VICTIM RIGHTS AT COURT
ARS 13-4409, 8-390, 13-4408, 8-389 & 13-4407
Cases that have charges approved, fall into one of two categories – felony or misdemeanor cases. Cases approved for felony charges will either proceed to grand jury or have a preliminary hearing. All felony charges are heard in Superior Court. Approved misdemeanor charges are filed in the Justice Court. Victims have the right to be notified ARS 13-4409, 8-390, 13-4408 & 8-389 of any release hearings and to make a statement to the court regarding reduction or modification of current release conditions. The victim is not required to attend any court proceedings unless they receive a subpoena, but their attendance may be requested by the prosecutor or the Victim Advocate. Crime victims will be notified of hearings typically by e-mail or physical mail; however, last-minute hearings are sometimes set by the court. If there is not enough time to notify the victim by mail the Victim Services Division will attempt to contact the victim. The advocate will review the victim’s rights for the hearing and ask the victim if they would like the advocate to attend the hearing with them. If for some reason, the victim does not wish to attend, or is unable to attend, they may supply a statement to their advocate. The statement will then be delivered to the court for all parties to hear the victim’s concerns/wishes. The statement should include any concerns the victim has about their safety and any firsthand knowledge of the defendant not following the orders of the court should the judge decide to release the defendant from custody.
Victims are granted specific rights during court proceedings. They have the right to:
- be present at any court proceeding that the defendant has a right to be present at ARS 13-4420 & 8-400.
- be present and heard at any proceeding in which a person’s factual innocence is being considered ARS 13-440.
- be accompanied to any judicial proceeding by a support person, unless that person is a witness in the case Rule 39, Rules of Criminal Procedure
- make a statement to the court at any proceeding in which the court considers the release of the defendant, a change of plea or the sentencing ARS 13-4407 & 8-387 (notice of terms and conditions of release), 13-4428 & 8-407 (Victim’s discretion; form of statement) & 13-4426.01 & 13-4426 (Sentencing). Furthermore, the victim may exercise their right to be heard in the form of an oral statement, a written statement, audio tape or a video-taped statement A.R.S. 13-4428 (Victim’s discretion; form of statement).
- have the court provide appropriate safeguards to minimize any contact that might occur between the defendant, the victim, their family and friends ARS 13-4431 & 8-410 (Minimizing victim contacts)
- not testify regarding their address, telephone numbers, place of employment or other location information unless you consent or the court orders disclosure on finding that a compelling need for the information exists ARS 13-4434 & 8-413 (Victim’s right to privacy; exception)
- request the prosecutor to have the court reconsider the defendant’s release from pre-trial custody. If the prosecutor decides not to do this, the Victim Advocate will inform the victim of that decision and of their rights to petition the court to have the defendant’s release revoked based upon the notarized statement that harassment, threats, physical violence or intimidation against the victim or immediate family has occurred by the defendant or on behalf of the defendant ARS 13-4432 & 8-411 (Motion to revoke bond or personal recognizance)
- have the court, prosecutor and law enforcement officials take appropriate action to ensure a speedy trial ARS 13-4435 & 8-414 (speedy trial; continuance; notice).
Plea Agreements & Right to Confer
ARS 13-4407 & 8-387 & 13-4423 & 8-403
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.
ARS 13-4407 & 8-387 & 13-4422 & 8-402
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.