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The Arizona criminal justice system can be overwhelming, frightening, and confusing for those unfamiliar with it. The incarceration rate in the United States is much higher than that of other industrialized countries and prison sentences are only getting longer and more frequent. As if that weren’t enough, the state of Arizona is home to some of the most stringent laws and also the harshest penalties for breaking those laws. If you are facing the possibility of having to defend yourself against an accusation of a crime in Arizona, then you should enlist the assistance of an experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney as early in the process as possible. Preferably, you should contact legal counsel prior to questioning or investigation by any law enforcement officers. The expert criminal defense attorneys of The Weingart Firm know how to fight for your legal and constitutional rights in the harsh legal climate of Arizona.
The Arizona criminal justice system is conceptually and procedurally very complex. In order to guarantee the fairness and equality of the proceedings, every court system has its own rules of criminal procedure that govern the actions of all parties involved including police officers, defense attorneys, prosecutors, judges, and juries.
The United States Constitution mandates that all criminal defendants are afforded due process of law in all legal proceedings against them. In a broad sense, this means that throughout the entire criminal justice process all rules of criminal procedure must be observed and all constitutional protections left in place. Due process requires certain things such as reasonable notice of the proceedings and fair trials when a defendant faces substantial punishment, such as incarceration.
Investigation: During the investigation of a crime, law enforcement officers review the facts, interview any witnesses, and gather evidence to be used against the suspect(s) during their criminal trial if necessary. Once law enforcement has sufficient evidence to support their case against a suspect, they will ask a judge to sign an arrest warrant to bring them into custody.
Arrest and Bail: After they are arrested, a suspect will appear before the judge who will then either set the bail amount and conditions or decline to set a bail amount so that the suspect must remain in custody until their trial date. Bail is an amount of money that the suspect must post as a condition of being released from custody with the promise to return to court for the proceedings against them. The amount of bail is largely dependent upon a number of factors including the severity of the crime that a suspect is accused of, the overall strength of the prosecution’s case, whether the accused has a criminal history, and whether the suspect is a potential flight risk. If the defendant returns and is present for all of their future court dates, then the bail money is returned. If the defendant does not return for their court dates or if they flee altogether then the money is forfeited to the court and a warrant is issued for the defendant’s immediate arrest.
Arraignment: The person accused of a crime will first stand before a judge at an arraignment. At an arraignment the judge will:
Preliminary Hearing: In felony cases, a judge or magistrate will hold a preliminary hearing in which the prosecution must demonstrate that there exists sufficient evidence to support the charges against the defendant so that the case may proceed to the next phase. This preliminary hearing is an adversarial proceeding and as such, the defendant’s attorney has the right to cross-examine the prosecution’s witnesses at this point. This phase is also sometimes called a “preliminary examination” or a “probably cause hearing.”
Plea Bargaining: Sometimes a criminal defendant and the prosecution can successfully negotiate an agreement that will resolve the criminal matter without a jury trial. Typically, the prosecutor agrees to reduce a charge, drop some of the multiple charges, or they may often recommend a more lenient sentence in exchange for a guilty plea to a lesser offense. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help their client take maximum advantage of the plea bargaining process to attempt to reduce any charges and to minimize the risk of exposure to the harsh penalties of a conviction of criminal charges in Arizona.
Trial & Sentencing: At the trial phase of a criminal case, the prosecutor and the defense attorney will both give opening and closing statements, introduce any evidence, and will question any witnesses involved. If the defendant is found guilty and is convicted the court will impose a sentence that may include incarceration, fines, court costs, restitution, and probation. Sentences for minor crimes may be issued right away after the defendant is convicted whereas more serious crimes will require that the prosecution and defense submit evidence and arguments about what the appropriate punishment should be. In some states, a judge will be responsible for handing down the sentence. In other states, the sentencing phase of a criminal trial is totally separate from the trial itself and an entirely different jury will decide the sentence. It is during this separate sentencing phase that the prosecution will present any aggravating factors in order to argue in favor of a harsher sentence while the defense will present any mitigating factors in order to argue for a more lenient sentence. Before the sentence is handed down, the defendant has the right to allocution, which is where the defendant can address the judge directly in an effort to apologize for their actions, show remorse for their crime, or to make an attempt at explaining the reason for their actions.
In order to protect your rights and freedom throughout your involvement with the Arizona criminal justice system, you should consult with an aggressive, experienced, and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney. Our expert trial lawyers will work diligently on your behalf to ensure that any and all protections afforded to criminal defendants are extended to you in your time of difficulty. The Weingart Firm located in Tempe, AZ proudly serves clients in all areas of Arizona, including the Tempe, Phoenix, and Scottsdale areas of Maricopa County. You can depend on The Weingart Firm to provide the advice and expert criminal defense representation that we are known for. If you or someone you know is facing the possibility of criminal charges in Arizona, then we urge you to contact our Tempe, AZ offices to schedule your totally free criminal defense consultation today!
DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.