The Criminal Case Process – Why You Should Hire Attorney Robert A. Dodell!

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The Pre-Charging Investigation

There is an opportunity for you to fight your criminal case even before it goes to court. Prior to making an arrest or filing charges, local law enforcement agencies often investigate people suspected of committing an offense. This is the best time for someone under investigation to hire an attorney to conduct an independent investigation to take control and defend the case.

The goals of conducting a pre-charging investigation include: (1) preventing the filing of charges; (2) reducing the charges; (3) assisting with self-surrender, avoiding arrest, and arranging release conditions; (4) diverting allegations into an informal disposition, and (5) keeping clients advised of legal rights.

By bolstering your credibility or attacking the credibility of the complaining witness, an experienced criminal defense attorney is sometimes able to prevent the filing of charges. The most common ways of bolstering credibility are notifying the prosecutor of favorable evidence and/or polygraph results. In fact, this firm will not hesitate to use polygraph results to (1) verify your story; (2) verify a witness statement; (3) obtain favorable pleas and (4) establish lenient terms and conditions of probation. By providing favorable evidence or witness statements to the prosecution, it is possible to challenge or question the complainant’s side of the story, or his reputation for truthfulness, making it possible to prevent the filing of charges.

Court and Procedural Information

Type of Offense

In Arizona there are two basic types of criminal offenses: Misdemeanors and Felonies. A misdemeanor is any criminal offense in which there is no option of state prison, although county or city jail is still a possibility. A felony is any criminal offense in which state prison is possible. A felony conviction will affect your right to bear arms and your right to vote. Additionally, a felony conviction can make obtaining employment very difficult.

Jail is controlled by the City or County. The Court may allow for work release or work furlough. A jail sentence may not exceed six months from the date of conviction. Probation is possible and may or may not be supervised by the courts.

Prison is controlled by the State of Arizona. No work release or furlough is possible. In most cases, you are not eligible for release until you have served at least 85% of your time. Prison may be as little as 4 months and as high as a life sentence or incarceration pending the execution of a death sentence.

Initial Appearance (I.A.)

After being arrested on a felony charge, you will be brought before the court for an initial appearance within 48 hours of your arrest. The basic function of the IA is for you to be advised of the criminal charges that led to your arrest, to set the conditions of your release, and to advise you of your next court date.

Release Conditions

The court can impose various release conditions, in order to insure you return to court form your court date.  Such released conditions include:

  • Own Recognizance (O.R.): You are released solely on your promise to appear at your future court appearances.
  • Electronic Monitoring Device: You are released, but are subject to an electronic monitoring device that restricts and tracks your movements.
  • Pre-Trial Services: This release is supervised and may include drug testing.
  • Third-Party Release: A third party is responsible for making sure you appear in court.
  • Secured Appearance Bond: The court requires you to post cash or property before you are released from custody. If you fail to appear for court, the court may take the money posted. You may post the bond personally or use a bail bondsman. The bondsman will normally charge you a fee of 10% of the bond plus collateral equal to the total bond. Shop around for the best deal with the least restrictions.

Probable Cause Hearing (felonies only)

Preliminary Hearing: A judge, normally set in the Superior Court Regional Court Center (in Maricopa County) or in a Justice Court, will determine if the State has sufficient evidence to continue its case to a Superior Court arraignment and subsequent trial.

Grand Jury: A proceeding in which at least 9 people decide if the State has sufficient evidence to continue its case at trial.

If there is a finding in either proceeding that sufficient evidence exists, your case will be set for an arraignment.

Arraignment

This is the court appearance in which you enter a plea. (No witnesses are present at arraignment and no testimony will be taken.) There are three options.

