The Criminal Process for Cases in Arizona
The criminal defense attorneys in Phoenix, Arizona at Montano Arentz & Handler, PLLC understand that the criminal process can be very confusing and scary for those involved. Here, are some of the basics about the criminal process.
It is important to remember that each case is unique and that this page contains only a general outline of information. To discuss your specific case, please contact the criminal defense attorneys at the Phoenix firm of Montano Arentz & Handler, PLLC.
- Commission of the Crime
- Retaining an Attorney
- Pre-Arrest Investigations
- Post-Arrest Investigations
- Decision to Charge
- Filing the Complaint
- Arraignment / First Appearance
- Preliminary Hearing
- Filing of the Information or Indictment
- Arraignment on the Complaint or Indictment
- Pre-Trial Conference
- Collateral Consequences
There are two types of crimes, felonies and misdemeanors. The criminal defense attorneys at Montano Arentz & Handler, PLLC in the Phoenix and Tucson area have extensive experience handling both felony and misdemeanor crimes. Contact them to discuss representation.
A felony is a crime punishable by one year or more in State Prison. Felony cases begin in lower courts and then can be bound over to Superior Court if the judge determines that probable cause exists that the defendant being accused has committed the crime in question.
A misdemeanor is a crime punishable by up to a year in county jail. Misdemeanors are usually handled in lower courts and never go to Superior Court.
A defendant may retain a criminal defense attorney at any stage of the case, whether it is during the investigation or the night before court dates.
Criminal defendants have the right to an attorney and will be appointed one (Public Defender) if they can not afford one. However, criminal defendants may be responsible for paying the costs of their court appointed lawyer if it is later determined that they had enough money to pay for an attorney.
Although, you can retain a criminal defense attorneys from Montano Arentz & Handler, PLLC at any time, it is in your best interest to hire them as early in your criminal case as possible - even before charges are filed. Contact their criminal defense attorneys at the Phoenix firm of Montano Arentz & Handler, PLLC to discuss your case and representation.
The pre-arrest investigation stage of the process is the best time to hire a criminal defense attorney in Phoenix, Arizona to take control and defend the case. Pre-arrest investigations are done after the defendant has been contacted by a law enforcement agency but before charges have been filed. At this point in the process, the defendant has not been arrested.
During this stage, a criminal defense attorneys can attempt to do the following:
- Prevent filing of charges.
- Reduce charges.
- Assist with surrender and avoid arrest.
- Divert allegations into an informal resolution.
If a mistake is made during an arrest, the criminal defense attorneys at Montano Arentz & Handler, PLLC in Phoenix, serving Tucson and other Arizona communities may be able to use the mistake to your advantage. Contact them to discuss your case.
To make a felony arrest, police must have probable cause, which may be conceptualized as a "good reason" to arrest. For a misdemeanor, the police can only make an arrest for crimes that occurred in the presence of the arresting officer or with a warrant.
Although police are not required to read Miranda Warnings to everyone that is arrested, failure to do so may be grounds to suppress certain statements or confessions.
All felony defendants and most misdemeanor defendants will be required to go to the police station for booking. If our criminal defense attorneys are called in time, an attorney can meet you at the police station. When a suspect is booked the following occurs:
- The suspect is taken to the law enforcement station.
- The suspect is asked a series of routine questions.
- The suspect is lawfully searched with or without consent.
- The suspect is fingerprinted and photographed.
If you’re interested in getting booking information on a particular defendant, you can call the jail or prison hotline for booking information. You will need the inmate's booking number or their date of birth and full name. The jail or prison will release information on the charges, the court date, the arresting agency and the bail amount.
Post-arrest investigations are done after the arrest, but before charges have been filed by the prosecutor. It is not required that the arresting agency release the police report before the defendant goes to court. However, sometimes a criminal defense attorney can talk the police into releasing the report.
Sometimes, if their criminal defense attorneys become involved in the case early enough, they can stop charges from being filed or have less serious charges filed. If you are the subject of a criminal investigation, contact Montano Arentz & Handler, PLLC even if charges haven’t been filed. Our criminal defense attorneys serving the Phoenix and Tucson areas may be able to help you.
If there is enough evidence to take a defendant to trial, a criminal charge will be filed against the defendant. Not everyone can file a criminal charge in Arizona. The following individuals can file charges:
- County Attorney - The County Attorney files charges against an individual if they believe there is sufficient evidence to convict the suspect.
- City Attorney - Some cities have a City Attorney's office which handles most misdemeanor cases and determines if there is sufficient evidence to convict the suspect.
- Probation department. In Juvenile cases, the probation department is instrumental in deciding whether or not to charge the defendant.
The police do not file charges. They only make recommendations to the prosecuting attorney if charges should be filed.
The prosecuting attorney files a document called a complaint with the court. The complaint describes the charges that are being filed against the defendant.
The police are permitted to hold a suspect for up to 24 hours after the arrest before seeing a judge or hearing officer at an initial appearance. The suspect may be entitled to see criminal defense attorneys if he/she requests. If your loved one is in custody, contact one of their criminal defense attorneys in Phoenix, Arizona to discuss representation.
At the initial appearance, the defendant will be read his/her rights and the charges against him/her. Bail is set during the initial appearance. Bail is an "insurance policy" that the defendant will appear before the court again. The amount of bail is determined by the seriousness of the offense and by the Judge. Bail can be $0 if the defendant is released "on their own recognizance " (O.R.), but it can be increased if the Judge feels that the defendant will not appear in court again. If the defendant fails to appear before the court, a warrant will be issued for his/her arrest.
During a later proceeding in front of the court, the defendant’s criminal defense attorneys can bring a motion to reduce bail. The judge decides whether to reduce bail and will consider the defendant's risk of flight and danger to the public. In a felony case, if the defendant’s criminal defense attorneys asks for an O.R. release, the court will most likely set the matter over for another hearing and order a pre-trial services report on the defendant. This process usually takes a week.
