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How Will My Maricopa County Superior Court Case Go?

Posted on October 4, 2019 in assault & violent crimes

Being charged with a felony in the Maricopa County Superior Court is incredibly intimidating.  However, a little bit of knowledge can go a long way in reducing the anxiety that accompanies facing a felony simply by virtue of not knowing what is going on. Read on to learn more and if you have any further questions, speak with an experienced criminal lawyer in Phoenix, AZ.

Maricopa County Superior Court Procedure

Lower-level felony cases in Maricopa County follow this procedure:

  1. Initial Appearance – an initial appearance occurs either within 24 hours of an arrest, or at a date set forth in a summons. At the initial appearance the court advises you of the charges you are facing and sets release conditions for your case.  Having an attorney at this stage is critical as, once set, release conditions are difficult to change.
  2. Regional Court Center – most cases in Superior Court start out in the Regional Court Centers, or RCC, either downtown or in Mesa. While in RCC there has not yet been a formal finding of probable cause, which is required to proceed on felonies, and so the rules of criminal procedure do not yet apply.  At these hearings, which are called either status conferences or non-witness preliminary hearings, your attorney can negotiate with the prosecution and attempt to favorably resolve your case early on.  It is the policy of the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office that a plea offer will not get better than what was made in the RCC, and that once you elect to leave the RCC the plea offer is revoked.  Often, however, they will extend additional offers, although they are often worse than the initial offer negotiated.
  3. Preliminary Hearing/Grand Jury Proceeding – the next step in a felony is for the State to attempt to obtain a probable cause finding. If they elect to go with the preliminary hearing route then you will be present, along with your attorney, and able to cross examine the state’s witnesses.  A grand jury proceeding, on the other hand, is held in secret and you have no right to attend.  At both, a determination must be made that a crime was probably committed, and you were the one who probably committed it.
  4. Arraignment – arraignment is very similar to the initial appearance, in that the court will inform you of the charges you are now formally facing. Additional court dates will be set at this time.  Some cases start at this stage if the state elected to bypass the RCC and simply obtain an indictment from a grand jury.
  5. Initial Pretrial Conference – this is the first hearing held in front of a commissioner once out of RCC. It is largely procedural and exists to ensure that the rules of criminal procedure are being followed by the parties.  Sometimes, although not always, the State will extend a plea offer at this setting.
  6. Comprehensive Pretrial Conference – as with the initial pretrial conference, this is a hearing held to ensure that there are no discovery or evidentiary issues needing resolution. This is typically the first hearing held in front of the case management judge, who will shepherd the case going forward.
  7. Final Trial Management Conference – at this hearing, the court will inquire if the parties are prepared to go to trial. The hearing is important in that may deadlines are computed from this date.
  8. Master Calendar – on the day of trial, the parties report to the Master Calendar, where they will be assigned to a judge for trial. Although the case management judge is supposed to have priority for handling the case, it is not uncommon for another judge to be assigned.

There are many other types of proceedings that can occur in a case, and they can include evidentiary hearings, oral arguments, complex case management conferences, changes of plea, and status conferences.  Each case is different, and so must be handled differently, but most cases follow this general pattern in Maricopa County.

What should I do if I am facing charges in the Maricopa County Superior Court?

If you are facing charges in the Maricopa County Superior Court, then you need aggressive and experienced representation by your side.  The AZ Defenders have decades of experience defending criminal cases and offer free consultations for your Maricopa County Superior Court case.  Call today at (480) 456-6400 or contact us online and schedule your free consultation.  The sooner you call, the sooner we can help.

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