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Arraignment Hearings in Arizona

Being taken into custody and appearing before a criminal court on counts of criminal charges can be a stressful ordeal. It can be terrifying for most people who never believed they could be charged with an offense. Even if you have previously been in trouble, criminal court hearings are never easy to get used to. You're up against the state. It is critical to grasp the legal procedures and engage a qualified partner to fight for and assist you in navigating through this difficult time. A skilled attorney can be that partner for you. We at the Phoenix Criminal Attorney will assist you in understanding the procedures, including all the legal terminology, and fight for your release.

An Overview of the Arizona Arraignment Hearing

At the arraignment hearing, the accused is formally informed of the criminal allegations against him or her. After that, the defendant would submit his or her plea. It's a brief, formal, and crucial element of the trial proceedings. In most cases, the offender is obliged to attend the arraignment. The courts will do the following at the arraignment:

  • Enter the accused's plea of guilty, no contest, or not guilty
  • Decide on a pre-trial conference or trial date
  • Provide notice in writing of additional judicial proceedings' deadlines and dates
  • Notify the offender that failing to show up at a prospective trial date could result in arrest warrants and a criminal conviction
  • Notify the offender that, while he or she has the right to be present during the trial, all court hearings could proceed without him or her, except for the sentence
  • Appoint a defense attorney for the accused, if necessary

If the offender has been charged with a sex crime, a felony, driving under the influence, or domestic violence, then the court should order fingerprinting within twenty days if it hasn't already been done. The accused is also informed of his or her legal rights, which include:

  • A lawyer, such as a public defender or a court-appointed lawyer
  • Appeal the outcome of a case, except if the accused's absence from conviction prompted it to take place more than ninety days after the sentencing
  • A jury trial
  • Attending all court proceedings

The court can also consider the arraignment hearing in deciding the accused's terms of his or her pretrial release or bail if the following conditions are met:

  • The arraignment and initial appearance have been combined,
  • One of the parties has submitted a request to evaluate these concerns at least five days beforehand, or
  • Both parties have agreed to the ruling

For cases handled by Arizona's justice courts or the city court system, which handles the majority of the state's misdemeanor charges, the arraignment is not necessary if:

  • The accused's criminal defense lawyer has already filed a not guilty plea on his or her behalf
  • The courts allow the accused to file a not guilty plea via mail and get notified of the upcoming court dates

Criminal Court Procedures for Arraignment

If you've been charged with a crime, it's critical to comprehend the significance of each step of the legal process. Each stage can have a significant effect on your case's overall outcome, which could be the distinction between freedom and incarceration. The following steps make up the arraignment hearing process:

Initial Appearance

This is the defendant's first appearance before the judge. At their initial arraignment, the defendant will be apprised of all the accusations leveled against him or her. At this hearing, the court would also notify the accused of some of his or her basic rights, including the right to legal representation. If the defendant has been in detention since his or her arrest, the court would consider releasing him or her at the initial appearance stage. Finally, the court will set your next court hearing for this moment.

If the defendant has been convicted of a misdemeanor, he or she would be arraigned at their first court appearance and be given a chance to plead either guilty or not guilty. However, if the accused is charged with felony charges, he or she would not be presented before the court until he or she has had a preliminary hearing.

Release Pending Trial

Nobody wants to spend time in jail awaiting their court date. However, the judge would occasionally decide that this was in the best interests of both parties. When deciding whether the defendant should be bailed out pending trial, a judge would consider the following factors:

  • The nature of the offense
  • The defendant's criminal background
  • The accused's stability in society, that is, if he or she has a family, home, or job
  • The defendant's safety, the welfare of any victims, and the security of the community

What the court is trying to assess when focusing on such factors is whether or not the defendant is likely to flee the state or country. A judge can't trust someone to appear for future court proceedings if they're a flight risk. If a judge believes the defendant will return and will not endanger others, the accused will be released.

Own Recognizance (O.R.)

