What Is the Process After Criminal Charges Are Filed in Court?

What initiates the process is the arrest, after which the officer who made the arrest files a police report. This report goes to the prosecutor.

While the Arizona laws are very complex, there are some similar processes all cases go through.

Preliminary Hearing

The purpose of the preliminary hearing is to establish if there is probable cause. What this means is that the judge has to decide not whether or not the defendant is guilty, but if there is enough evidence to take it to a jury trial. Under the 4th Amendment to the United State Constitution, you’re essentially protected from a potentially unfair prosecution due to limited evidence or inconclusive evidence. If the prosecutor presents enough evidence then you will go to trial. The burden of proof is on the prosecutor, not the defendant.

Evidence That Can Be Used For “Probable Cause”

To prevent evidence being a “free-for-all” where anything is used, there are different types of evidence that can be collected from various sources. Some things, like hearsay or assumptions, cannot be used for probable cause. These acceptable sources include:

Witnesses

Witnesses can be people who either saw the crime being committed or can provide evidence by having seen the accused immediately before or after. For example, in a DUI case, a witness can be someone from a party who saw the defendant drinking. Or it could be a pedestrian recalling seeing a driver making the illegal left turn that caused an accident. Witnesses can even include people who report the behavior of the defendant. An example would be a pedestrian who did not witness an accident but heard an ensuing argument and came over to help.

Police

The police can give their reasons for suspecting the defendant or what behaviors or words they witnessed. Someone who the officer reports was sober, clear-head, and cooperative is going to have a very different outcome, more than likely, from the person who officers say was violent, resisted arrest or was even very rude and aggressive toward others.

“…Can and Will Be Used Against You”

If you said anything after being arrested that can be understood as an admission of guilt at the time of the arrest, then it will be used against you. This is why it is so important to say very little at the scene of a crime. If you admitted to fault, going too fast or mention that had only a glass of wine before leaving, for example, then that is enough to be used against you.

Field Tests

If you submitted to a breathalyzer or blood sample test then the results will be used to determine if there were any intoxicants in your system.

Grand Jury

It’s important to understand the distinction between a grand jury and other hearings. It is not a trial. Rather, if the prosecutor thinks there is enough to indict or bring felony charges against the defendant then they will be able to work with a grand jury in order to determine this.

Violation of Rights

If you feel you have been arrested without probable cause then you are constitutionally protected from this unfairness and may be able to seek damages. A highly skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney will be able to fight for you to get the justice you deserve.

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