Adult Criminal Justice System

Please note that if your case is in Early Disposition Court (EDC), due to the expedited process all of the rights listed below may apply at any hearing.

A grand jury hearing is a closed hearing comprised of up to 16 randomly selected citizens of Pinal County that have been empaneled to serve as the jury.  The case is presented to the Grand Jury by the Deputy County Attorney.  It is the Deputy County Attorney who generally determines which witnesses will provide testimony at the Grand Jury, although the members of the Grand Jury could subpoena witnesses if requested.  After all testimony has been presented, everyone but the Grand Jury itself is excluded from the room.  The Grand Jury then votes and makes their determination as to probable cause. If there is sufficient evidence to proceed, a “True Bill”(indictment) is issued from the Grand Jury. The case is then forwarded to Superior Court for further proceedings.

A preliminary hearing is a hearing where a Judge determines if there is sufficient evidence to charge a person with a felony crime. The judge shall hear only evidence that is presented during the hearing by the Deputy County Attorney, who represents the State of Arizona. The defendant has the right to be present at the hearing and to cross-examine the witnesses testifying against him/her. At the close of the State’s presentation, including the defendant’s cross-examination of the witnesses, the judge will decide if the State has presented sufficient evidence that probable cause exists and to charge the defendant with the crime. The defendant may present evidence in order to rebut the State’s evidence. If the judge still believes there is probable cause he/she will “bound over” (indict) the defendant and start the criminal case.  The victim has the right to attend the preliminary hearing.

Sometimes charges against the defendant are dismissed because the judge believes that there is insufficient evidence OR probable cause to justify holding the suspect for trial.

If the suspect is taken into custody, the first hearing will be an initial appearance, held at the jail. The judge will inform the suspect of the charges against them, set release conditions, a date for a preliminary hearing, and appoint an attorney for the suspect if they cannot afford to hire one. The victim has a right to receive notification regarding the initial appearance hearing and to be present and heard. During this hearing the victim can provide input with regards to release conditions ARS 13-4406 (notification), 13-4420 (right to be present) & 13-4421 (right to be heard).

A.R.S. 13-4406

In most Superior Court cases, the first hearing where the defendant is ordered to appear is the arraignment hearing. At arraignment, the defendant is formally advised of the charge(s) against him/her and of their rights.  The court usually enters a “not guilty” plea on the defendant’s behalf. If the defendant does not have an attorney, or if they cannot afford an attorney, then the court will appoint an attorney to represent the defendant. A pre-trial conference hearing is scheduled approximately 4-6 weeks from the date of the arraignment.  If the defendant is released on their own recognizance, commonly referred to as “OR,” the court will affirm the conditions of release.

However, if the defendant is in custody at the time of the arraignment, the defense attorney may ask to discuss bond or may request a release hearing to change the conditions of release. The Deputy County Attorney will request that the court schedule the release hearing at least five working days in the future, to allow for proper victim notification. The primary objective of the bond is to ensure that the defendant will appear for future court hearings. If the defendant does not appear at the arraignment the judge may issue a warrant for their arrest. ARS 13-4405.01 & 8-386.01 (Issuance and execution of arrest warrants).

A.R.S. 13-4408

There are several different things that may take place at a Pre-Trial Conference.  A defendant who has been offered a plea agreement may enter into a change of plea at the Pre-Trial Conference, or may advise the Court that the defense and prosecution have reached a plea agreement and request that the Court schedule a Change of Plea hearing to a later date and time. However, should the State and defense be unable to reach a plea negotiation, they may request the Court schedule a firm jury trial.  Additionally, a defendant may also request to have the Court modify the defendant’s release conditions. If this request is made, the victim has the right to address the Court regarding this issue. The Court may also hear and decide on other Pre-Trial matters or rule on pending motions.  Often times Pre-Trial Conferences are rescheduled due to on-going discovery and defense needing more time to prepare.

Only a small percentage of cases actually result in a trial.  At trial, the guilt of the defendant will be decided by a jury or a judge.  Prosecution, witnesses and defense witnesses will be subpoenaed (summoned) in advance to testify before a judge, or a judge and a jury. Once the jury is selected and sworn, the prosecution and the defense make opening statements to the jury to explain the case.

The Deputy County Attorney assigned to prosecute the case will begin by presenting the case against the defendant.  This is commonly referred to as the “State’s case in chief.”  It is the burden of the State to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the defendant committed the crime(s) charged. The defense attorney will then have an opportunity to present its case in chief.