  • Not Guilty: You are informing the Court that you deny guilt and the State (Prosecutor’s Office) must prove the criminal charge(s) against you. On a plea of “Not Guilty,” a pre-trial conference will be scheduled, followed by a trial setting. At trial, the State will be required to present evidence to prove the charge(s) against you beyond a reasonable doubt.
  • No Contest (nolo contendere)*: You do not wish to contest the State’s charge(s) against you. Upon a plea of “No Contest”, the Judge will enter a judgment of guilty.
  • Guilty*: You admit that you committed the act(s) charged in the complaint(s), that the act(s) is prohibited by law, and that you have no legal defense for your act(s). Note that if you were involved in an incident where someone was injured at the time of the alleged offense, your plea of “Guilty” could be used later in a civil suit for damages since it is an admission by you that you were at fault or were the party responsible for the injury.

*As a general rule, the Superior Courts in Arizona will not permit a defendant to enter a No Contest or Guilty Plea at

Arraignment.Your decision on what plea to enter is one of the most important decisions you will make. You should you read the following explanations and consult with a criminal defense attorney before entering your plea.

Diversion

In some cases you may be eligible for “diversion.”, an alternative to the normal trial process. If eligible and you proceed through the requisite education or counseling program, the charges against you will normally be dismissed, or not filed.

Pretrial/Status Conference

The Court may or may not set these conferences. At the conferences, the attorneys will exchange or share information with the court regarding the status of the case and trial preparation. If there is a plea bargain, this is normally the proceeding in which you will enter into the change of plea before the court.

Plea Bargain

At the arraignment you entered a plea of “Not Guilty.” By entering into a plea bargain, you will be entering a plea of guilty or no contest normally in return for a benefit of punishment less severe than the possible sentence you would receive after trial.

Trial

In our justice system you are always entitled to a trial in which the government must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Depending on the alleged offense, you will be entitled to a jury trial or non-jury trial. The number of jurors will depend on the type of charges and your criminal history.

You are entitled to hear all testimony introduced against you, however, if you do not appear at the trial, the can be held without you and you may be found guilty in your absence.

You have a right to cross-examine any witness who testifies against you. You have a right to testify on your own behalf. You also have a Constitutional right not to testify. If you choose not to testify, your refusal cannot and will not be used against you in determining your guilt or innocence. However, if you do choose to testify, the Prosecutor will have the right to cross-examine you.

You may call witnesses to testify on your behalf. If they will not come voluntarily, those witnesses can be subpoenaed to the court to testify as witnesses.

Sentencing

If you change your plea or are convicted after trial, the Court will normally proceed to an immediate sentencing if you are convicted of a misdemeanor. The Court will normally delay sentencing for approximately 30 days for a felony.

The purpose of the 30 day delay of the felony sentencing is so you can meet with the probation department. They prepare a pre-sentence report for the benefit of the judge. If you are meeting with the probation department, it is extremely important that you attempt to cooperate with them and put your best foot forward. The recommendations of the probation department are crucial to the judge’s evaluation of your case, and to the ultimate sentence you may receive. The amount of any jail sentence, fine, fee, restitution, program, or probation assessed by the Court is affected by the facts and circumstances of the case and your prior criminal record. Mitigating circumstances may lower the amount of prison time, jail, fine, or probation. However, aggravating circumstances may increase the amount of prison time, jail, fine, or probation. For some offenses, there are statutory minimum sentences which the Judge must impose.

Restitution

You may be required to pay restitution for any damage or economic loss suffered by a victim. All restitution payments must be made to the Court for disbursement to the victim. If you have an insurance company which will pay the restitution portion of your sentence, it must make payment directly to the Court or provide proof of payment so that the Court can accurately record payment of this portion of your sentence.

Post Conviction Relief / Appeal

After a conviction, you have the right to seek judicial review of the judgment and sentence. Time frames vary. Seek legal advice immediately.

Set Aside Conviction

After you have completed the terms of your sentence, in most cases, the Court can enter an order to set aside your criminal conviction.

 

Why Choose Robert Dodell For Your Criminal Case?

If you stand accused of a criminal offense, contact Robert A. Dodell, Attorney at Law, now. Your freedom, your rights and your future are at stake. It is very important that you speak to an experienced and aggressive criminal defense attorney who is familiar with such matters. Robert provides individual service when protecting your rights. Contact Robert A. Dodell, Attorney at Law, directly by email or by calling 480-860-4321 now for a free initial consultation.