What to Expect in an Arizona Criminal Court

Posted On April 29, 2023 Arizona Laws,Criminal Defense

If you get arrested for an alleged crime in Arizona, the criminal justice process ahead can be daunting. Knowing what to expect can help you adequately prepare yourself for what comes next. You have the constitutional right to counsel, meaning you can hire a criminal defense attorney to represent you throughout the legal process. An attorney can guide you through a case step by step and protect your rights along the way.

What to Expect in the Initial Appearance

After you get arrested in Arizona, you will be scheduled for an initial appearance within 24 hours. If you are not being held in jail, you will receive a summons to appear in court. The initial appearance is a hearing where you will be informed of the allegations against you and advised of your right to a criminal defense attorney. If you cannot afford to hire a private defense attorney, a public defender will be appointed to you. The conditions of your release from detainment will also be established at the initial appearance.

What to Expect in the Arraignment Hearing

Your next court date will be the arraignment hearing. At this hearing, you will be informed of the charges that are being entered against you by the city. You will also be given the opportunity to enter a plea to the charges. Your choices are guilty, not guilty or no contest. Your criminal defense attorney can advise you as to the most appropriate plea for your situation. If you plead not guilty, your case will go to trial. If you plead guilty or no contest, your case will go directly to a sentencing hearing.

What to Expect in the Preliminary Hearing

If you are facing felony charges, you will be notified of the charges through either a complaint filed directly with the Arizona Superior Court or an indictment, where the charges will be issued by a Grand Jury. If issued by complaint, you will go through a preliminary hearing, where the prosecutor must establish probable cause to file criminal charges formally. If charges are initiated by Grand Jury Indictment, a group of 16 jurors will be presented with evidence to determine if it is sufficient to file charges. If there is not enough evidence, the case may be dismissed.

What to Expect During the Criminal Trial

If your criminal case goes to trial, it is up to the prosecution to meet the burden of proof. The prosecution is tasked with proving that you committed the crime(s) beyond a reasonable doubt by presenting evidence and witness testimony. This is the highest standard of proof in the justice system. Your defense attorney will have the chance to put forward one or more defense strategies and cross-examine witnesses in an effort to poke holes in the prosecutor’s case and establish reasonable doubt.

What to Expect During Sentencing

In a criminal case that ends with a guilty verdict, the next stage is a sentencing hearing. This is a separate court date where a judge will give a sentence chosen within the allotted penalty range and guidelines for the specific crime. Sentencing terms may include fines, a jail or prison sentence, probation, community service, and restitution. Your attorney may initiate an appeal after receiving a guilty verdict, which is a request to a higher court to review the first court’s decision. If a jury decides you are not guilty, you will be acquitted, meaning you will be released from the charge of the offense.

Criminal Courthouse Information for Scottsdale, Arizona

Below is the contact information for the three main criminal courts that hear cases based in Scottsdale, Arizona:

  • Arizona Supreme Court: 1501 W. Washington St., Suite 411, Phoenix, AZ 85007. Phone: (602) 452-3300. Hours: Monday to Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

For more information about the Arizona criminal court process, contact us for a free case consultation.