Criminal Defense Services
We treat you with respect.
If you have been arrested or accused of a crime, you need a criminal defense attorney who will honestly answer your questions while protecting your rights. For most, criminal investigations are frightening and new experiences. We understand that.
Although Granville Law prepares each case as if it will proceed to a jury trial, in many cases, aggressive plea negotiations are the better option. Problems in a case and strong negotiation skills can often lead to compromise for the charged offense and/or the punishment.
We also understand that a courtroom is an intimidating place for most people. The life impacts of the criminal defense process require professional and empathetic representation.
Criminal Case Process
When a crime is reported to a law enforcement agency, a patrol officer travels to the scene to investigate. After first assisting anyone who may need medical attention, the patrol officer will interview the victim(s) and any witness(es) and compile a report describing the crime. Police Detectives and crime scene investigators may also respond if there is a need to take special photographs of the scene or the victim, record possible fingerprints, or gather additional evidence. In certain felony cases, such as homicides or vehicular collisions involving serious injuries or death, a Deputy County Attorney (DCA) may come to the crime scene to assist officers with legal issues in the investigation.
If police believe that a suspect has been identified and that there is sufficient evidence that the suspect has committed a crime (a finding known as “probable cause”), the suspect may be arrested immediately. If suspects are not arrested at the scene, the patrol officer’s incident report may be channeled to detectives within the law enforcement agency for further investigation. Detectives may contact witnesses for formal statements, may obtain additional physical evidence as well as descriptions of suspects or stolen property. Once their investigation is complete, law enforcement officers may either arrest a suspect if they believe there is sufficient probable cause, or submit their findings to the County Attorney’s Office for review by a prosecutor.
*** Yes, police are generally allowed to lie to suspects during investigation. No, they are not always required to read you your Miranda rights right away.
Formal Charging Procedure
If the prosecutor believes the police report provides sufficient evidence to indicate that the alleged offender has committed a crime, the prosecutor will file a direct complaint and/or seek a Grand Jury indictment. Both of these methods constitute a formal filing of criminal charges.
A direct complaint is a document prepared by the prosecutor which specifies the felony offense(s) the defendant is alleged to have committed. A judge reviews each complaint to determine if there is enough evidence to sign it and issue a summons ordering the alleged offender to appear at a preliminary hearing to be formally notified of the charges that have been filed.
Grand Jury Indictment
In addition to, and usually in lieu of, filing a direct complaint, a prosecutor may formally charge a suspect by presenting evidence to a Grand Jury. If the Grand Jury determines that there is sufficient evidence that a suspect committed a crime the jurors will formalize these findings by issuing an indictment.
When a suspect is arrested either at the scene of the crime or as a result of an arrest warrant, he or she is taken to jail and “booked.” Within 24 hours of the booking, the defendant must be taken before a Judge or Commissioner for an Initial Appearance (IA). Suspects who receive a Grand Jury summons are also ordered to attend an initial appearance. An IA is the first time the suspect, now referred to as a defendant, appears before a Judge or Commissioner. At the IA, four events take place:
Status Conference (RCC and EDC only)
A status conference provides the first opportunity for the defendant and prosecutor to resolve a case. The State will attempt to negotiate a plea agreement with a defendant’s attorney which may include a reduction of the sentence normally imposed for the alleged offense. If the parties agree, the case is set for sentencing. If no agreement is reached, the case proceeds to the scheduled preliminary hearing. Both the status conference and the preliminary hearing are cancelled, or “vacated,” if the County Attorney’s Office files formal charges against the defendant by obtaining a Grand Jury indictment.
Preliminary Hearing (RCC and EDC only)
When felony charges are filed by a direct complaint, a preliminary hearing is held to determine whether the defendant should face trial on the charges alleged in the complaint. At the hearing, the prosecutor presents a Judge with evidence that would lead a reasonable person to conclude that the accused individual has committed the crime, a finding known as “probable cause.” The Judge can either find probable cause and order the defendant to stand trial, or dismiss the case based on a lack of probable cause. In some instances, a prosecutor will secure a Grand Jury indictment prior to the preliminary hearing. When this happens, the Grand Jury makes a finding of probable cause and the preliminary hearing is vacated.
*** Probable cause is a VERY low standard to meet. To use an old saying, “a Grand Jury could indict a ham sandwich.”
If the case goes to a Grand Jury, then an arraignment is held within 10 days after the filing of an indictment or direct complaint, unless the defendant has not been arrested or has negotiated a plea agreement at the status conference. The arraignment hearing serves several purposes:
*** If a defendant who is not being held in custody fails to appear at any court hearing, the Court can (and WILL) issue a bench warrant for the defendant’s arrest.
