Frequently Asked Questions: Felonies
I got a letter in the mail saying I have court but I was never arrested, what does this mean?
There are many instances where officers investigate reports and may not have ever had contact with you. But the officers can submit a request for charging to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office (MCAO). If MCAO decides to file charges you will then get notice of this in the mail, called a summons.
I found out I have a warrant for my arrest but I never received anything in the mail about court, what do I do?
This is something that can happen. Normally this occurs when the summons was issued to a previous, or wrong address. This can be remedied by requesting the court to quash the warrant and schedule the Initial Appearance or Not Guilty Arraignment. You will likely need the assistance of an attorney as the other way to get rid of the warrant is to present yourself to the authorities, which will likely end up in an arrest.
What am I going to do?
For many this is the very first thought that comes to mind when they, or a loved one, have been charged with a felony. Being charged with a felony is serious. This can cause problems for you throughout your life; including employment, education, and family life. You need to consult with an attorney now. The attorney you choose plays an integral role in how your case will be handled and ultimately your outcome. You need to choose a lawyer who you feel comfortable with and believe will do the best job for you. Remember a good attorney will not tell you what you want to hear, but will be honest with you.
Will I have to say anything?
The attorneys do most of the talking for you. The judge will ask you for your name and date of birth and then will direct most of the conversation to the attorneys. At the end the judge will inform you of your next court date and let you know the consequences of not appearing and ask if you understand. Remember when you are answering the Court that the hearing is being recorded (either by court reported or electronically) so speak clearly and give an audible answer.
Why did I start in one court and was transferred to another court?
There are three different courthouses that handle criminal matters.
- Southeast Facility: this court is located at 222 E. Javelina Dr. in Mesa Arizona. This court handles cases during the preliminary stages before a preliminary hearing or grand jury indictment has happened.
- South Court Tower: this court is located at 175 W. Madison in Phoenix Arizona. The second and third floor (often referred to as RCC or EDC) of this building handle preliminary matters similar to the Southeast Facility. Floors 5-8 have courtrooms that other criminal court proceedings are held in.
- Central Court Building: this court is located at 201 W. Jefferson Avenue in Phoenix Arizona. The basement, or Lower Level, of this building handles all of the Probation Violation hearings. The other floors have courtrooms that other criminal court proceedings are held in.
Often you will start at a preliminary hearing stage either in the Southeast Facility or the Downtown RCC or EDC. Then your case will move to a trial level courtroom which could be in the South Court Tower or Central Court Building.
Is it worse to have a Grand Jury Indictment?
No. There are two ways a case can be brought against you in Arizona; through Preliminary Hearing or through Grand Jury Indictment.
- Preliminary Hearing: This occurs after an Initial Appearance. The purpose of a Preliminary Hearing if for a Judge to consider whether or not there is probable cause that a crime occurred and you were the one who committed it. This does not mean the judge is determining guilt or innocence but does the case have enough to move forward.
- Grand Jury Indictment: The other way for the State to bring a case against you is to go through the process of Indictment. This means that the County Attorney’s Office presented the facts of the case to the Grand Jurors. And if the Grand Jurors believe that a crime probably occurred and you were the person who committed the crime then the Grand Jurors will return the charges to the County Attorney who will then file the Indictment.
In either event, it is important to understand your case and the charges against you.
What does “last day” mean?
You have a Constitutional right to a speedy trial. This means that the Trial must start within certain time periods. If the defendant is in custody the trial must start within 150 days from the date of the Arraignment; if the defendant is out of custody 180 days; and if the case is designated complex 270 days from the date of the Arraignment.
What does “waive time” mean? The timelines given above can be extended if the defendant is willing to “waive time”. For instance if you have a trial scheduled for July 1st and your attorney requests a continuance the judge will ask if you are willing to “waive time.” This means that you are agreeing the time between your currently set trial date and your new trial date will not count towards the time limits above. So if the Court reset your trial to August 15th all of the time between July 1st and August 15th would not count towards the calculation of the “last day”.
What do I wear?
Although it is not necessary to wear a full suit and tie, or formal attire, it is important to wear proper attire. Do not wear hats or sunglasses into the courtroom. Do not wear shorts, tank tops, or shirts that expose too much. Do not wear clothing that has any vulgar language on it. Lastly, ensure that your cellphones are silenced.
What happens if I am late or miss a Court date?
It is imperative that you make it to Court on your scheduled date and time. If you are running behind you need to contact your attorney and let the attorney know. If you miss a Court date it is entirely likely that a warrant has issued for your arrest. You must contact your attorney as quickly as possible to see what can be done to rectify the situation. If a warrant was issued you may lose any bond you had posted.
Where do I Park?
There are many places in downtown Phoenix that you can park. Is it worth it to save some money and walk a little further?
There are two garages that you can pay by the hour.
