Victim Rights At Court Proceedings
As a victim, you have the right to confer with the Deputy County Attorney prior to any offer being extended to the defendant 13-4419 & 8-399. Prior to any “firm trial setting,” the Deputy County Attorney may contact you either by letter, telephone or e-mail to advise you of what plea agreement may be offered to the defendant 13-4423 & 8-403. The victim has a right to be present and heard at any proceeding in which a plea agreement will be presented to the court. Plea agreements provide the State, as well as the victim, with a guaranteed conviction. Plea agreements do require that the defendant enter a plea of guilty or “no contest” (meaning the defendant does not admit guilt, rather the defendant admits the truth of the facts alleged in the indictment) to a crime(s) without having to go through the process of a jury trial. A plea agreement also limits the defendant’s ability to file an appeal. However, in order to get a guaranteed conviction, lessen the appeal avenues, and get the case over in a much shorter length of time, this usually requires that the State agree to a reduction in charges, commitment not to pursue other charges against the defendant, and/or a guarantee of a lesser sentence. The plea agreement provides that the defendant will plead guilty or “no contest” to a crime or crimes without a trial. It is important to note that a victim’s right to confer with the Deputy County Attorney about the case does not, in any way, afford the victim of a crime the right or the power to direct the prosecution of a case. Based on ethical and legal reasons, ultimate control over the prosecution of criminal cases lies exclusively with the County Attorney. The DCA will take several factors into account such as victim’s input, likelihood of trial and strength of case.
Release conditions will be set at the initial appearance, but could be modified at any time. The victim has a right to be present and heard at any hearing in which conditions of release are being considered and to receive a copy of the terms and conditions of release. ARS 13-4407 & 8-387 & 13-4422 & 8-402.
There are 6 common types of pre-trial release:
- Own Recognizance (OR): If the defendant is released on their own recognizance they are not required to post a bond.
- Third Party: If the defendant is released to a third party custodian that person must inform the court if the defendant violates any of their release conditions. This includes committing a new crime, leaving the state, using drugs, missing court, contacting someone they are not allowed to contact, etc. If a third party custodian does not inform the court that the defendant violated their release conditions, he or she can be ordered to pay a fine or be required to serve jail time.
- Pre-Trial Services: If the defendant is released to pre-trial services they must report to a probation officer regularly. The defendant may be tested for drugs or alcohol.
- Secured Bond: The defendant must pay a designated amount of money or post security in the amount of bail to be released.
- Cash–Only Bond: The defendant and/or co-signer must pay a designated amount of money to the court before being released.
- No Bond: In certain situations, the defendant may be held without bond. If the defendant is held without bond, they will remain in the jail until their case is resolved.
The judge may place other conditions on the defendant’s release, such as no alcohol, no contact with the alleged victim, no weapons, etc. If the defendant does not follow the release conditions, or if they miss a court hearing, a warrant may be issued. The defendant may lose any bond that was posted.
A “no contact” order may include instructions the defendant have NO CONTACT with the victim in person, on the phone, or by written communication (including e-mail and text). This includes any contact through a third-party, such as a friend or family member or social media. If the prosecutor decides not to move to revoke the bond or personal recognizance of the defendant the victim may petition the court to revoke the bond or personal recognizance based on the victim’s notarized statement asserting that harassment, threats, physical violence or intimidation against the victim or the victim’s immediate family by the defendant or on behalf of the defendant has occurred ARS 13-4432.