Regional Court Centers (RCC) for Felony Processing
There are several Regional Court Centers in Maricopa County where preliminary hearings and arraignments are consolidated into one event at one location to expedite the criminal justice process primarily for lower level offenses. Preliminary hearings at RCC require the attendance of the prosecutor, the defendant, the defense attorney, and the prosecutor’s witnesses. The victim is given notice of this hearing and may also be required to attend. The defendant may demand a hearing, waive the hearing, or accept a plea offer from the prosecutor. A plea offer is an agreement between the prosecutor and the defendant in which the defendant agrees to plead guilty or no contest in order to avoid a trial. Not all cases go through this RCC process.
Early Disposition Court (EDC)
Previously known as Expedited Drug Court, EDC is designed to handle most first and second-time drug offenses and prevent a backlog of these relatively minor cases by resolving them as quickly as possible.
Initial Pretrial Conference (IPTC)
Following arraignment, defendants who plead not guilty are scheduled for an initial pretrial conference (IPTC). An IPTC is usually held about 45 days after an arraignment. The law firm typically receives initial discovery during the time period between the arraignment and IPTC. The discovery disclosure process can often continue until days before trial. At the IPTC, future hearing dates are set.
According to the Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure, the prosecution and defense must disclose the information each side intends to present at trial, including physical evidence, police reports and a list of witnesses.
*** It is difficult for me to properly discuss your case with you if I have not received discovery from the State, so please be patient. I need to know what their side of the story is so that I can compare it to your version and find the holes.
*** If you have items, medical/psychiatric information, or witnesses that you think may be helpful at trial, you need to let me know AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. We have to be able to contact the people, talk to them, and turn their information over to the prosecution at least 20 days prior to trial. We will need their contact details.
Continuing/Comprehensive Pretrial Conference (CPTC)
Approximately 30-45 days after the IPTC, a CPTC will be held. Between these two hearings, a plea offer will usually be extended by the State and it will normally be set to expire at the CPTC. Additional discovery will hopefully have been received by this point if there were items outstanding.
In some cases, the trial Judge assigned to a case will order the parties to meet with another Judge to discuss possible resolutions to a case short of trial. The victim has a right to be present and express his/her views whenever the defendant is present.
Final Trial Management Conference (FTMC)
An FTMC is typically held a few days before the scheduled trial date to discuss the trial schedule and address any remaining issues in the case before going to trial.
*** Trials rarely, if ever, go according to the initial schedule. This is due to the need for additional disclosure, investigation, attorney trial conflicts, etc.
Rule 11 Hearing and Evaluation
If at any point a prosecutor, Judge, or defense attorney thinks that you may not be competent to stand trial because you cannot understand or assist in your defense, I/we/they may request that the Court order a psychiatric evaluation known as a Rule 11 evaluation. Typically the Rule 11 process takes at least one month, after which a hearing is scheduled for the Judge to review evidence from mental health specialists and decide if the you are or are not competent to stand trial. If the Judge determines that you are competent, the case proceeds through the criminal justice process. If you are found to be incompetent, the Judge may order additional evaluations to determine if you can be restored to competency with mental health treatment. If the judge finds that you can be restored to competency, the criminal case is placed on hold while you participate in mental health treatment. Once you are determined to be competent to assist in your defense, the prosecution resumes. If a Judge determines that you are incompetent and not restorable in the near future, the criminal case must be dismissed and the Judge may order that you be involuntarily committed to the Arizona State Hospital for mental health treatment.
Typically after a person has been charged, there are two options in resolving your case: 1) through a plea agreement (discussed in this paragraph); or 2) by accepting a jury’s decision after trial (discussed in next paragraph). No attorney can predict what a jury will do.
In any of these hearings, you, the defendant, may change your mind and decide to plead guilty to the original charges or agree to reduced charges. In negotiating a plea agreement with the Deputy County Attorney (DCA) prosecuting the case, we may seek a dismissal of certain charges, a commitment from the DCA not to file additional charges or an agreement to recommend a particular sentence.
If an agreement is reached, you and the attorneys will appear before a Judge for a Change of Plea Hearing. You would enter a plea of guilty as agreed, and sign a form declaring that you are knowingly giving up various rights, including the presumption of innocence, the right to a trial, the right to cross-examine witnesses, and the right to appeal. Victims have the right to be present at the hearing and to make a statement expressing their opinion about the plea agreement. The Judge can either reject the plea agreement and set the case for trial, or accept the plea, enter a finding of guilt against the defendant and proceed to sentencing (approximately one month later).
