What is a Supervening Indictment in Maricopa County?

by Aaron Black • July 05, 2018
Appear in court to be arraignedIf you’ve been served with a supervening indictment you are en route to trial in Maricopa County Superior Court based on your circumstances on one or more serious felonies equipped with years of incarceration.

A supervening indictment is issued after the initial appearance, which will be held shortly after your arrest. At that appearance, you will be scheduled for a preliminary hearing. In the meantime, the prosecution may bypass the preliminary hearing stage by taking its evidence to a grand jury, which is the state’s prerogative to keep the investigation confidential. In that case the previously scheduled preliminary hearing will be vacated.

A supervening indictment means that you won’t have the benefit of a preliminary hearing. In a preliminary hearing a judge hears both sides and if probable cause is found the judge will rule that you must stand trial in Superior Court. If probable cause isn’t met the charge will be dismissed.

A supervening indictment lists all the charges and will require you to appear in court to be arraigned on a specified date. Failing to appear at the arraignment will result in a bench warrant for your arrest, and you’ll be remanded to custody. The charging documents will be mailed to you, however, if you are being held in custody, the papers will be served to you in jail, and you’ll be taken for arraignment on the specified date.

You will be formally informed of the charges, penalties, as well as your constitutional rights at the arraignment. You will also be asked to enter a plea, guilty, not guilty, or no contest, which has the same force as a guilty plea in criminal law. My advice is to plead not guilty. This gives you time to retain a skilled criminal defense lawyer to represent you as well; it gives you time to build a defense.

What happens at grand jury sessions?

Grand jury proceedings are secret. Secrecy is allowed under the Grand Jury Requirement Clause of 1791, which was added to the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution that also prohibits self-incrimination and protects the established rules and principles under due process to ensure the reasonable treatment of defendants.

Secrecy serves to:
  • Protect the identities of state witnesses so they can’t be harassed, threatened or eliminated;
  • Preserve facts and evidence;
  • Doesn’t alert the suspect that the investigation is underway preventing the suspect from running away;
  • Safeguards the reputation of the suspect should the grand jury decide not to issue a supervening indictment.
Under this veil of secrecy, the prosecution presents its physical and testimonial evidence from the crime’s surviving victim and witnesses, but perhaps not all of it. The grand jury can force reluctant people to testify. You likely wouldn’t even know about the supervening indictment because grand juries can be used as an investigative tool in sensitive cases, such as conspiracies, sexual abuses, and high-profile capital cases.

You aren’t allowed to attend grand jury proceedings, and the media is forbidden to report on them.

If however, you are aware that the grand jury is evaluating your case and you want to be a witness, you can request to do so, but you more than likely won’t be allowed to testify in your defense. The grand jury doesn’t have to allow your testimony; however, if the jurors do vote to allow you to testify, secrecy also applies to you and your defense attorney, of which I encourage you to have at your side.

Once the supervening indictment is issued and acted upon it becomes public record; however, the prosecution may withhold some of the facts. The defense may oppose the release of the indictment if it can show that releasing it would jeopardize a fair trial.

Grand jury testimony may be used at trial under, but it isn’t generally allowed because it’s an out-of-court document and therefore considered hearsay.

Grand juror selection and voting

People who are chosen to serve on grand juries are selected at random by computer from lists compiled by the Department of Transportation and voter registrations. The Maricopa County Grand Jury and the Arizona State Grand Jury each can have between 12 and 16 jurors who serve for four months.

The Maricopa County Grand Jury hears felony cases stemming from the county’s cities and unincorporated areas. The Arizona State Grand Jury hears cases from the Attorney General’s office. The federal government also has a grand jury for crimes crossing state lines and bank robberies. It meets in Phoenix and can have between 16 and 23 jurors serving for 18 months.

People who have felony convictions and don’t have their constitutional rights restored are not eligible for grand jury duty, nor are those who have not reached the age of maturity, 18. A person who is at least 75 years old can be excused from duty by writing a letter to the jury administrator.

A least nine of the grand jurors are needed to issue a supervening indictment.

Get qualified legal representation immediately

Although it may seem that a vote of grand jurors is an indication of how a jury trial in Superior Court might turn out, that isn’t’ necessarily true. A grand jury is merely an instrument of the prosecution, and it doesn’t hear any mitigating evidence to support your version of events. The grand jury’s purpose is to decide if there is probable cause and if so it charges you, it does not, however, determine guilt or innocence.

Also, the prosecution may offer to charge you with a lesser offense accompanied by a reduced sentence if you choose to plead guilty. This is a standard approach the state uses to help clear crowded court calendars. I have extensive experience negotiating with prosecutors to achieve the best possible outcome for you. The judge assigned to your case must approve the plea agreement that is reached.

If you or someone you know are facing felony charges, you are also looking at the possibility of long term loss of your freedom. Immediately retain an experienced criminal defense attorney like me, to file a motion to attain bail unless of course, it has denied, and to hear your version of the story to begin a building a defense.

I have defended hundreds of people charged with serious crimes in my criminal law practice, and I have a record of fighting hard for my clients at trial to ensure they get a fair trial.

Free legal consultation

If you or someone you know has been served with a supervening indictment contact Maricopa County Criminal Defense Attorney Aaron Black or call (480)729-1683 for a free consultation.
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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