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Skip to Main Content. Sign In. Adult Criminal Trial Process The following is a brief description of the process to prosecute an adult accused of committing a felony offense. Most misdemeanor offenses are handled by municipal prosecutors; cases involving minors under the age of 18 are referred to the juvenile court system. Initial Investigation 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 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. Follow-Up Investigation 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.

Formal Charging Procedure If the prosecutor believes that the law enforcement agency's report does not provide sufficient evidence to justify filing of criminal charges, he or she may return the report to the submitting agency for more investigation or "further" the report , decline to prosecute "not file" , or refer the case to a prosecutorial agency in another jurisdiction for review.

Facts and Case Summary - Miranda v. Arizona | United States Courts

Both of these methods constitute a formal filing of criminal charges. Direct Complaint 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.

The judge may also issue an arrest warrant if there is reason to believe the offender will not voluntarily appear in court at the scheduled time. Grand Jury Indictment In addition to - and sometimes in lieu of - filing a direct complaint, a prosecutor may formally charge a suspect by presenting evidence to a Grand Jury comprised of at least nine citizens selected at random.

If the Grand Jury determines that there is sufficient evidence that a suspect committed a crime and should be tried on specific charges, the jurors will formalize these findings by issuing an indictment sometimes referred to as a "true bill". The Grand Jury may also issue an indictment alleging charges other than those recommended by the prosecutor, or determine that there is insufficient evidence to support any charges at all.

If the Grand Jury delivers an indictment, a judge may issue either a summons ordering the defendant to appear in court or an arrest warrant authorizing law enforcement agencies to arrest the defendant. Initial Appearance 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," or registered in the criminal justice system as having committed a specific offense. 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.

At the IA, four events take place: The defendant is informed of the felony allegations. The defendant is advised of the right to an attorney. If the court finds the person cannot afford an attorney, a public defender will be appointed. Conditions of the defendant's release are established. Defendants accused of less serious or non-violent crimes, or who have sufficient community ties, are released at this time on their own recognizance OR , a personal promise to return to court when required.

Defendants accused of serious offenses, or who have criminal records or a history of not returning to court as required, are either held in jail or released after posting a cash bond. A date is set for a status conference and preliminary hearing. Defendants who are held in custody without bond may be released after 48 hours if the County Attorney has not filed charges in a direct complaint. Status Conference A status conference provides the first opportunity for the defendant and prosecutor to resolve a case before proceeding to trial.

The State will attempt to negotiate a plea agreement with a defendant's attorney which may include a reduction or "deviation" 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 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.

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. Arraignment An arraignment is held within ten 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 defendant is asked to enter a plea to the charge s. A pretrial conference and a trial date are set. If the defendant remains in custody, a trial date must be set within days from the initial appearance. Defendants released from custody on bail or on their own recognizance OR must receive a trial date within days from initial appearance.

In extraordinary circumstances, the trial may occur later than these time frames. If the defendant intends to contest the charges presented at the preliminary hearing, the arraignment is known as a not guilty arraignment. If a defendant intends to plead guilty, the preliminary hearing is waived and a guilty arraignment is scheduled in Superior Court. The defendant can either plead "straight to the charges," or enter into a plea agreement. Upon accepting the plea, the Court will set a date for sentencing.

If a defendant who is not being held in custody fails to appear at any court hearing, the Court can issue a bench warrant for the defendant's arrest. Regional Court Centers RCC for Felony Processing There are two 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 an 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. The prosecutor must make diligent efforts to confer with the victim about any plea offer made to the defendant. In some less serious cases, sentencing will also be set at the RCC.

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.

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Eligible cases are identified at the IA and set for a preliminary hearing within 10 days. The plea and the sentencing are combined at these hearings and many defendants are ordered to participate in substance abuse treatment programs in lieu of prosecution. Initial Pretrial Conference Following arraignment, defendants who plead not guilty are scheduled for an initial pretrial conference IPTC. Here defendants have a hearing before a Commissioner to narrow the issues in controversy surrounding the case and perhaps settle it prior to the trial date. An IPTC is usually held within 45 days after an arraignment.

Discovery 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. This process, known as discovery, is reviewed in one or more pretrial status conferences before the Judge. The rules of discovery also allow attorneys to interview prospective witnesses. Settlement Conference 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. At the conference there is an exchange of views, and the Court will typically suggest ideas to attempt a resolution. The trial Judge can only participate in such discussions with the consent of both parties.

Motion to Continue Panel When attorneys file a motion to continue, or postpone, a trial more than five business days, a panel of Judges is convened to decide whether or not there is sufficient reason for delaying the trial. Northpointe has not shared how its calculations are made but has stated that the basis of its future crime formula includes factors such as education levels and whether a defendant has a job.

Many jurisdictions have adopted COMPAS, and other "risk assessment" methods generally, without first testing their validity. Defense advocates are calling for more transparent methods because they are unable to challenge the validity of the results at sentencing hearings. Professor Danielle Citron argues that because the public has no opportunity to identify problems with troubled systems, it cannot present those complaints to government officials.

In turn, government actors are unable to influence policy. Some argue that "risk assessment" should be limited to probation hearings or pre-trial release and not used in sentencing at all. In fact, the COMPAS system specifically was created, not for use in sentencing, but rather to aid probation officers in determining which defendants would succeed in specific treatment types. Others caution against overreliance in sentencing, which may be a natural tendency when given data that appears to be based on concrete, reliable calculations.

Judge Babler in Wisconsin overturned the plea deal that had been agreed on by the prosecution and defense one year in county jail with follow-up supervision and imposed two years in state prison and three years of supervision after he saw that the defendant had high risk for future violent crime and a medium risk for general recidivism.

Professor Sonja Starr argues that "risk assessment" results represent who has the the highest risk of recidivism, but the question most relevant to judges is whose risk of recidivism will be reduced the most by incarceration. Therefore, the consideration of risk in the abstract in sentencing may not advance the goal of deterrence.

In addition, the recidivism rate produces a risk score within a particular period ex: 2 years from the time of release or from the sentence of probation. It does not convey information about the amount of crime one may commit if given one length of incarceration over another ex: 2 years rather than 5 years.

Algorithms in the Criminal Justice System: Pre-Trial Risk Assessment Tools

Starr rejects the assumption that incarcerating those who are considered riskiest will prevent more crimes as an oversimplification, because this view does not consider the effect of crimes undertaken by other individuals, nor that incarceration may make someone who is already risky even more dangerous by increasing their risk of recidivism. Factors such as demographic, socioeconomic background and family characteristics may serve as a proxy for race. Because these variables are highly correlated with race, they will likely have a racially disparate impact.

In addition, because of de facto segregation and the higher crime rate in urban neighborhoods, including neighborhood crime rates will further compound the inequality. As a public policy matter, Starr argues that "risk assessment" factors based on demographic, socioeconomic background and family characteristics may not serve its intended goal of reducing incarceration because mass incarceration already has a racially disparate impact, which means that "risk assessment" algorithms produce higher risk estimates, all other things equal, for subgroups whose members are already disproportionately incarcerated.

Another arguable flaw with the input questions is that the consideration of employment history and financial resources result in extra, unequal punishment of the poor which may violate the equal protection clause, based on the precedent case Bearden v. Since the specific formula to determine "risk assessment" is proprietary, defendants are unable to challenge the validity of the results. The state does not dispute that the process is secret and non-transparent, but contends that Loomis fails to show that a COMPAS assessment contains or produces inaccurate information.

Second, Loomis argues that the algorithmic is unconstitutional because of the way it considers gender.