Being arrested and charged with a crime in Arizona is an overwhelming experience, especially for first-time offenders. The criminal justice system and criminal defense process is complicated and confusing, and many individuals may not be aware of their rights. In addition, the state’s laws are vigorously enforced, and prosecutors have an unfair advantage over criminal defendants. Armed with endless financial resources and aggressive tactics, prosecutors take a “tough on crime stance” in their role as officers of the court. If you have been charged with a crime, you need an even tougher criminal defense attorney in your corner.
The Arizona Lawyers is a premier criminal defense practice serving clients in Phoenix, Scottsdale, Mesa, Tempe, Chandler, and throughout the state of Arizona. Our firm routinely handles a wide variety of criminal defense cases and is committed to the bedrock principle of “innocent until proven guilty.”
If you are facing criminal charges, you should contact Arizona Lawyers as soon as possible, preferably immediately after your arrest, or before you have been questioned by the police. Remember, you have the right to remain silent, as well as the right to the first-rate legal representation we can provide.
The Arizona Criminal Justice System
Although the Arizona criminal justice system is difficult to navigate, there are rules of criminal procedure governing the actions of the police, prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, and juries. In addition, the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees your right to due process by holding:
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
In other words, the rules of criminal procedure must be strictly observed and all constitutional protections preserved. In short, due process guarantees that individuals will be treated fairly when facing criminal prosecution.
Criminal Proceedings in Arizona
There are a number of stages in a criminal case which generally includes:
- Preliminary hearing
- Plea bargaining
- Trial and sentencing
During a criminal investigation, law enforcement officers review the facts, identify and interview potential witnesses, and collect evidence that will be used against the suspect(s) at trial. Once they have sufficient evidence to support their case, law enforcement will seek an arrest warrant from a judge and take the suspect into custody.
Arrest and Bail
After an arrest in Arizona, the suspect will appear before the judge who may set bail and conditions for the suspect’s release. Bail is an amount of money that the suspect must post to be released from custody. The conditions of release may include refraining from drug and alcohol use as well as promising to return to court for the proceedings.
The amount of bail depends on factors such as:
- The severity of the alleged crime
- The strength of the prosecution’s case
- Whether the accused has a criminal history
- Whether the suspect is a potential flight risk
If the defendant returns for all future court dates, then the bail money will be returned. If the defendant fails to do so, or flees altogether, then the bail money is forfeited to the court and a warrant will issued for the defendant’s arrest. Finally, if the judge declines to set the bail amount, the suspect will remain in custody until the trial date.
The first court appearance of a person accused of a crime in Arizona is known as an arraignment. At an arraignment the judge (i) informs the accused of the charges, (ii) asks the accused if he/she has an attorney, or wants a court-appointed lawyer, (iii) requests the accused to enter a plea (e.g. guilty or not guilty), (iv) decides whether to modify the initial bail amount and (v) sets a schedule for future court dates.
In Arizona felony cases, a judge or magistrate will hold a preliminary hearing (also referred to as a preliminary examination or probable cause hearing). The prosecution must demonstrate the existence of sufficient evidence to support the charges in order for the case to proceed. Because a preliminary hearing is an “adversarial proceeding,” the defendant’s attorney has the right to cross-examine the prosecution’s witnesses.
Depending on the circumstances, a criminal defense attorney and the prosecution will attempt to negotiate an agreement to resolve the criminal matter without going to trial. The prosecutor may agree to:
- Reduce a charge
- Dismiss some of any multiple charges
- Recommend a more lenient sentence in exchange for a guilty plea to a lesser offense
It takes an experienced Arizona criminal defense attorney to handle the plea bargaining process, reduce any charges, and minimize the penalties of conviction of criminal charges. If no plea deal is reached, the criminal case will go to a trial by jury.
Trial and Sentencing
During a criminal trial, the prosecutor and the defense attorney will both give opening and closing statements, introduce any evidence, and question any witnesses called. At the end of the trial, the judge instructs the jury about the law and the possible rulings in the case. If the defendant is found guilty and convicted, the court will impose a sentence that may include:
- Court costs
Generally, sentences for minor crimes may be issued immediately after the defendant is convicted. On the other hand, sentencing for more serious crimes requires prosecution and defense to submit evidence and arguments about the appropriate punishment. In this situation, the prosecution will present any aggravating factors to seek a harsher sentence while the defense will present any mitigating factors to request a more lenient sentence.
With our team on your side, you increase the likelihood of winning an acquittal, even though each case is unique and jury trials present no guarantees. We also have long-standing relationships with law enforcement, prosecutors and know our way around the courtroom. Regardless of the criminal charges you are facing, rest assured we will fight vigorously for you.
The Experienced Choice in Arizona Criminal Defense
The best way to protect your rights and freedom when confronting the Arizona criminal justice system is to consult with a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney. When you become a client of Arizona Lawyers, you will provided with aggressive legal representation and the personal attention you deserve. We offer free consultations and cost-effective defense strategies and have a well-earned reputation for being fierce advocates of our clients. If you under investigation or have been accused of a crime, please contact our office today to speak with our attorneys. Then sooner you call, the sooner we can protect your freedom and your future.