Most evidence will be in the form of testimony from witnesses. Witnesses will be called to testify under oath and may be cross-examined by the opposing side. Witnesses are excluded from the courtroom until they testify.  However, the victim, has the right to be present throughout the trial, regardless of whether they testify.

At the end of the case in chiefs, the judge will then instruct the jury on the law governing the case and their duty as jurors, attorneys for the prosecution and defense make final arguments to the judge or jury.  Finally, if need be alternates for the jury will be selected and the judge will order the jury to deliberate.

If the evidence convinces the judge or a unanimous jury that the defendant committed the crime(s) beyond a reasonable doubt, then a guilty verdict will return. The case will then be scheduled for sentencing.

If the jury or judge is not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt, a verdict of “not guilty” is returned and the charges against the defendant are dismissed. If the jury is unable to reach a verdict the Judge will declare a mistrial. The State may then request the case be retried, and a new jury will be selected.

A.R.S. 13-4410

If the defendant is convicted at trial, or pleads guilty as a result of a plea agreement, a pre-sentence report could be ordered. The pre-sentence report is prepared by a probation officer. The pre-sentence report includes information about the defendant, the victim, the crime, previous criminal history, and a recommendation for a specific sentence.

The victim has a right to provide the probation officer with information regarding the impact the case has had on their life, which will be included in the pre-sentence report. The information in the report will be presented to the judge, prosecutor and defense attorney. Please note that the defendant also has a right to view the presentence report.

At the sentencing hearing, the defendant may be placed on probation, or ordered to serve time in the Arizona Department of Corrections or Pinal County Jail.

At this stage, the victim has a right to:

  • receive a copy the pre-sentence report ARS 13-4425 (Inspection of presentence report).
  • receive notice of the time, place and date of the sentencing proceeding ARS 13-4410 (Notice of conviction, acquittal or dismissal; impact statement).
  • provide a written or oral victim impact statement to the court ARS 13-4410 & 13-4428. For information on what to include in the statement refer to “Victim Services FAQ, What Should I Include In My Victim Impact Statement?
  • submit a written or oral impact statement to the probation officer for use in preparing a presentence report ARS 13-4424 (Impact statement; presentence report).
  • be present and heard at the time of any presentence or sentencing proceeding ARS 13-4426 (Sentencing) & ARS 13-4426.01  (Sentencing; victims’ right to be heard).
  • request the court order the defendant to pay restitution for economic losses that are a direct result of the crime ARS 13-804.
  • receive notice of an acquittal, dismissal or conviction ARS 13-4410.
  • receive notice of sentenced imposed and instructions for receiving post-conviction notification ARS 13-4411 (Notice of post-conviction relief proceedings and outcomes). For instructions on how to post opt in refer to THE DEFENDANT HAS BEEN SENTENCED, WHAT HAPPENS NOW?

If the court orders restitution, the right to file a restitution lien ARS 13-806 and request a copy of the defendant’s restitution payment history from the Clerk of the Court ARS 13-810 & ARS 31-412.

 

For more information regarding Pinal County Adult Probation refer to http://www.pinalcountyaz.gov/AdultProbation/Pages/Home.aspx, or contact their office at (520) 866-5600.

Specialized Courts differ from traditional courts in that they focus on one type of offense or probationer.  Specialty Courts are problem-solving court strategies designed to address the root causes of criminal activity by coordinating efforts of the judiciary, prosecution, defense bar, probation, law enforcement, treatment, mental health services, and social service agencies. Together, they maintain a critical balance of authority, supervision, support, and encouragement. Specialty Court programs are rigorous, requiring frequent drug testing and court appearances, along with tightly structured regimens of treatment and recovery services.

In Pinal County, specialized courts include Adult Drug Courts, Mental Health Court, Veterans Court, and Domestic Violence Court.

Juvenile Court System

Please note that if your case is in Early Disposition Court (EDC), due to the expedited process all of the rights listed below may apply at any hearing.

When a juvenile is arrested and taken into custody, he/she is taken to the Detention Center (jail for juveniles). An assessment is utilized, to determine if the juvenile will be held in detention or released. The assessment looks at the severity of the charges, the history of delinquent behavior, enrollment in school and other factors to determine if the juvenile should be detained. If the juvenile is detained, they are brought before the Court for a Detention Hearing within 24 hours. At the Detention Hearing, the court will determine whether the juvenile should remain in detention. Juveniles may be released at this hearing to their parent(s) or guardian with a promise to return for later court proceedings. The victim has right to be notified if the accused is in custody at the time of charging, the charges against the accused and to be present and heard at the detention hearing. ARS 8-389 & ARS 8-401. During this hearing the victim may also provide input regarding conditions of release.