A defendant is released on their own recognizance if he or she is released without having to pay any amount to the courts. This simply implies that the courts have faith in the accused's ability to return and thus release him or her based on that obligation.


The judge may rule that the accused could be released if he or she could pay a certain amount of money and swear to return for the next court hearing. This payment is called a bond. Once the amount to be paid is determined, the defendant will make the payment, normally in the form of collateral, cash, or with the assistance of a seasoned bail bondsman. An expert lawyer may be able to persuade the court to reduce the accused's bond amount.

Conditions of Release

In addition to the defendant's pledge to return for a hearing or bond payment, the court would put certain conditions on his or her release. For instance, the defendant could be required to put on an anklet or submit to drug testing. If he or she does not comply with these terms, the defendant may be re-arrested.

Preliminary Hearing

Defendants have the right to a probable cause hearing if they are convicted of a felony. The state of Arizona grants a defendant the option of waiving this right, that is, he or she can choose not to have a probable cause hearing. A qualified attorney is essential when considering your options regarding the waiver in your best interests. A preliminary hearing is meant to demonstrate to the courts that there is enough probable cause to proceed with the defendant's case to trial. The prosecutor would be responsible for proving probable cause in the courtroom.

It's crucial to remember that the prosecutor doesn't have to show that the accused committed the offense at the preliminary hearing. All they have to show is that there's reason to believe the defendant did it. The preliminary hearing is similar to a mini-trial in certain aspects, with each side explaining their argument in turn. The only distinction is that either a trial date would be established or your case could be dismissed.

Grand Jury

The objective of a grand jury hearing is similar to that of a preliminary hearing. A group of nine judges, rather than a sole judge, would determine whether to take the accused's case to trial in a grand jury session. Unlike a preliminary hearing, these sessions are conducted privately, with only the judicial officers, the grand jury members, and the defendant present.

It's worth noting that the grand jury hearings could also be attended by the accused's counsel. The accused would be arraigned once it's been found that there is substantial probable cause to bring his or her felony case to court. This is the moment when the accused would submit his or her "not guilty" plea and a court hearing date could be set.

Plea Deal

A prosecutor seeks to obtain a guilty plea or a conviction in a defendant's case. For the prosecutor to acquire what they wanted, he or she would offer the defendant a plea bargain. This simply implies that, in exchange for pleading guilty, they would reduce the penalties or agree to offer a more lenient punishment recommendation to a judge. The vast majority of court cases result in a plea deal. It's sometimes in the defendant's best interests to accept a plea bargain rather than risk a sentence. In other cases, a defense lawyer could believe the accused stands a better chance in the trial. Only a skilled attorney can advise you on this matter.


When a case goes to trial, it will follow a predetermined procedure. Trials are considered "adversarial processes," in which one party opposes the other in an attempt to support their case.The prosecution must prove "beyond any reasonable doubt" that the accused committed the offense for which he or she is being accused. A criminal defense lawyer should persuade the courts that there is a reasonable question about the defendant's guilt.

Types of Arraignment Pleas

One of the most crucial decisions you'll need to consider if you or a loved one has a planned arraignment for a criminal allegation is how to plead. There are 3 types of pleas that could be filed at the time of your arraignment:

  • No Contest
  • Not Guilty
  • Guilty

Pleading guilty to an allegation is an acknowledgment of guilt. Filing a no-contest plea to the allegation does not constitute an admission of guilt. If you opt to enter a "not guilty" plea, your subsequent court hearing date will be established, and you will maintain your right to hire a criminal defense lawyer and fight the accusations. Although it's not recommended, you could defend yourself against the accusations without the assistance of a lawyer.

Alternatively, you might hire a criminal defense attorney to fight the allegations and charges filed against you. If a defendant chooses to plead "guilty," he/she is accepting guilt and acknowledging the facts the prosecutor has against him/her, as well as waiving their right to a criminal defense lawyer. For misdemeanors, the court would convict the accused at that moment. A new date would be scheduled in the future, normally within thirty days for felony charges.

