Scottsdale City Court Criminal Arraignment Overview
Video Transcript: Scottsdale City Court Criminal Arraignment Overview
So this is the general framework that you see here. Each one of these rectangles is a different court proceeding. In some there are more of these, in some, there are less than these. You might have evidentiary hearings scattered throughout, you may have some oral arguments regarding some substantive motions.
But in general, this is how Scottsdale runs its criminal court procedure. You have an arraignment, and that’s what we’re talking about today, arraignments. Arraignments are going to be the very first court date in your case.
Sometimes people get arraigned when they are arrested and taken into custody when you’re actually in custody, you may see a judge and you may be arraigned that very same day or the next day. But in most situations, a person is going to see a judge and be arraigned 30 days out or so. It needs to be within 30 days.
So what’ll happen is a person will get a citation for disorderly conduct, or DUI, or domestic violence, and on that ticket, that citation, they’ll be a court date.
That’s typically your arraignment. So as I said, it’s the very first court date, and what happens there is if you go without a lawyer, so people who hire a lawyer before that arraignment, we handle all of this for you, this whole process for you.
But if you’re going to be going into your arraignment on your own, you want to check it out for whatever reason, what’s going to happen is the judge is going to advise you of what you’ve been charged with.
So the judge will tell you you’ve been charged with, domestic violence, a class one misdemeanor, or disorderly conduct, a class one misdemeanor, or a DUI, a class one, or reckless driving, a class two, or an assault, a class three, whatever they are. The judge will tell you what the charges are, and then tell you what the maximum penalty is, so, for each different charge.
So in Arizona, for misdemeanors, and misdemeanors are the only types of cases that can be heard in Scottsdale, they have civil tickets as well, but criminal procedure says that only misdemeanors can be held at a Scottsdale City Court.
Felonies go down to a superior court. So the maximum penalty for any offense could be six months in jail. In most situations, nobody’s getting that, but it is important that the judge tells you what you’re facing.
They have to do that constitutionally. You can also apply for a public defender if you’re eligible at this time. The judge will ask you some financial questions, you’ll fill out a financial affidavit. And if you are not able to afford an attorney, they will appoint one for you, if the crime with which you’ve been charged is eligible for a public defender, so some crimes are not. Or let me put it another way, if the government is asking for jail, you will be eligible for a public defender, but if they’re not asking for jail, then you have to go hire private counsel, and the court will not appoint one for you.
So if they’re asking for jail and you’re not financially able to hire a private counsel, those are the two factors that the court’s going to consider before appointing you a public defender. Also, the judge needs to set release conditions at this point in time, in most situations, the judge is not going to hold you on a bond, or put you on any special limitations, unless of course there is a victim of the crime that the judge may tell you not to contact that individual or go back to a certain residence or a place where this happened, or say not return to the scene of the crime.
These are all release conditions, so the judge will say you are free to leave the courtroom today, pending or pursuant to these different rules. You just cannot do X, Y, and Z. Those are going to be your release conditions.
You will also, at this point in time, determine whether you want to plead guilty or plead not guilty. 99% of people should be pleading not guilty at this time, of course, it’s going to depend on your case.
But really what you want to do is plead not guilty. If you have any questions about this, the judge will almost always enter a plea of not guilty for you, so that you can move from the arraignment over to your pretrial conference at a later date.
You really want to be sure you know what you’re doing if you’re pleading guilty, because you’re foregoing your chance to do any of this other work on your case, to see if you can get a good deal or get your charges dismissed, or reduced, or whatever you need to do, you need to be sure that you know what you’re doing.
So that’s why most people plead not guilty at the first setting. You will also get a new court date.
So as I said, the next court date after the arraignment is going to be a pretrial conference. It’s typically about 30 days out, depends on how busy the court’s calendar is, but Scottsdale will usually set it about 30, sometimes 45 days out. And then there are some other things that need to happen prior to this court date, which we will cover in another video. So, a couple of quick points.
You may speak with a prosecutor’s assistant prior to actually going and getting arraigned. So what Scottsdale will sometimes do, is they’ll have a prosecutors assistant, not the actual prosecutor, I think they call them a legal assistant or a secretary or something like that, but they’ll have somebody who’s sitting up there in court on the prosecutor’s side of the table, and they will have their initial plea offer ready for you.
So you’ll check in, and when you get called up into the court, you may meet with them, and they’ll tell you this is what your plea deal is.
They’ll say if you plead guilty today, these are going to be the fines, this is going to be the jail, this is going to be the probation. And they’ll tell you that this is your offer. Now you do not have to accept that. They will just tell you what it is, you do not have to accept it at this setting like I said, you’re entitled to know more about your case, you’re entitled to get police reports, to do interviews, to conduct plea negotiations, there’s a lot that goes into it.
