Misdemeanors, Petty Offenses and Criminal Traffic cases are filed with the Court either by the County Attorney or by a law enforcement officer. Examples of these types of offenses are: shoplifting; disorderly conduct; minor consumption or possession of alcohol; indecent exposure, simple assault; and, interfering with judicial proceedings. Other violations might include game and fish or boating violations; contracting license violations; and bad check violations, DUI and other criminal traffic violations, i.e., reckless driving, exhibition of speed and driving while license is suspended or revoked.
Felony charges are also filed in the justice court. Once probable cause is determined, either by a preliminary hearing or the grand jury, the case is transferred to the Superior Court. If probable cause is not determined, the case is dismissed
Steps in a Criminal Case
If a law enforcement officer issues a citation, the defendant's first court appearance is called an "arraignment". Failure to appear at the arraignment will generally result in a warrant be issued for the defendant's arrest. If the defendant is arrested and taken to jail, the first court hearing is the "initial appearance".
At the arraignment, the defendant enters a plea of guilty, not guilty or no contest. If the defendant enters a not guilty plea, the judge will set a new court date for pre-trial. If the defendant enters a guilty plea or declares no contest to the charges, the judge may sentence the defendant for the crime.
At the initial appearance, the judge determines the defendant's name and address, informs the defendant of the charges and sets the conditions for release from jail. An attorney may be appointed depending upon the nature of the crime and the defendant's financial status. A date will be set for the preliminary hearing in felony matters.
Grand Jury or Preliminary Hearing
In Pinal County, approximately 98% of the cases are presented to the grand jury for determination of probable cause. The prosecutor presents the case to the grand jury. If the jury determines there is probable cause to believe the defendant committed the alleged crime, the defendant is "indicted" and the case is transferred from the justice court to the Superior Court.
In approximately 2% of the cases, probable cause is determined by a justice of the peace at a preliminary hearing. At the preliminary hearing, the justice of the peace hears evidence and testimony from witnesses called by the prosecuting and defense attorneys. If the judge determines there is enough evidence to believe the defendant committed the crime, the defendant is "held to answer" and the case is transferred to Superior Court for trial. A new arraignment date is set before a Superior Court judge. If the judge does not find probable cause the case will be dismissed.
If the defendant pleads not guilty at arraignment and pre-trial, a trial is held. At the request of the judge or defendant, a jury trial can be held where the jury can hear evidence on the charges and find the defendant guilty or not guilty.
A bond may be required to secure the defendant's appearance at all future court proceedings. If the defendant fails to appear for a hearing, the bond could be forfeited. Once the case has been completed and the defendant is found either guilty or not guilty, the bond is returned to the bond poster.
It can take up to 30 days for the bond to be returned. It is the responsibility of the bond poster to keep the court informed of any address changes.
You may not request a court continuance (delay) by telephone. If you do not appear for your court hearing a warrant may be issued for your arrest.