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What Do You Do if You Are On Trial For a Crime in Arizona

Criminal trials in Arizona arise following charges levied against persons who have allegedly committed a crime. In such cases, the state government is the plaintiff/prosecutor charged with proving “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the defendant committed the alleged offense. The trials are opportunities for the government to argue its case and the defendant’s chance to discredit the government’s evidence, prove innocence, and possibly avoid a “guilty” verdict. Throughout this process, the judge must ensure that the defendant’s rights are respected and that constitutional and statutory provisions are obeyed.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching more straightforward, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.

Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

What Percentage of Criminal Cases Go to Trial in Arizona?

According to the 2017 superior court statistics, only a small percentage of criminal cases filed in the state go to trial. For example, Maricopa County, Arizona’s most populous county, reported that, of 99.8% of terminated criminal cases, only 2.2% went to trial. Most defendants choose to avoid the uncertainties of trial and the possibility of harsh sentencing by opting for plea deals or deferred prosecution.

When Does a Criminal Defendant Have the Right to a Trial?

In addition to rights to an attorney and an experienced criminal defense team, defendants accused of committing crimes against the state are entitled to a speedy, public trial, according to Rule 8 of the Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure. If it is a felony case, DUI, or other serious misdemeanor cases, the defendant has the right to a jury trial. For minor misdemeanor cases, they have the right to a speedy bench trial with a presiding judge.

What Are The Stages of a Criminal Trial in Arizona?

A criminal trial in Arizona consists of the following phases:

  • Choosing a jury
  • Opening statements
  • Examination of witnesses
  • Closing arguments
  • Jury instruction
  • Jury deliberation
  • Verdict
  • Sentencing
  • Appeal

How Long Does It Take For a Case to Go to Trial in Arizona?

The Arizona criminal rules of procedure maintain that defendants have the right to a speedy trial. This refers to the maximum time limit for which the criminal trial must begin after formal criminal charges have been filed against the defendant.

If the defendant remains in custody, the trial date must be decided within 120 days from the initial appearance before a court. If the defendant was released from custody on bail, the trial date must be decided within 150 days from the initial appearance. In extraordinary circumstances such as complex or capital cases, the trial date must be set within 270 days from arraignment and 18 months from arraignment, respectively.

What Happens When a Court Case Goes to Trial in Arizona?

The following are steps involved in resolving a criminal case that goes to trial in Arizona:

  • Choosing a Jury

In Arizona, most trials are heard by a jury. The criminal trial starts with selecting 12 members of the jury who are questioned and examined by the judge and attorneys concerning issues about the case.

  • Opening Statements

The trial begins with opening statements from both sides, the state attorney and the defense attorney. Here, the prosecuting attorney provides the court with an overview of the crime committed with facts that support the claim.

  • Examination of Witnesses

After both sides have given opening statements or waived the opportunity to do so, the prosecuting attorney proceeds to conduct a direct examination. Witnesses are called to the stand and questioned under oath to reinforce the facts earlier provided. The opposing attorney may also provide witnesses to affirm that the defendant is innocent of the charges. Likewise, the court allows the attorneys to cross-examine witnesses by questioning witnesses and testimonies provided by the opposing side.

The trial generally depends on these examinations because it is the only opportunity to provide evidence, reinforce or debunk facts, and discredit witnesses. The judges and jury (through written notes submitted to the judge) may also question witnesses to clarify issues that arise.

  • Closing Arguments

After both sides have presented their evidence, they make closing arguments. Here, the attorneys summarize their evidence and highlight the strongest points beneficial to their case. The arguments give the judge/jury clarity on the case, which aids the verdict.

  • Instructing Jury

The judge reads instructions to every member of the jury after the closing arguments have been made. These instructions explain the laws that apply to the case being addressed, and the jurors are advised to let the instructions guide their final decision.

  • Jury Deliberations

Afterward, the jury retreats to the deliberating room, where a juror is elected to lead the discussions. Here, they consider all presented facts and then decide the verdict based on law and evidence.

  • Verdict

When the jury decides, and a verdict is reached, the court is called back into session. The jury provides the court with the written unanimous verdict signed by the foreperson or elected juror. The judge or court clerk reads the verdict to the court, and the court enters the judgment. If the defendant is found guilty, a later date is chosen for a sentencing hearing; if not, the defendant is released, and the court is dismissed.

  • Sentencing

The sentencing hearing is where the court determines the befitting punishment that the convicted individual will receive. Afterward, the judge must sentence the defendant within the range outlined by the state laws, including fines, probation, imprisonment, or a combination of all. In extreme cases, the death sentence can be imposed.

  • Appeals

Sometimes, the defendant may appeal the decision of the court in the Court of Appeals. There is an automatic appeal filed with the State Supreme Court in cases where a death penalty is imposed.

Can You Be Put on Trial Twice for the Same Crime in Arizona?

No, criminal defendants cannot be put on trial twice for the same crime. In agreement with the double jeopardy clause of the 5th amendment to the United States Constitution, Article 2 of the Arizona State constitution affirms that no individual should endure multiple trials for the same crime.

However, the double jeopardy clause only ensures that a defendant is not tried by the state government more than once. If the crime committed violates both state or federal laws, the individual may be tried separately by both governments, and it will not infringe on the defendant’s rights.

How Do I Lookup a Criminal Court Case in Arizona?

Individuals in the state can access court records of concluded and ongoing criminal cases online or in person. For access to paper copies, inquirers are advised to visit the courthouse where the case was initially filed. They may also confirm if the court provides other means of retrieval through the Arizona Court Locator provided by the Arizona Judicial Branch. This locator contains the locations, contact information, and websites of all superior courts in the state.

How to Access Electronic Court Records in Arizona?

Because online court records are unofficial records of the court, they are provided to the members of the public for informational purposes only. Court records in Arizona are mostly stored online via the web-based e-Access portal. The system handles public requests for civil and criminal court records and provides unrestricted access to public and open court records. To use this service, inquirers are expected to register for an eAccess account. Case data on the site may be purchased on a per-document basis or through a recurring monthly subscription.

How Do I Remove Public Court Records in Arizona?

The process of destroying or limiting access to public court records is known as expungement or sealing. There are no constitutional provisions for expungement in Arizona; instead, the process is called ‘SET ASIDE.’ To set aside a court record, interested persons are required to petition the sentencing court to dismiss the case or remove the finding of guilt.

While an expungement completely erases the criminal offense records, a set-aside will not remove the charge from the individual’s criminal record. A set-aside order shows that an ex-convict fulfilled all the sentence or probation conditions and that all the charges have been dismissed.

It is important to note that not all criminal cases in the state are eligible for this process. According to Title 13 of the State Criminal Code, individuals seeking to set aside felony or misdemeanor convictions must complete the probation or sentence for their crime. However, set aside orders are unavailable to individuals who were convicted of the following:

  • Crimes that require them to register as sex offenders
  • Crimes of sexual motivation or nature
  • Crimes against underage victims of less than 15 years old
  • Aggravated driving offenses
  • Dangerous offenses that involve the infliction of serious bodily injuries
  • Crimes that involve the use of deadly weapons

To apply for a set-aside order, the individual must petition the sentencing court by filing a request according to the requirements of the court. Typically, petitioners can apply to any superior court and not just the sentencing court. There are also no filing fees required.

If the request is denied, the court is mandated by law to provide a written explanation for the denial. The petitioner may file a request for reconsideration later, depending on the court’s reasons for the denial. Instructions and forms for requesting a set-aside order and reconsideration can be found on the court’s website.

If the petition is granted, the clerk of the court will inform the Department of Public Safety to update the individual’s criminal history.

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