Criminal Case Scratched

Maricopa County Criminal Defense AttorneyCriminal Case “Scratched”5 Facts you need to know if you’re criminal case was “scratched”

Let’s say you were scheduled to appear for your first court date in Maricopa County Superior Court, either Phoenix Criminal Court or Mesa Criminal Court in Arizona. Then upon arrival you learn that your criminal case was scratched. 

The only thing you will be able to ascertain at that time, is that the court hearing will not take place on the date and time as instructed on your complaint or summons. You should consult the Law Office of James Novak Arizona criminal defense attorney, who defends charges in Superior Court to discuss the matter. Below are some additional facts about scratched criminal cases.

1. What it means to have your criminal court case scratched.

After a person is arrested, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office reviews the police report and determines whether formal charges should be filed in Court.

An initial appearance hearing usually takes place within 24 to 48 hours of your arrest where you appear before a judge after being taken into custody.  The judge reads you the formal complaint at this time.     

If the Maricopa County Attorney fails to file a complaint with the court within that time-frame the case is generally scratched.   

If a complaint is filed, the Maricopa County Attorney will ask for a summons to be delivered to the address you provided or will ask for a warrant to be issued for your arrest.

2. A “scratched” case may or may not mean charges were dropped.
In some cases the complaint may never be filed. 

For those that are not, it is usually because the prosecution did not have sufficient evidence to bring formal charges. 

But more commonly, a case is scratched to allow for additional investigation by the Maricopa County Attorney's Office and Prosecution. 
3. What to do if your Phoenix criminal case was scratched.

Before you leave the court building, request documentation to take with you which indicates that your case was scratched. 

Also, request that your appearance be documented with the court for the record as to the fact you did appeared on time for the previously scheduled court hearing.  This will help you challenge a bench warrant for failure to appear in the event the scratch was an error by the court. 

Depending on the nature and severity of the charges listed on the initial complaint you may want to consider pre-indictment representation as a precaution to protect and preserve your rights and freedom. 

4. Time limits for filing of a formal complaint after the case is scratched

Below are some time timelines and factors that are considered by the court:  
  • If the Superior Court Prosecution decides to charge you formally, it can take anywhere from 2-12 months, or longer to re-file criminal charges in Arizona Superior Court.
  • Whether or not formal charges will be filed is at the discretion of the prosecutor. They may re-file with same process of a direct complaint.
  • For more serious criminal charges they may present your case to the Grand Jury for consideration of an indictment.
  • The County Attorney has 7 years in which to file a felony complaint with the court and 1 year to file a misdemeanor complaint.
5.  When you should consider hiring a DUI and Criminal Defense Pre-indictment defense.  

Depending on the nature and severity of the initial charges, the police and prosecution may pursue continued investigation. For example, if the crime you are suspected of committing involves a violent or dangerous crime against a victim, they will likely need more time to investigate the incident.  

During that time, the police or investigator may contact you asking you if they can discuss your case, or conduct an unwarranted search of your home, auto, or person.   

To avoid self-incrimination, or jeopardizing your defense, it is recommended that you do the following: 

  • Consult a criminal defense or DUI attorney who defends cases in Phoenix AZ, or jurisdiction where the alleged incident occurred.
  • Do not incriminate yourself or damage your defense, by answering questions which may be held against you.
  • The police or investigator may tell you they need a bit of information to clear things up.  Keep in mind they are building a case against you. You should refrain from voluntarily submitting to questions or an unwarranted search.  
  • Politely let the officer know that you are aware of your rights and wish to speak with your Maricopa County criminal defense or DUI lawyer before answering questions or agreeing to an unwarranted search. 
  • If they they have a search warrant, you have the right to see it.  You can review it to make sure it is valid, and the search is within the scope of the warrant.   
  • If the officer arrests you for an outstanding warrant, you should cooperate, to avoid harm or additional charges being brought against you. As soon as reasonably possible, you should contact a criminal defense attorney.  

If your case was scratched and charges were serious in nature, or involve a victim, the Law Office of James Novak can provide you with pre-charge representation. This will enable the Law Office of James Novak to act as a barrier against you and the prosecution. He will protect your rights and defenses. He will notify the court and prosecution that he legally represents you; that all written or verbal communications must go through him; and provide you with further guidance tailored to your defense.

Law Office of James Novak
4500 S. Lakeshore Drive
Tempe AZ 85282
Maricopa County DUI & Criminal Defense Firm
DUI, DWI, Drunk Driving, and Criminal Defense
Call (480) 413-1499 Valley-Wide Defense