Discovery is given to the defendant’s criminal defense attorneys after arraignment. Discovery includes, but is not limited to: police reports, medical records, probation reports, photographs, diagrams and viewing of physical evidence.
Discovery in criminal cases must be reciprocal, which means that the prosecution must provide the defendant’s criminal defense attorneys with the evidence they are using in the case. Neither the prosecution nor the defense may "hide" evidence and later introduce it during the trial.
Preliminary hearings only occur in felony offenses. In most states, a preliminary hearing is necessary for the Judge to determine whether or not there is sufficient evidence or probable cause to support the charges against a defendant and bind the case over to Superior Court for trial.
Preliminary hearings can be waived for strategy reasons. Montano Arentz & Handler, PLLC will discuss with you whether or not it’s to your advantage to waive the preliminary hearing.
If the prosecuting attorney believes there is enough evidence, he/she will file a document with the Superior Court which notifies that the State is "charging" the defendant with a particular crime.
The criminal defense attorneys with the Phoenix firm of Montano Arentz & Handler, PLLC will accompany you to your arraignment. During the arraignment, the defendant is taken before the Superior Court and informed of the charges. At that time, the defendant will answer to the charges by pleading not guilty, guilty or no contest. At the Superior Court arraignment, the amount of bail may be reviewed, which may be increased or decreased at the court's discretion.
At the pre-trial conference, the criminal defense attorneys negotiate with the prosecuting attorneys in order to obtain the best possible "deal" or plea for their client.
A "deal" might include:
- The prosecution charges the defendant with a lesser charge
- The prosecution agrees to a lesser punishment for the same charge
- The number of counts may be dropped
- Alternative sentencing
Criminal defense attorneys may also file pre-trial motions, which may assist in dismissing charges or changing the prosecution's position. Some common pre-trial motions are:
- Motion to Suppress Evidence
- Motion to Dismiss the Information
- Motion for a Speedy Trial
- Motion to Sever Counts
- Motion to Compel Discovery
During a jury trial and after the jury is selected, both the criminal defense attorneys and the prosecuting attorneys complete the following process:
- Opening statements
- Direct examinations of their witnesses
- Cross examinations of the opposing witnesses
- Closing arguments
During the deliberation of the case, the jury decides the guilt or innocence of the defendant, but the judge will determine the appropriate sentence if the defendant is found guilty. Upon a guilty verdict, a motion for New Trial might be filed with the court.
Sentencing is a court hearing where the judge determines punishment. There is often great flexibility at this stage of the process and the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Montano Arentz & Handler, PLLC, who serve the Phoenix, Tucson, and other areas of Arizona can help you make the most of your situation.
A defendant may be sentenced to probation instead of prison. However, he/she may be ordered to do some local custody time as a term of his/her probation. If a defendant violates the probation, he/she may be incarcerated.
Formal probation is when an individual is supervised by a probation officer. Informal or summary probation is unsupervised. If probation is not granted, there is usually a range of three prison terms in each felony crime. These prison terms are called low term, mid term, and high term. Criminal defense attorneys argue about the proper prison term based on the facts of the particular case. The final word is within the judge's broad discretion.
Sentencing modifications occur when part of a defendant's sentence becomes inapplicable to their case. For example: Suppose a man is convicted of the crime of spousal abuse, and part of his sentence includes that he must stay away from his wife. However, if the man and the wife decide to reconcile, then it would be appropriate to ask the court to "modify" the man's sentence.
Some alternatives to jail that their criminal defense attorneys might negotiate are:
- Detox Programs
- Electronic Home Monitoring
- Residential Treatment Centers
- Weekend Work Programs
- Community Service
In addition to any sentence imposed by the court, a conviction can have a number of independent consequences. This is why it is important to discuss the case with criminal defense attorneys before entering a plea or accepting a plea bargain.
On felony cases, these consequences can include, but are not limited to:
- Loss of the right to vote.
- Loss of the right to possess a firearm of any kind.
- Loss of the right to associate with known criminals.
- Registration as a sex offender.
- Increased penalties for future criminal convictions.
- Registration as a narcotics offender.
Montano Arentz & Handler, PLLC has criminal defense attorneys in Phoenix and surrounding areas of Arizona who specialize in criminal law and can fully explain the collateral consequences to you if you are convicted. Contact Montano Arentz & Handler, PLLC for help with your criminal case.
If convicted, their criminal defense attorneys or the defendant may file an appeal. The purpose of an appeal is to ensure that the trial court did not make any legal errors throughout the trial process. Appeals may result in the reversal of a defendant's trial court conviction.
Parole is a conditional release from prison that entitles the defendant receiving it to serve the remainder of the term outside the prison, but technically the defendant will still be under the Department of Corrections. Typical conditions of parole can include:
- Periodic meetings with parole officers.
- Foregoing the possession of weapons and not associating with known criminals.
CAUTION: All legal matters have their own specific factual and legal circumstances that highly influence the result in each case. The same results will not necessarily be obtained in similar cases.
The criminal process may vary slightly depending on your charge and jurisdiction. Please ask your attorney to thoroughly explain the process.
Montano Arentz & Handler, PLLC and Phillips Law Group, P.C. are separate independent law firms from other firms listed on this website. Phillips Law Group, P.C. handles only contingency fee cases. This includes automobile and vehicle accidents and all personal injury cases but we also handle medical malpractice, product liability, employment, wage and hour cases, Social Security disability and worker's compensation cases. Montano Arentz & Handler, PLLC, handles only Criminal and DUI cases, as well as consumer Bankruptcy and Debt Relief cases, and Immigration Law cases.