*** Contrary to jail house rumor, there is NO requirement that a defendant get three (3) plea offers before trial. Quite the opposite, a defendant typically gets one. IF defense has solid arguments against a case, then a deviation may be filed and a defendant MAY see a second plea offer which is improved. Normally however, a plea agreement is considered a courtesy by the State to resolve a case without trial and once a plea expires, it goes away, or if a new offer is extended it gets substantially harsher.
*** Victims do not have the option to dismiss the case. Once police were called and charges were filed, the case became the State’s, not the Victim’s.
If a plea agreement is not reached, the case goes to trial. All parties to the case, including prosecution witnesses and defense witnesses, will be subpoenaed in advance to testify. Victims have the right to be present throughout the trial.
Once a jury is selected and sworn, the prosecution and the defense make opening statements to explain the case. The DCA then presents the case against the defendant. Witnesses are excluded from sitting in the courtroom to watch until after they testify.
After the prosecutor presents the case against the defendant, the defense has an opportunity to present its evidence. On advice of counsel, the defendant may or may not testify on his/her behalf. As in the case with the prosecution witnesses, defense witnesses are subject to cross-examination by the prosecutor.
Following the defense’s case, rebuttal witnesses may be called by the prosecutor to discredit statements and facts presented by the defense. At the end of the trial, attorneys for the prosecution and defense make their final arguments to the Judge or the jury. The Judge instructs the jury on how the law applies to the case and about the duty of the jury.
The jury must agree unanimously in order to find the defendant guilty or not guilty. If the jury returns a “not guilty” verdict, this means that, in the jury’s opinion, the State failed to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt and the defendant is released. The State cannot appeal the jury’s verdict and the matter cannot be retried. If the jury returns a verdict of "guilty," the Judge sets a sentencing date. If the jury is unable to reach a unanimous verdict, it is declared "hung" by the Judge and the State may then request that the case be retried within sixty days.
*** In Maricopa County, a large majority of cases that go to trial (and typically only the “good” cases go to trial) result in GUILTY verdicts. The choice to go to trial is yours and yours alone, but please think long and hard about it.
*** Clients often want us to give them, in number form, their chances at winning at trial. We can’t give you a percentage like “I think it’s 25% that you’ll win” or “I guarantee you can win this.” I can never say what a jury will do. Juries are unpredictable. What I can do is give you my opinion, based on my experience, on the good points and bad points of your case, and promise that I will do my absolute best for you if you decide to take things to trial.
If the defendant pleads guilty, or if the defendant is found guilty at trial, the Judge will set a date for the defendant to be sentenced. In felony cases, sentencing will generally be held about 30 days after the change of plea or guilty verdict. Prior to sentencing, the court will request a Pre-Sentence Report on the defendant from the Maricopa County Probation Department (only for felony cases).
The Pre-Sentence Report discusses the circumstances of the offenses, the defendant’s life and criminal history, and recommends a specific sentence. The Probation Officer (PO) will contact the victim(s) who may also submit a written statement to the Judge through the PO. This statement may contain the victim’s request for payment of monetary losses suffered by the victim (restitution). In some situations, when either the prosecutor or the defense attorney has strong feelings about the recommended sentence, testimony especially relevant to the sentence may be heard. Victims are allowed to make a statement to the Judge at the time of the sentencing.
Arizona law requires the Judge to order the defendant to pay restitution if the victim has suffered a monetary loss directly related to the crime. Restitution is not available to compensate for pain and suffering in criminal cases. Restitution will be ordered regardless of whether the defendant is placed on probation or sentenced to the Arizona Department of Corrections (DOC).
If the defendant is placed on probation, he/she will be under many restrictions of conduct and travel. If a defendant violates the terms of probation, additional restrictions may be imposed or the defendant may be sentenced to serve a term in DOC.
Under Arizona’s laws, convicted defendants must serve at least 65% or 85% of any prison sentence imposed (depending on the nature of the crime), unless the defendant is convicted of an offense which prohibits early release (flat-time sentences). At the time of sentence, the Judge will also order the defendant to serve a term of community supervision following the prison term. The term of community supervision will be equal to the remainer of the total prison term. During the time the offender is being supervised in the community, the offender will report to a community supervision officer and must abide by certain restrictions on his/her activities. If the offender violates the terms of the community supervision, he/she may be ordered by the Judge to serve the remainder of the term of community supervision in prison.
Appeals/Post-Conviction Relief (PCR)
After sentencing the two main avenues for a defendant to challenge the prosecution, conviction and/or sentence are appeals and petitions for post-conviction relief (PCR).
*** We DO NOT handle any appeal/PCR phase(s) of a case. If you decide to try to make those arguments, YOU must timely file your notices and paperwork to get that started. Upon request, an attorney can be appointed to you if you qualify.