Posted by: Arizona Criminal Defense Attorneys
Phoenix Criminal Defense Lawyer Nick Alcock believes that a little bit of knowledge can help reduce a lot of stress when it comes to criminal charges. Facing felony charges in Superior Court can be frustrating and very confusing. Long lines, long wait times and few answers seem to be the norm.
The first thing that Criminal Attorney Alcock advises people is to be patient. He says, “It’s easy to get a bad result quickly in Arizona Courts. Getting a good outcome—either a dismissal or a lenient plea offer—takes time and skill. As a result, you need to be prepared for the long haul.”
Anyone who has waited in the security line in the downtown Phoenix Superior Court line is familiar with the “long haul.” Attorney Alcock advises, “Get to court early, bring a book and be prepared for a wait before your case is called. Courts typically set 10, 20 even hundreds of matters all at the same time. Lawyers who are ready to call their cases go first. Everybody else gets to wait. But don’t think it is a good idea to show up late. You still should get their early.”
Without getting too technical, the Superior Court system has several separate court dates for every criminal defense case. The problem is, every case is different, so it is very difficult to anticipate exactly which route a given matter will take. However, it is safe to say that any criminal defendant will have to stand in front of a judge and have release conditions set.
If a person has no ties to the community and a long history of skipping court dates, it is very likely that a large bond will be set. If a person has a limited criminal background and the charges are relatively minor, they will probably be released “OR” or on their own recognizance. Basically the court tells the person not to break the law and show up to court dates on time.
Says Alcock, “Different judges set wildly different release conditions. It is a bit of crap shoot when your bond is set. It is just one of the stresses that you have to endure. That being said, a prepared attorney can do quite a bit to keep you out of jail while your case is ongoing.”
From the initial appearance, a number of conference dates are held. It doesn’t really matter if they are called status conferences, initial pretrial conferences or case management conferences. These are just dates for the attorneys to come together and explain to the judge what progress is being made.
If the case lingers for some time without a resolution, the parties may participate in a settlement conference where another judge tries to mediate a resolution. Plea offers may change during the pendency of the case. Sometimes pleas get better, sometimes they get worse. It is always a bit of a gamble to reject a plea offer because it is always a possibility that a prosecutor may not extend another deal. If that happens, you go to trial.
Felony trials usually last a few days. The first day is jury selection. This is an agonizingly slow but incredibly important process. From there, the criminal lawyers make their opening statements. The prosecution calls their witnesses. Criminal attorneys get a chance to cross examine the witnesses. Then the State rests. Defense attorneys call witnesses. Finally the sides get a chance to make their closing arguments to the jury. From there, the case is in their hands.
If you are found not guilty, you typically can walk out of court free. Found guilty or if you accept a plea offer, your case gets set to sentencing in 30 days. At sentencing, your friends and family can speak on your behalf. Defendants can speak to the judge and apologize for their actions. Then it is in the judge’s hands.
This is a very condensed version of how a felony case is handled in Superior Court. If you have any questions about the process, please do not hesitate to callPhoenix criminal lawyer Nick Alcock at 602-989-5000. The law firm of Alcock & Associates offers a free consultation to anyone charged with a crime in the State of Arizona.
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