At the initial appearance, four important events take place:
The defendant is notified when criminally charged and informed when to appear for the next court date. A judge can issue an arrest warrant if information is presented to indicate the person will not voluntarily appear in court at the scheduled time.A preliminary hearing is required when a felony case is initiated by a direct complaint. The prosecutor presents evidence and witnesses to try to establish probable cause that the crime was committed and the defendant should stand trial. Generally, a preliminary hearing is held in Justice Court, but it may be held in Superior Court. The judge can dismiss the case for insufficient evidence or order a trial.
On rare occasions, instead of having a jury trial, the defendant and prosecutor agree to a bench trial and ask a judge to determine the verdict.
In a case where a not guilty verdict is reached, the charges are dismissed and the defendant cannot be retried on the same charge. Attempting to retry a defendant in that situation is called "double jeopardy," and is not permissiblereturn to top A defendant who is found guilty faces a range of possible sentences for the crime. When a verdict is returned, the judge sets a sentencing date within about 30 days. At a sentencing hearing, both the defense and the prosecution can present evidence to help the judge determine an appropriate sentence. Victims have the right to address the court on what they believe would be a proper sentence.
Arizona law provides for the death penalty in first-degree murder cases under specific circumstances. Life imprisonment is also an option for murder convictions. The severity of crimes determines the length of sentences. Sentences of one year or less are served in the county jail. Sentences of more than one year are served in a state Department of Corrections facility. For less severe cases, a defendant may be sentenced to a term of probation. The court may impose conditions of probation that could include jail time, community service and counseling. Defendants may also be ordered to pay restitution to their victims.return to top