So don’t be bullied, or scared, or frightened into taking the deal right at the first court date. You can say thank you for giving me a copy of the plea deal, thank you for talking to me about it, I’m not going to be accepting that today, and then go and see the judge and enter your plea of not guilty. This is also very important.
This is not the court date to try to explain to the judge or to the prosecutor what happened in your case. They don’t care, this is not the appropriate time to do that, so people who go in front of the judge, and they say well your honor, you know, he hit me first, or she started it, or whatever, the judge is going to shut you up right there.
The judge will tell you this is not the time and place. Some of the judges out of Scottsdale can be a little bit, kind of abrasive or a little harsh, they will tell you very clearly and be very direct and stern with you, this is not the appropriate time to have that conversation.
If you want to present your part of the case, really the ultimate time to do that is trial. It can happen throughout the remainder of the court proceedings as you go through negotiations, or evidentiary hearings, or whatever needs to happen. But the arraignment is not the appropriate time for that. So sometimes we will see that in court when I’m sitting in court, I will see people try to go and explain themselves to the judge, or to the prosecutor, it’s not the right time to do that. So despite your best sort of instincts or your intentions, it’s not the right time to try and talk about your case.
You’re going in there for a very specific purpose, it’s to plead not guilty and get a new court date. The other thing is you want as I said earlier, you want to have time to review all of the other facts of your case. So the final tip here, plead not guilty here.
That gives you time before your first pretrial conference to go through and start requesting police reports and start putting together your side of the story, that way you can really know what the ramifications are going to be, what is a guilty conviction going to do in your life, and then how can we begin working through a plan to avoid that.
So, my office is about 10 minutes north of the Scottsdale City Court, we practice there all the time. We know this procedure inside and out, so if you have any questions about this specifically, give us a call, we offer free case evaluations. Happy to answer any questions that you have about any of this stuff.
We look forward to speaking with you soon, thanks for watching.
A judge may also review the maximum penalties of the charges. The Scottsdale City Court only handles misdemeanor cases, the maximum penalty for a misdemeanor is 180 days for a class one misdemeanor, 120 days for a class two misdemeanor, and 30 days for a class three misdemeanor.
The judge may ask the prosecutor if they are requesting jail time in the case. If the answer is yes then the judge will discuss with the Defendant if he or she wants a public defender. That discussion will include questions about how much money you make. Public defenders can be free, however, depending on the income of each Defendant, the Court is permitted to require a Defendant to pay a portion of the cost for the Public Defender.
This is an offset to the cost of the City. The Judge will ask you how you want to plead to the charges. It is important to remember that this is not an opportunity for you to talk about your case. Anything that you say to a Judge or Prosecutor can be used against you in the case.
Therefore, if you begin talking about the case most judges will tell you to stop talking and will enter a plea of not guilty for you. It is not advisable to plead guilty at the arraignment unless you have hired a lawyer, your lawyer and you have discussed your case, and there is clear goal or advantage to plead guilty at arraignment.
If you do not have an attorney at your arraignment you should plead not guilty. By pleading not guilty you are ensuring that you will have to the opportunity to review the State’s evidence, hire an attorney, interview witnesses, and build a defense.
The prosecutor may discuss a plea with you. If they do, they are supposed to advise you that you do not have to speak to them without an attorney. If you chose to speak with the prosecutor about the plea they will be discussing you pleading guilty to a charge. In the vast majority of cases, the plea agreement will result in a criminal conviction. Listen politely to the prosecutor and explain that you will not be entering a plea today and would like to consult with an attorney. Prosecutors do not represent you, they will not advise you about what is best for you. It is important that you understand that they are your adversary in this process.
Therefore, do not discuss the case with them, do not tell them anything about your defense.
Most prosecutors take their job seriously, but some may attempt to scare you into accepting a plea. They may threaten jail time or tell you that it will be worse for you if you don’t accept the plea. Do not give in to those threats.
You have every right to enter a plea of not guilty and review the State’s evidence.
As long as you are polite, courteous and professional, the assertion of your constitutional rights is not uncooperative in any way shape or form.
The final part of an arraignment is a discussion about release conditions. If you are in custody and do not live in Arizona Scottsdale Judges have typically set a bond for your release from custody.
Usually, the bond is relatively low in misdemeanor cases, anywhere from $250 – $1000. Very rarely do we see a higher bond.
The Court does have the option of releasing you on your own recognizance. This is what happens in most out of custody cases. Regardless of whether a bond is required, the judge will also give you additional release conditions.
You will not be permitted to leave the State or Arizona unless you advise the Judge that you live out of state. You will be advised that you cannot break the law while on release. In driving related cases you will be told that you cannot drive without a valid license. In drinking cases you will be told that you cannot drink alcoholic beverages. In cases where there is a victim, you will be told that you cannot contact the victim.
Likewise, in most cases, you will be told that you cannot return to the scene of the crime. You are able to discuss the release conditions with the judge at the time he gives them to you.
However, just because you discuss them does not mean that they will change.