Formal Complaints in Criminal Cases

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After a crime has been reported to the police, law enforcement officers will investigate. They will interview the victim as well as witnesses and create a report. In certain cases, an attorney will also come to the scene to help with legal issues. When police identify a suspect, and they have probable cause, they may immediately arrest the suspect. However, in other cases, a further investigation is done. The police will submit their findings to a prosecutor for review. If a prosecutor believes that there is enough of a basis to prosecute a suspect, and there is a reasonable likelihood that they can obtain a conviction, they will file a formal complaint in a criminal case. Phoenix criminal defense lawyer James Novak is a former prosecutor who now uses his insight into this process to provide the strongest possible defense to clients charged with drug offenses, DUI, assault, and other crimes.

Formal Complaints in Criminal Cases

Generally, it is best to consult and retain a criminal defense attorney even before a formal complaint is filed. If you are under investigation, you should have an attorney. Sometimes, it is possible for us to influence a case even before formal charges are filed. The police are usually not on your side if you are a suspect, and the investigation is an effort to build a strong enough case against you such that the prosecutor will be comfortable filing a formal complaint.

There are two ways that the formal filing of criminal charges may happen. The first is through the filing of a direct complaint. The prosecutor prepares a document specifying the crimes that the defendant is believed to have committed. For example, a direct complaint might be filed in connection with a drunk driving charge. The judge will review this document to decide whether there is enough evidence and may issue a summons ordering the suspect to appear at a preliminary hearing for a formal notification of the charges that the prosecutor is pursuing. In some cases, the judge issues an arrest warrant for the suspect. When felony charges are filed directly by complaint, the prosecutor will present evidence to try to establish probable cause. The judge can order a trial or dismiss the case for lack of evidence.

The other method of formal complaint is a grand jury indictment. With this method, the prosecutor charges the suspect by providing evidence to a Grand Jury. The charges are usually more serious than those involved in a direct complaint. There are three types of Grand Juries in Arizona, made up of citizens chosen randomly. Each county has a Grand Jury that hears sex, drug, and murder charges. There is also a state Grand Jury that will hear charges involving acts that have been perpetrated in multiple counties or that are complex. Often, the charges heard by the state Grand Jury involve drug conspiracy or white-collar crimes. There is also a federal Grand Jury, which hears charges involving federal criminal violations.

If a Grand Jury decides that there is enough evidence that the suspect did commit the crime and should be tried, the jurors will issue an indictment. However, they can also issue an indictment that alleges other charges or decide that there is not enough evidence to support the charges. When an indictment is issued, the judge can summon the defendant to court or provide an arrest warrant to officers so that they can arrest the suspect.

Initial Appearance and Formal Complaint

What if you are arrested right away? At an initial appearance, you will be informed of the allegations against you and advised of your right to an attorney or appointed a public defender. The court will establish conditions for your release if you are accused of a non-violent crime, such as a DUI, or if you have enough community ties to be released on your own recognizance. However, if you have been arrested for something like aggravated assault or another violent crime, you may be required to post a cash bond or stay in jail. The prosecutor must file charges in a direct complaint if you have been held without bond for 48 hours. Otherwise, you are supposed to be released. When a county attorney does not file a complaint in that time frame, the case is scratched.

Retain a Knowledgeable Criminal Attorney in Phoenix or Surrounding Cities

You should take a criminal investigation seriously. If you want to know more about a formal complaint in a criminal case, you should consult an experienced and tenacious litigator to advise you. Contact James Novak at (480) 413-1499 or via our online form. He represents defendants throughout the Phoenix region, including in Tempe, Mesa, Chandler, Gilbert, Scottsdale, and other cities in Maricopa County.

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