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Timeline of a Misdemeanor Case in Arizona

Posted on July 13, 2023 in assault & violent crimes

If you are facing a misdemeanor charge in Arizona, you may be curious as to what the future of your case looks like. Although each case is unique, the state typically processes misdemeanor cases in much the same way. Most misdemeanor cases are given to city prosecutors, unless the defendant is under the age of 18, in which case it will go through the juvenile court system.

charged with a misdemeanor


If an alleged crime is reported to the police, law enforcement patrols will travel to the scene to investigate. An investigation may involve interviewing witnesses, searching for physical evidence and reviewing surveillance footage. The police will compile a report that describes the incident and will include the name of any suspects that have been identified.


With sufficient evidence, a defendant may be arrested and taken into custody on the date that the violation occurred or as a result of an arrest warrant. Upon arrest, the defendant will be read his or her Miranda rights and taken to a police precinct for booking. The defendant will be given one phone call, which can be used to contact a criminal defense lawyer. The police cannot listen in on a call to an attorney.

Formal Charge

Law enforcement will file their report and investigational findings with the municipal prosecutor. If the prosecutor believes there is sufficient evidence to proceed with a criminal case, he or she may enter formal charges against the suspect. This is done either through a direct complaint – a document submitted to a judge to review – or a Grand Jury indictment, where a jury will review the case and decide if there is enough evidence for a formal charge.

Initial Appearance

After the suspect has been taken to a precinct and booked as having committed an offense, he or she legally must have the Initial Appearance before a judge or commission within 24 hours. This is where the defendant will hear the specific misdemeanor charge(s) entered against him or her, be appointed a public defender if he or she does not wish to hire a private Phoenix misdemeanor defense attorney, receive the conditions of his or her release from custody, and hear a date for the status conference and preliminary hearing.

Pretrial Conferences

Several pretrial conferences and preliminary hearings may take place before a criminal trial for a misdemeanor. A criminal defense lawyer can attend these meetings on behalf of the defendant to seek opportunities to resolve the case before it goes to trial. A plea agreement may be negotiated, for example, or motions could be filed to have the case dismissed.

Criminal Trial

If the misdemeanor case is not dismissed or resolved with pretrial proceedings, it will end up in criminal court in Arizona. A court case will involve the discovery phase, where both sides of the case exchange information and evidence until they are on the same page for the trial. There may also be additional settlement conferences to attempt to resolve the issue outside of court.

Once the trial begins, it will start with opening statements by the prosecutor and the attorney for the defense. They will then provide evidence and arguments to the jury to explain the case. The prosecutor has the responsibility of establishing the defendant committed the misdemeanor crime with proof “beyond a reasonable doubt.” The defense will attempt to discredit the statements and facts presented by the prosecution to strive for a not-guilty verdict. If found guilty, the defendant will receive a sentence. 

To learn more about the exact timeline for your specific misdemeanor case, call AZ Defenders at (480) 568-4473 for a free consultation.