Arizona DUI: A Step by Step Guide to the Criminal Justice System
Our previous article discussed the importance of being an informed client, and the dedication of the Penrod Law Firm in keeping its clients educated on the legal process and the criminal justice system.
Oftentimes, clients are thrust into the system, with no previous experience or knowledge of it, and that can be frightening, for both clients and their families. In this article we will pick up where we left off, describing a typical criminal case, and the different stages through which it will pass. We discussed the stop and the arrest, which leads us to the first court date;
STEP 3 - The Arraignment
The first court date, often scribbled on your citation, or given to you as you exit the jail, is called the Arraignment, or sometimes the Initial Appearance. And it is just that, it is your first appearance in court to establish that a criminal proceeding has begun against you and to give the court an opportunity to determine how you would like to handle it.
If we are representing you, we will file paperwork or appear on your behalf, which means that you won't have to attend the hearing. We file what's called a "Notice of Appearance," which is just the legal way of saying that we now represent you and that correspondence, or anything related to the case will come through our office.
They (the court and the prosecutor's office) should no longer be contacting you directly. The other important part of the arraignment (and part of our Notice of Appearance) is advising the court of how you wish to plead during these initial stages of the prosecution. Do you intend to plead guilty or not guilty?
If you intend to plead guilty you generally will not need an attorney to represent you. You should, however, have met with one of our attorneys for a free consultation to thoroughly discuss all of your options. Once you plead guilty, it is often impossible to have the guilty plea set aside once you realize you have made a mistake.
If you choose to plead NOT GUILTY however, we will advise the court that you would like to proceed with your case and the court will set a Pretrial Conference.
STEP 4 - Pretrial Conference
The prosecutor is required to provide copies of all of the evidence they have gathered against you. In some courts, the pretrial conference is a chance for your attorney to finally get all of this evidence and to speak to the prosecutor about your case. In many instances, this will be the first time the prosecutor has actually looked at the police reports and taken a good look at the evidence. Your attorney may be able to work out a better plea agreement or set the case down the path towards a trial, maintaining your 'not guilty' plea. If certain elements of the evidence have not been provided, your attorney may get the court to issue a deadline for its delivery, may ask for sanctions or a punishment against the State for not producing the evidence, or may even get your case dismissed. Oftentimes, these pretrial conferences will be continued one or more times, giving the prosecution a chance to provide all of the evidence against you, and for you to make an informed decision about what you would like to do.
While those are all possible outcomes of a pretrial conference, the most likely is that your case will move forward towards trial. In many cases, our attorneys, after reviewing all of the evidence against you, may decide that there are certain legal issues with your case. Your rights may have been violated, or proper procedure may have been ignored by the officers during their investigation. In cases where these issues exist, we will bring them to the judge's attention, by setting what is called an "Evidentiary Hearing.
We will discuss the Evidentiary Hearing and the Trial in the next articles. These are some of the most important steps along the road of your case, and may be the first time you are actually required to appear in court.
The Law Office of Craig W. Penrod has been involved in criminal and DUI defense for more than 25 years. Craig is certified by the State Bar of Arizona as a Certified Criminal Law Specialist, is AV® rated, the highest rating by Martindale Hubbell®, is listed in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers®, and has been selected for inclusion in Southwest Super Lawyers™ Editions 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. Contact the lawyers at the Law Offices of Craig W. Penrod for a free initial legal consultation if you find yourself facing criminal or DUI charges.