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THE STAGES OF A CRIMINAL CASE

ARIZONA MISDEMEANOR

The criminal CASE is first scheduled for an arraignment, the first time the accused is brought before the Court to "Answer to the Charges." This occurs only after the accused is served a formal citation or complaint that states the criminal charge(s) alleged against you.

If you receive any documentation from the Court or from a police officer that includes criminal charges, contact The Law Office of James Novak at (480) 413-1499 for an immediately in-depth explanation of the Court process and the nature of the charges.

Next, the Court will ask you how you would like to proceed. The choices are to plead:
  1. NOT GUILTY: You are stating that you deny guilt and the State must proceed its case against you.

  2. NO CONTEST: You do not contest the State's charge against you. The Judge will then proceed and enter a judgment of guilty.

  3. GUILTY: You admit that you committed the act charged in the complaint without a legal defense and the you proceed directly to sentencing.
At this early stage you do not have anyone to speak with for advice on how to proceed or how a guilty plea may affect your job or your future. It is not the responsibility of the Court of Prosecutor's Office to assist you or to inform you on the weaknesses of your case or any Constitutional rights that may have been violated.  At this stage no witnesses or police officers will appear at the Court. Nor will the Court entertain any Motions to dismiss that you request. If you plead NOT GUILTY, the State must prove the criminal charge(s) against you. The matter will be rescheduled.

ARIZONA FELONY CHARGES

The Police Investigation
This begins when the police arrive at the location where a crime is alleged to have occurred. The investigator will view the area for any support of a crime having been committed and conduct interviews with witnesses and the person under investigation.

Comment: The Prosecutor's case begins with the immediate investigation or arrest by the police. Anything that is said by the accused or family/friends could violate a person's Constitutional Rights and harm any defense they may have existed. The Law Office of James E. Novak evaluates every case from the beginning to the end and attacks any weakness or errors the police may have overlooked or rights that were trampled on. Our commitment to every client is to work towards a dismissal , if possible, or obtain the best possible outcome that includes "protecting your future and your freedom."
Immediate Arrest or Submittal
For an arrest to occur there must be "Probable Cause." This means that there is reasonable belief that a crime was committed and you committed the crime. Note: An arrest warrant is not needed to arrest a person.

Comment: You have protected Constitutional rights and your must not waive those protected rights without the presence of an attorney. To do so may harm or jeopardize any defenses that could have existed. You are not required to assist the police in making its case stronger against you. Some of your rights include the Right to Remain Silent and your Right to an Attorney.
Booking
After the formal arrest, the police begin the process called booking. Here, the police take your fingerprints, you are photographed, and some identification questions are asked to ensure that they know who they have in their possession and to check if you have any past criminal convictions or on probation or parole at the time of your arrest.
Initial Appearance / Arraignment
This is the first appearance in Court and where the Accused must "Answer the Charges." The Judge will officially inform the defendant for the charges based on the results form the indictment or information. At this stage you have formally been charged of the crime and must begin the process under strict timelines. This is referred to as your "Speedy Trial Right." The defendant may plea guilty, not guilty, or no contest.
  • Guilty Plea: This is an admission of guilt and you are telling the Court that you were the person who had committed the crime.

  • Not Guilty Plea: You are telling the Court that you were not the person who had committed the crime. The Judge will set the matter for a pre-trial and then a trial date will be set if the matter does not get resolved.
     
  • No Contest: Here, you do not admit guilt on the charges, but you are telling the Court that you do not dispute the charge. This resolution is not accepted in all cases and must be supported by facts for the Court to accept.
At the Arraignment, the Court will address release conditions that include:
  • Release on your "Own Personal Recognizance. This is when you give your promise to appear at all future court dates.

  • Here, the court reviews your criminal history and the criminal charges and Set Bail. A secured amount that must be posted before you are released from incarceration.

  • Non-Releasable. Normally related with probation violation matters or certain types of serious charges or if there appears to be an appearance of a flight risk by the defendant.
Resolution of Case
  • Dismissal. This could be accomplished by the lack or weakness of evidence. Lost or destroyed evidence. Court Order for dismissal for a violation of your rights or violation of the criminal process.

  • Plea Agreement. Here, the prosecutor makes an offer to settle the matter short of trial with a written agreement stating what the defendant will plead guilty to and what the range of sentence should be.

  • Trial. If the matter and charges do not get dismissed or the defendant does not elect to accept a plea agreement then the matter will be scheduled for trial. This would be a jury in most felony cases and limited in misdemeanor cases. If elected the trial may be a bench trial, a trial to the judge without a jury.

    At the trial you are entitled to hear all the evidence presented against you and cross-examine any witness that provides testimony against you. If you choose you may present testimony for your defense or may elect not to testify as is your Constitutional right and your silence may not be against you in determining your guilt or innocence.
Sentencing
If you are found guilty at trial or enter into a plea agreement the judge will proceed with sentencing. By Arizona law sentencing is always up to the judge. The plea agreement sentencing limits are not binding on the Court and the judge has complete discretion to order any sentence that falls within the sentencing range of the crime the defendant was found guilty of.

Disclaimer: The information contained in these pages is to educate and should not be relied on as legal advice. Always consult with a qualified Arizona DUI attorney or Arizona criminal defense lawyer. Read Our Legal Disclaimer.
The Law Office of James E. Novak, P.L.L.C.
4500 South Lakeshore Drive, Suite 352 Tempe, Arizona 85282
Phone: (480) 413-1499
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