When you enter a "no contest" plea, you are implying that you don't admit guilt and that you're not guilty of the allegations. However, in this circumstance, you agree to take a conviction and the court's judgment for the offense within Arizona's sentencing range.

Misdemeanor and Felony Arraignments

A misdemeanor charge is usually associated with less serious offenses. Most first-time DUI crimes, domestic violence accusations, drug possession, and shoplifting are examples of misdemeanor offenses. Felony crimes, on the other hand, involve more serious offenses such as sexual assault, murder, burglary, and some drug crimes.

Based on your specific circumstances, there could be certain variations between a misdemeanor arraignment hearing and a felony arraignment hearing. If you were accused of a misdemeanor but were not arrested, your initial appearance would most likely be linked to your arraignment. If you've been charged with felony charges, you won't be arraigned until you've had your preliminary hearing.

Frequently Asked Questions

What's The Difference Between A Guilty Plea And A No Contest Plea?

The distinction between a no contest plea and pleading guilty at the arraignment is minor in the criminal proceeding. In both situations, the courts will find the defendant guilty and proceed to the sentencing phase of the proceedings. However, the various pleas can have a significant impact on a prospective civil action resulting from an offense. Since pleading guilty is an acknowledgment of the wrongdoing, the complainant could use it as evidence in a later case against the defendant.

Before deciding if a no-contest plea is suitable for their case, the accused person should consult with an attorney and get legal guidance. At the arraignment, the majority of defendants would enter a not guilty plea. This compels the prosecution to gather information and facts for trial, in which they must prove the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt without infringing on his or her constitutional rights. A defendant who enters a not guilty plea could change it later in the proceedings if he or she wants to take a plea bargain.

How Long Does It Take to Get Arraigned?

The procedures for these hearings differ based on the district court, state, or jurisdiction. For instance, some states only require arraignments in felony cases, while others do so in misdemeanors as well, even if the defendant is only facing jail time. An offender could be served with a bench warrant for an offense committed against him or her in their state, which would explain the details of their arraignment.

An arraignment, on the other hand, is normally a one-day proceeding. It's an easy case when the accused hears his or her accusations and the court approves their response. The defendant could spend the entire day in court waiting for his or her turn, but in general, it's a relatively short process.

Is it Possible to Go to Jail During an Arraignment?

An arraignment does not result in incarceration. It’s just a chance for the defendant to learn about the allegations brought against him or her and to enter a legally binding plea of guilty, no contest, or not guilty in response to the allegations. Following the arraignment, you will have a preliminary hearing at which the judge will determine if there is enough proof to proceed to trial. An arraignment isn't the same as a preliminary hearing since it's a kind of hearing that is incorporated into criminal courts. A formal preliminary hearing is when the court hears preliminary research of any facts against the defendant.

Can the Court Dismiss All Charges?

If neither the grand jury nor the judge finds probable cause, the allegations will be dropped. When the prosecution has insufficient evidence against an accused person, they could declare that they lacked enough evidence to proceed with the case and drop the charges.

Is It Possible To Avoid An Arraignment?

If the offender attended the initial appearance, he or she should waive the arraignment. The defendant must do the following to waive their arraignment hearing:

  • File a written waiver two days before the arraignment date,
  • Approve the waiver by signing it with the defendant's lawyer, and
  • Notarize the document

The defendant must submit a notarized document within twenty days of the arraignment hearing confirming that she or he is aware of the upcoming court hearings and knows the consequences of skipping them.

Find a Phoenix Criminal Lawyer Near Me

It is critical to have a professional criminal defense attorney help you through complex and stressful criminal law procedures. If you have any questions about your arraignment hearing, feel free to contact our attorneys at the Phoenix Criminal Attorney. Our legal team will not give up fighting for your freedom, ensuring that your rights are upheld all through the arraignment process. Call us right away at 602-551-8092.

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