- 1st Avenue between Jefferson and Madison. Closest but most expensive
- City of Phoenix parking garage – Between Washington and Jefferson also 4th Ave and 3rd
There are some $5 lots near the Courthouses too.
- There are two on Jackson – one just to the Southeast of the South Court Tower and one just East of 3rd These are both CASH ONLY lots
- Another is across the street from the 4th Avenue Jail. With this lot you go inside and pay. This lot takes both cash and credit cards.
If you are willing to walk a little further, there is a FREE parking lot. This lot can only be accessed from 6th Avenue from either Madison of Jefferson.
Where is probation?
The probation department you check in with after court is located in the West Court Building on the 5th Floor. You get to the West Court Building through the Central Court Building. If you are in the Central Court Building looking at the security line, you want to turn left (WEST) and head down that hallway. Before you pass the next security checkpoint you will see a bank of elevators on your left. These are the elevators for the West Court Building. Take the elevator to the 5th Floor and you will find probation.
IF YOU ARE IN MESA – the probation department is located on the 1st floor. If you come off the elevators, or down the stairs turn left in the hallway and you will see the sign for the probation department.
My release conditions say Pretrial Services, how do I get there from the Courthouse downtown?
Pretrial Services is located at 620 W. Jackson Street on the Third Floor. This is a large red brick building just west of the new Maricopa County Sherriff building. The best way to get there is to head South to Jackson street and take a right to head West towards 620 W. Jackson. Click here to see it on a map
What do all of these different Court proceedings mean?
- Initial Appearance: This is the first proceeding in which the Judge will give you your charges and release conditions and set the next Court date. Your next court date will either be a Status Conference or a Preliminary Hearing and will be set in about two weeks.
- Not Guilty Arraignment: this is a very similar proceeding to that of an Initial Appearance. However your next court date will be an Initial Pretrial Conference set out about 40-45 days.
- Status Conference: This is a court date in which your attorney will have a chance to negotiate with the County Attorney to try and resolve your case. Usually the police reports are made available at this time and an initial offer is made as well.
- Initial Pretrial Conference: This court date, referred to as an IPTC, is to set some additional dates for your case; a Comprehensive Pretrial Conference (CPTC), a Final Trial Management Conference (FTMC), and a Trial date. This does not mean you MUST go to trial, but the Court sets these dates to ensure the case is making progress. This is also a time for your attorney to give you a progress update on your case: has an offer been made, is there additional discovery he/she is waiting on, etc. Ask questions and make sure you understand what is going on with your case.
- Comprehensive Pretrial Conference: This is another chance for a progress report on your case. Generally the judge will ask if the currently set trial date is realistic. The judge will want to know what is going on with the case and what progress is being made. If an offer has been made it may be close to expiring at the CPTC date. Again, ask any questions you have because you need to make sure you know what is happening with your case.
- Complex Case Management Conference: Sometimes in complex cases, such as homicides, sex cases, or multi-defendant cases, your attorney will ask for the case to be designated complex. This means that you will have complex case management conferences prior to your trial rather than the other types of conferences. The only real difference is the time limits given to these cases. The trial is pushed farther out, usually because there are complex issues or a large volume of police reports.
- Final Trial Management Conference: This is the Court date in which you find out if you are going to trial and if there are any last issues. Usually at this point all plea offers have expired and another plea offer won’t be given. You need to make sure you are ready for trial and have gone over any issues with your attorney.
- Trial: Trial has started. In Maricopa County on the day of your trial you will always report to the Master Calendar Assignment Judge located on the 5th floor of the South Court Tower. This court date is at 8:00 a.m. and it is extremely important you show up on time. This judge will assign your trial to another judge or commissioner to oversee. Usually you will then report to that courtroom and the attorneys will discuss trial timelines with the assigned judge. Make sure you speak with your attorney and know what time you need to be at the Court and where the trial is taking place. Most judges start trial at 10:30 but some will only start in the afternoon at 1:30. Generally, the first day of trial is jury selection. Friends and family are always welcome to be in the Courtroom during trial (unless they are a witness); however, during jury selection the Courtroom has no empty space so it is best for friends and family to stay home for the first day.
- Settlement Conference: A settlement conference is a court date to try and reach a resolution on the case. This is unlike any of the other Court dates as you will be the only one scheduled at that time. Most of the time, the prosecutor and your attorney go in the back to discuss the case and issues with the judge. The judge will likely be a new judge to your case and not know any of the facts. The reason for this is to get a neutral party (not your judge at trial) to give an independent assessment of the case. You have the ability to ask the prosecutor and the judge questions at a settlement conference and you don’t have to worry about what you say being used against you. Your friends and family are welcome in this Court proceeding and are able to ask questions as well. This is a great time to make sure you completely understand your case and have all of your questions answered.