represent you at every stage. Tempe criminal defense attorney James E. Novak is a former prosecutor on Maricopa County and has a detailed understanding of the criminal courts there. He can represent you through all proceedings and will make sure to continuously keep you fully informed. If you've been charged in Maricopa County, contact the Law Office of James E. Novak today at (480) 413-1499 to  set up a free consultation to discuss your charges.

The Law Office of James E. Novak serves the accused throughout the Tempe area, including Mesa, Gilbert, Phoenix, Chandler, Scottsdale and East Valley.

Stages in Maricopa County Superior and Justice Courts

After being arrested, there are multiple hearings and procedures, from an initial appearance to sentencing. They include:

Initial Appearance: After arrest, there is an initial appearance within 24 hours. Often, you will be taken straight from jail. You may also receive a summons with the time and date of the appearance to appear if you are not already in police custody. If you do not appear, a warrant may be issued for your arrest. At the initial appearance, you will be informed of the allegations against you and of your right to an attorney. The court will also set conditions  on your release, such as bond or your own recognizance, or may determine that you must stay in jail. Your attorney can argue for the best possible result. The court will set the date for the next proceeding.

Charging the Defendant: Felony charges must either stem from a direct complaint, filed by the prosecutor to the court, or from an indictment, which is issued by a grand jury. For a direct complaint, the court holds a preliminary hearing, where the prosecutor presents evidence and witnesses to show probable cause that a crime was committed. The judge may allow the direct complaint or dismiss the case for lack of evidence. In an indictment, the prosecutor presents evidence to the Grand Jury, a panel of 16 citizens, who decide whether probable cause exists.

The prosecutor does not have to present evidence in your favor unless it clearly exculpates you, or makes it clear that you are not guilty. You have no right to testify. Grand jury proceedings are secret.

Arraignment: Once the defendant is charged, the Superior Court holds this hearing for you to plead. If you plead "guilty," the court will then schedule a sentencing hearing. If you plead "not guilty," the court will set a date for your trial.

Pretrial Hearings: There may be pretrial hearings in which your lawyer and the prosecutor will argue matters over evidence and procedure. Your criminal defense attorney can argue at these hearings that certain evidence should not be allowed.

Trial: During the trial, the prosecution must present evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the crime. In most cases, prosecutors must convince a jury of eight or twelve jurors, although the defendant and prosecutor may agree for the judge to decide the verdict. The defense is not required to prove anything, unless making an affirmative defense, like insanity or self-defense. The defense can, however, refute the prosecutor's evidence and show reasonable doubt. The defendant can choose to testify, but cannot be compelled to do so. In most cases, your lawyer will advise you not to testify.

After both sides have presented evidence, the jury will decide upon a verdict. If guilty, the court will schedule a sentencing hearing. If not guilty, you will be free to go. If the jury cannot reach a verdict, there may be a new trial.

Sentencing: If found guilty, the court will set a sentencing hearing, usually within 30 days. There is a range of possible sentences for each crime. The prosecution will present what they believe is a fair sentence, and your defense attorney can argue why you deserve the lightest sentence possible. Victims also have a right to address the court. The judge determines the sentence.

The Law Office of James E. Novak | Tempe Criminal Defense Attorney

If you've been charged with a crime in Maricopa County courts, Tempe criminal defense attorney James E. Novak can help you through the difficult and confusing procedures that follow. James E. Novak knows criminal procedure in Arizona, and will zealously defend you and your rights. Call the Law Office of James E. Novak today at (480) 413-1499 for a free consultation to discuss the charges against you.