Initial Appearances in Misdemeanor Cases

Criminal Defense Lawyer Representing Phoenix Area Residents

Misdemeanors are usually treated as being less serious than felonies. Even so, being convicted of a misdemeanor can have adverse consequences, depending on how harsh the sentence is and its impact on your future. In Arizona, misdemeanors are classified in three groups, with Class 3 misdemeanors being regarded as least serious and Class 1 misdemeanors being regarded as the most serious. A Phoenix criminal defense attorney may be able to help you negotiate a plea or secure a dismissal. If you are concerned about your initial appearance in a misdemeanor case, experienced legal counsel can help you navigate the process.

Misdemeanor DUI

You may have to serve jail time for certain misdemeanors. Arizona misdemeanors are classified as Class 1, 2, or 3 depending on how serious the crime is considered. With a Class 1 misdemeanor conviction, you can be fined up to $2500, and punished with up to 6 months in jail. For example, after you’re arrested for a DUI at the scene, you will be taken to jail and booked in the criminal justice system as having perpetrated a DUI. Within 24 hours after a DUI arrest, you are supposed to be taken in front of a judge or commissioner for your initial appearance.

Initial Appearances in Misdemeanor Cases

An initial appearance is your first appearance before a judge or commissioner. However, if you are arrested on a misdemeanor DUI, your initial appearance is also an arraignment. There are certain misdemeanors where a citation is issued, and in that case, there is an option of waiving your presence at the arraignment and entering a not guilty plea by mail. However, a DUI is not the kind of case where you can waive your presence by mail.

At the initial appearance, the charges will be outlined. You’ll be told the maximum and minimum sentence range for the DUI or other offense. The court will set release conditions. When the defendant is held in custody, he or she will be released, or bond or bail will be set.

The hearing will include an arraignment. During that time, the judge will provide information and take your plea. Among other things, you’ll be told you’re presumed innocent until you’re proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, that you have the right to remain silent, the right to an attorney and a right to trial. You’ll be asked whether you’re pleading guilty or not guilty. If you’re pleading not guilty, you will have the option of being appointed a public defender. However, it is wise to come to the initial appearance, even in a misdemeanor case, represented by a skillful attorney.

Assuming you’ve pled not guilty, and the crime is less serious, as misdemeanors are, you may be released on your own recognizance. This means you are personally promising the court you’ll come back when it’s required.

Failure to Appear

After the initial appearance, there are additional appearances you’ll have to make. You can face additional charges for failing to make the subsequent appearances, even when you are only being charged with a misdemeanor. It is a Class 1 misdemeanor to knowingly miss a court appearance, even if you were charged with a misdemeanor as opposed to a felony, if the law required you to attend. If you gave a written promise to appear, based on Arizona Revised Statutes section 13-3903, you can be charged with a Class 2 misdemeanor for failing to show up. These can result in a sentence of 4 months in jail.

Hire a Skillful Criminal Defense Attorney in Phoenix

If you are charged with a DUI or other offense in Phoenix and have questions about your initial appearance in a misdemeanor case, an experienced criminal defense lawyer can assess your legal options. James Novak represents defendants charged with crimes in the greater Phoenix area including Mesa, Chandler, Gilbert, and throughout Maricopa County. Call him at (480) 413-1499 or contact us via our online form.

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