What Happens at an Arraignment in Arizona?

by Aaron M. Black • April 16, 2020
Arraignment in CourtroomYou’re sitting in the courtroom and your docket number and name is called. You stand and approach the bench.

If you don’t have an attorney the judge advises you of your right to have counsel and if you understand that. You’re told if you can’t afford an attorney one will be appointed, usually from the public defender’s office unless there is a conflict between the office and yourself.

You’re also told you have the right to remain silent, which is a protection under the Fifth Amendment prohibiting self-incrimination.

The judge reads the charges against you, unless you waive the reading, and asks how you plead. You have three choices - guilty, not guilty, or no contest. The latter doesn’t assign guilt and therefore can be helpful in defending civil litigation.

If you’re in custody the issue of bail and the amount can be determined and your attorney can dispute the amount to reduce it. You’ll have to post a bond that’s 10 percent of the bail amount.

In some cases, defendants are released on their promise to appear at other court proceedings. It’s called “own recognizance.”

The judge also may impose certain conditions for you to follow to remain out of custody, such as requiring you to have no contact with the victim if there is one. In your favor, the judge also considers if you have a job and family in the community.

A date is set to hold the next court appearance, a preliminary hearing, to determine if there’s sufficient evidence to hold you for trial.

That’s an arraignment, fleeting and formal.

Felony charges are handled in superior courts and misdemeanor cases are assigned to municipal courts.

A Second way to be arraigned

Arizona allows its limited court jurisdictions to combine the arraignment with the “initial appearance” that’s held before a judge or commissioner. Limited jurisdictions include justice of the peace, city courts, and those that handle non-criminal matters.

The initial appearance is the first encounter with the court system and a defendant must be brought into court within 24 hours of the arrest and booking. These courts have scheduled times so they are available when needed.

In cases that an arrest is made without a warrant, the authorities must file the complaint within 48 hours from the initial appearance. If that isn’t done, the defendant must be released and the preliminary hearing date is vacated.

After the initial appearance, as in the arraignment information above, the defendant is told what the charge is, advised of the right to an attorney, the conditions of release are established, the issue of bail is decided, and a date is set for the preliminary hearing.

In cases that a DNA sample is required for testing pursuant to Arizona Revised Statute §13-610(K) proof of compliance needs to be provided to the court before the initial appearance is held.

Regional Court Centers

To speed the connection between arraignment and the upcoming preliminary hearing we have two Regional Court Centers to handle felony cases in Maricopa County, which also levy sentences are less serious cases.

The defendant can either go forward with a preliminary hearing, waive it, or enter into a plea arrangement with the prosecution.

When should I hire an Attorney?

If you are being investigated for a criminal offense, or if you have just been arrested, the time to secure legal representation to protect yourself is right now. Your attorney needs time to gather information to present to the court at your initial appearance or arraignment and work to get you released from custody as quickly as possible.

An experienced criminal defense attorney knows how to navigate the complex legal system and how to represent your interests at the arraignment and the next steps, the preliminary hearing and beyond.

Early representation is crucial to ensure the authorities haven’t violated any of your rights. Your attorney can also tell you the penalties you’re facing if you’re convicted.

What Should I do when questioned by the Police?

The authorities will start building their case at the moment they first approach you. They will start with a battery of questions but you have the Constitutional right under the Fifth Amendment to remain silent and to have an attorney at your side during questioning under the Sixth Amendment. They know the limits of their investigation and should stop speaking with you.

Free, Confidential Case Assessment

Learn the extent of trouble you’re facing and what your options are by arranging for a confidential legal review of your case. I’ll listen to your side of the event and ask questions. I know you’ll have questions, too, and I’ll answer them.

To get my legal advice while we’re all dealing with the Coronavirus pandemic and practicing social distancing, contact Phoenix, AZ Criminal & DUI Defense Attorney, Aaron Black or call (480) 729-1683.

I’m available all the time, day and night, weekends and holidays. I’m also available by text, email, and FaceTime.

The court system is operating at a reduced level because of the pandemic and the governor’s stay-at-home order for April. However, for most felony cases, the prosecutor has 7 years to file the charges. If you have been arrested on a misdemeanor, the prosecutor has 1 year to file the charges.

Aaron Black defends criminal cases in Arizona’s justice, municipal, state, and federal courts.
In light of the Coronavirus pandemic, I wanted to inform clients and potential clients I am still available for consultations. I am always available by phone, text and/or email. We can also use Facetime for social distancing. The criminal justice system is not stopping due to COVID-19.

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