Arizona Superior Court Criminal Case Procedures - Felonies

AZ Criminal Case Procedures - Felony Charges

“Having your case heard in Superior court is a serious matter. It usually means you are being accused of Arizona Felony charges. Many Defendants feel overwhelmed by complexities of the AZ Superior Court procedures. You will need a solid and proven criminal defense or DUI lawyer who is experienced in litigation and trial services to defend you work to get the best outcome in your case.”

Arizona Superior Court

The Superior Court in Arizona is a state-wide wide trial court, with jurisdiction over a wide range of different types of criminal cases. The majority of criminal cases heard there are felonies.

Criminal Case Procedures for Felonies in AZ Superior Court

There are generally 7 stages of a criminal case heard in AZ Superior Court:

  • Initial Appearance
  • About Filing Charges
  • Preliminary Hearing
  • Grand Jury
  • Arraignment
  • Trial (if necessary)
  • Sentencing (“guilty plea” or “guilty conviction”)
1) Initial Appearance for Felony Cases

This is the actual first time a defendant will be required to appear in court, and is held during the first 24 hours of an arrest for criminal or DUI charges. If the defendant is not in custody at that time, a document with the date and time of the initial appearance will be mailed or delivered to the defendant. This document is known as a summons.

At this appearance, the court will read or provide the following to the defendant: the formal charges against them; their right to a defense and an attorney; their release conditions; whether or not they can be released on bond; or if they will need to remain in jail (non-bondable); a new court date for their next hearing.

2) Filing Felony Charges

A suspect is usually notified of Arizona felony charges by a “complaint” or an “indictment”:

  • Complaint – (see below) An AZ felony “complaint” is filed directly to the Arizona Superior Court by the prosecutor. The complaint includes the charge, the location, and date the crime was committed.
  • Indictment – (see below) An Arizona Indictment is where the criminal charges are issued by a grand jury, after evidence is presented to them by the prosecution. The prosecutor advises the grand jury that 1) It suspects a crime was committed and 2) the suspect should stand trial for the alleged charges. The Indictment includes the charge, the location, and date the crime was committed.

The suspect is notified in either case, when formally charged and their next court date will provided. In some cases an arrest warrant is issued, if the suspect will not or does not voluntarily appear in court for the hearing.

3) The Preliminary Hearing

A preliminary hearing is scheduled when felony charges in Arizona are initiated directly by complaint. The prosecutor presents evidence in an effort to establish “probable cause” which is the standard for “burden of proof” required by the prosecution in order to make an arrest or file criminal charges formally. The judge has authority to either to order a trial based on the strength of the evidence or dismiss the case for lack of evidence or insufficient evidence.

4) A Grand Jury

Formal criminal charges for felonies may be initiated by a Grand Jury Indictment. The grand jury is made up of a group of 16 jurors. They are presented evidence by the prosecution regarding “probable cause” that the suspect committed the crime (s). Arizona Grand Jury proceedings are privately held, and not publicized unless, the Grand Jury determines that evidence is sufficient to present a case against the suspect for “probable cause” needed in order to make a felony arrest or file charges.

5) An Arraignment

This is the hearing in AZ Superior Court where the defendant or defense enters to enter a “plea” to the charges. The choices are “guilty, “not guilty” or “no contest”. If the defendant pleads "not guilty", the next hearing will be scheduled. If the defendant enters a "guilty" plea or “no contents”, a separate sentencing hearing is then usually scheduled for the defendant.

6) Trial

In order to get a felony conviction, the following elements must exist:

  • The state must prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” in most cases by jury trial, that the defendant committed the crime. The defendant does not have to prove their innocence to be found “not guilty” of the AZ felony charges.
  • A verdict must be unanimous by the jurors. If the jurors are unable to agree unanimously, a mistrial may be declared. In this event a new trial may take place for the defendant.

In the defendant is found “not guilty” by the jury, the AZ felony charges are dismissed. A defendant cannot be retried on the same charge, since “double jeopardy” is prohibited by law.

7) Sentencing – Sentencing Guidelines for Arizona Crimes

If the jury finds the defendant guilty, the judge will set a hearing date for the “Sentencing”. It is usually held within 30 days of the guilty verdict. So the verdict is decided by a jury in most cases. The sentencing and penalties for a felony conviction is determined and ordered by the Arizona Superior Court Judge. Arizona Crimes have penalty ranges (penalty charts) assigned to them. The judge will order a sentence within that range that contains a minimum and maximum sentence within the sentencing guidelines. In this forum the defense and the prosecution both present evidence, to compel the judge on the ruling of an appropriate sentence. Many factors are considered the judges determination of the length and severity of the sentence including evidence or testimony as to the following (list not exhaustive):

  • severity of crime;
  • nature of the crime (violent verses nonviolent);
  • past criminal record (other convictions);
  • repeat convictions (same type of offense);
  • danger or lack of danger the defendant poses to the community;
  • remorse by the victim;
  • probability that the defendant will commit another or repeat crime;
  • alcohol or drug screening for DUI or Drug counseling or treatment;
  • if the crime was victim related or criminal damage to property, restitution may be ordered
  • character witnesses who are credible, that can testify on behalf of the defendant;
  • testimony by the victim
  • other influence evidence from the defense or prosecution not listed
8) Penalties – Arizona Felony Convictions

Felony Penalties and Sentencing in AZ Superior Court may include but is not limited to:

  • probation;
  • exorbitant fines;
  • court costs and fees;
  • victim restitution;
  • community service;
  • DUI/Drug counseling and treatment;
  • incarceration in jail or prison;
  • extended prison sentences including life in prison;
  • death penalty in the case of homicide

A criminal sentence should be commensurate or appropriate for the crime committed within the penalty range for the crime. Sentencing must be humane and not cruel or unusual punishment in accordance with Arizona State and Federal Laws and Constitution.

AZ Superior Court Criminal Defense Lawyer

Having your case heard in Superior court is a serious matter. It usually means you are being accused of Arizona Felony charges. You will need a solid and proven criminal defense or DUI lawyer who is experienced in litigation and trial services to defend you. The Law Office of James Novak will provide you with a free initial consultation if you have active criminal or DUI charges. Call now to discuss your charges and defense options. James Novak, Attorney at Law, is a former prosecutor and experienced criminal and DUI defense attorney. He will speak with you directly and confidentially regarding your case and defense options. Call (480) 413 -1499 now for your Free Consultation for active criminal or DUI charges. James Novak labors over every case, in order to get his clients the best possible outcome in their matter.

Law Office of James Novak
Arizona DUI & Criminal Defense Firm
DUI, DWI, Drunk Driving, and Criminal Defense
Call (480) 413-1499