Trials in Drug Crime Cases

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In Maricopa County, municipal prosecutors handle most misdemeanor drug charges. Minors under the age of 18 accused of drug crimes will be referred to the juvenile court system. Often, prior to going to trial, defendants may work out a plea agreement under which they agree to plead guilty or no contest in exchange for a benefit, such as a lesser charge or agreements related to sentencing. However, some drug crimes, including felony drug crimes, proceed to trial. Phoenix drug crime attorney James Novak provides experienced representation to people facing trials in drug crime cases.

Early Disposition Court

Early Disposition Court handles minor first- and second-time drug crimes. Generally, cases eligible for Early Disposition Court are identified early and set for a preliminary hearing. Both the plea and sentencing are combined in these hearings. Sometimes a defendant will be ordered to participate in a substance abuse treatment program rather than be prosecuted.

Trials in Drug Crime Cases

When a drug crime proceeds to trial, all the parties are subpoenaed beforehand to testify. Eyewitnesses on both sides will receive subpoenas. Witnesses may also include experts on drugs or laboratory testing of a drug.

Opening Statements

After the jury is selected and sworn, the prosecution and the defense will have an opportunity to deliver their opening statements. The opening statement is not evidence, but an introduction to the case and a summary of the evidence and arguments on either side.

Presentation of Evidence

When the prosecution presents its case against the defendant, it is obliged to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. This means the prosecution bears the burden of showing beyond a reasonable doubt that a drug crime was perpetrated and that the defendant perpetrated it. To meet this tough burden, the prosecutor will present evidence and call witnesses to the stand to testify under oath. After each witness testifies, the defense attorney may cross-examine the witness.

Once the prosecution has finished presenting its case, the defense has the opportunity to present its case, including any relevant evidence. Whether the defendant testifies or not is a decision between the defense attorney and the defendant. However, defendants have a Fifth Amendment right to remain silent and their attorney may advise the defendant to exercise that right. Each defense witness that testifies can be cross-examined by the prosecutor.

After the defense rests its case, the prosecutor may call rebuttal witnesses. These witnesses may be called to poke holes in the defense by impeaching or discrediting testimony from witnesses called by the defense.

Closing Statements

When both sides have presented their cases and rebuttal witnesses have been heard, both sides will make final arguments and present a closing statement. Like the opening statement, the closing statement is not evidence. After closing statements are given, the judge will instruct the jury about how the law should be applied to the case and explain to the jury what its duty is. Among other things, judge may provide an instruction to explain reasonable doubt.

Jury Deliberations

The jury will deliberate on the case. In a criminal case, they need to unanimously agree on a guilty or not guilty verdict. Juries that cannot reach a unanimous verdict will be declared hung. The prosecution can ask that the case be retried in the subsequent 60 days. If the jury finds that the defendant is not guilty, then the jury believed that the prosecution did not prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. The defendant will be released. However, if the jury returns a guilty verdict, the case will be set for sentencing.

Sentencing is conducted around 30 days after a guilty verdict. The court will ask for a presentence report, which will discuss the circumstances of the drug crimes at issue.

Consult a Drug Crime Defense Attorney in Phoenix

Trials in drug crime cases require the skilled advocacy of a seasoned attorney. Our principal James Novak has accumulated years of experience defending those charged with drug crimes in Phoenix, Gilbert, Chandler and Mesa, as well as throughout Maricopa County. Contact him at (480) 413-1499 or complete our online form.

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