What is the Court process for Arizona misdemeanors?
Cases filed with only misdemeanor allegations are held in either justice, city, or municipal court. The specific court is determined by where the alleged conduct took place. Crimes within city limits are referred to city or municipal courts. Crimes within state property, highways, or unincorporated areas are sent to local justice courts.
Each court has their own nuances and ways of doing things, but the framework of the criminal process is the same. Here are the types of hearings in misdemeanor courts explained chronologically.
- Initial Appearance. Those arrested and held in custody will see an initial appearance judge. The initial appearance judge merely sets release conditions and provides an arraignment date. Defendant given a citation or summons won’s see an initial appearance judge. Instead, their first court date is the arraignment.
- Arraignment. At the arraignment, judges read the charges, the rights of the accused, and the potential penalties. If this is the first judge you see, the judge will address release conditions. Unless you’ve consulted a criminal attorney and understand all your options, you should plead not guilty at the arraignment.
- Pre-trial conferences. These are informal meetings with the prosecutor to exchange evidence, negotiate, and discuss the case. Some courts have different names for these hearings, but they’re essentially the same: they’re designed to either resolve a case or prepare for it for trial.
- Pre-trial evidentiary motions and hearings. These hearings address issues of procedure, release conditions, evidence, due process, and constitutional violations. These motions often require a written motion and the presentation of evidence.
- Trial. This is where a trained prosecutor attempts to prove a Defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt by presenting evidence and testimony. The defendant also has the right to present evidence and testimony. Depending on the charges, either a jury or judge will determine whether a defendant is guilty of each charge.