If the juvenile is not in custody, the juvenile and his/her parent(s) will be notified to appear before the court within 30 days for an Advisory Hearing (arraignment).  At the Advisory Hearing, the juvenile is informed of the charges against him/her and his/her rights.  The juvenile will be asked to enter a plea.  Usually, at this time, the juvenile will enter a plea of “Not Guilty” and a Non-Firm Adjudication/Pre-Trial Conference Hearing will be set.

During this stage in the juvenile justice system, the County Attorney’s Office reviews the juvenile’s history and the current crime(s) to determine if the juvenile may or must be transferred to adult court for prosecution.

If the juvenile is at least 15 years old and is a chronic felony offender (has at least 2 separate prior felony convictions) or has committed certain serious offenses, he or she may be automatically transferred to adult court for prosecution. When automatic transfer occurs, the juvenile is treated as an adult and all further court proceedings will take place in the adult criminal justice system. The Deputy County Attorney may also decide to file a motion with the Court to transfer the juvenile to adult court. If such a motion to transfer is filed, a transfer hearing may be held 30 days after filing.  If the Court denies or dismisses this motion, an adjudication hearing for the juvenile may occur within 30 days. If the Court grants the motion, the juvenile will be transferred to adult court for prosecution.

Prior to the Non-Firm Adjudication/Pre-trial Conference Hearing, the Deputy County Attorney may discuss with the defense attorney the settlement of the case by negotiated settlement.  A negotiated settlement is commonly referred to as a plea agreement. The negotiated settlement provides that the juvenile will enter an admission (plead guilty) or plead “no contest” to a crime or crimes without trial.

Even though ultimate control over the prosecution of a case rests solely with the County Attorney, the victim has a right to be heard regarding case resolution.

If a negotiated settlement is reached, the attorneys and the juvenile appear before the Judge for a Negotiated Settlement Hearing. The admission of guilt normally occurs at the Non-Firm Adjudication/Pre-Trial Conference Hearing.

A victim, has the right to be present and to make a statement expressing their opinion about the negotiated settlement.  The Judge may consider the opinion of the victim when deciding whether or not to accept the negotiated settlement. Once accepted, the Judge will enter a finding of delinquency against the juvenile.

If a negotiated settlement is not reached, the case will proceed to an Adjudication Hearing. This hearing is the same as a trial in adult court with the exception that the evidence will be heard only by the Judge. If the juvenile pleads guilty to the delinquent act, or if the juvenile is adjudicated delinquent (found guilty), the Judge will set a date for the Disposition Hearing.  Prior to the Disposition Hearing, a Probation Officer will prepare a pre-disposition report on the juvenile. This report includes information about the juvenile, the victim, the crime, previous history of delinquency, and a recommendation for a specific disposition (sentence). The victim has a right to provide the probation officer with information regarding the impact the case has had on their life, which will be included in the pre-disposition report. Please note that the defense also has a right to view the pre-disposition report.

At the Disposition Hearing, the juvenile may be placed on probation or ordered to serve time in the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections or the Pinal County Juvenile Detention Center. If the juvenile is placed on probation and fails to meet the conditions set by the Judge, then the probation may be revoked, and the sentence modified by the court. If a juvenile is committed to the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections it will be for a specified time or until they reach the age of 18.

At this stage, the victim has a right to:

  • receive notification of the time, place and date of Adjudication and Disposition hearings ARS 8-391 (Notice of adjudication; impact statement). For information on what to include in the statement refer to “Victim Services FAQ, What Should I Include In My Victim Impact Statement?
  • provide a written or oral victim impact statement to the court ARS 8-407.
  • submit a written or oral victim impact statement to the probation officer for use in preparing a pre-disposition report ARS 8-404 (Impact statement; predisposition report).
  • receive portions of the pre-disposition report ARS 8-404 (Impact statement; predisposition report)
  • be present and heard at the time of any adjudication or disposition hearing ARS 8-391.
  • request the court order the defendant to pay restitution for economic losses that are a direct result of the crime ARS 8-391.
  • receive notice of sentenced imposed and instructions for receiving post-conviction notification ARS 8-392 (Notice of post-adjudication proceedings).  For instructions on how to post opt in refer to THE DEFENDANT HAS BEEN SENTENCED, WHAT HAPPENS NOW?

    For more information regarding Pinal County Juvenile Court Services refer to http://www.pinalcountyaz.gov/JuvenileCourtServices/Pages/home.aspx, or contact their office at (520) 866-7065.