Superior Court >Criminal Department

Department Information

Initial Appearance Court (In-Custody)

Initial Appearance Court (IA) is the first court appearance for someone arrested in Maricopa County. IA Court is located at the 4th Avenue Jail, 201 South 4th Avenue. Initial Appearance Court is statutorily required to conduct hearings on persons arrested within 24 hours from the time of arrest. Persons arrested are transported to the 4th Avenue Jail for booking into the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office (MCSO) jail management system (JMS). The court docket is conducted every three (3) hours on a 24 hours/7 days a week schedule. Each docket typically consists of forty (40) people, but may be increased to ensure that all arrested people are seen by IA Court within the 24 hour statutory requirement.

All felony arrests, new charges, or people arrested on outstanding warrants in Maricopa County must be seen in IA Court. Also, anyone arrested on misdemeanor charges by MCSO or the Department of Public Safety (DPS) within Maricopa County will be seen at IA Court, as well as people arrested from warrants issued by the twenty-six (26) justice courts in Maricopa County, and new charges and warrants from fifteen (15) different city courts. Initial Appearance Court also hears out-of-county and out-of-state warrants, civil, probate, and family court matters. A total of 80,003 initial appearance (IA) hearings were held in IA Court in FY2016, which is a 9.3% increase from FY2015.

The IA Court also received 13,023 requests for search warrants and 8,566 search warrant returns in FY2016, which is 8% more than the previous fiscal year. Criminal Administration staff prepares all necessary documents for the commissioner to review.

The six (6) commissioners in IA Court and four (4) part-time Commissioner Pro Tems are served by eleven (11) Judicial Clerks and one (1) Judicial Assistant.

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Initial Appearance Summons (Out-of-Custody)

The Initial Appearance by Summons Court is the second way by which a defendant may enter the criminal felony adjudication process. Individuals are summoned to appear in court rather than being arrested and appear before the Initial Appearance Court. Hearings are conducted in much the same manner as the IA Court. Defendants are advised of the allegations against them, the conditions of release are established, the person is advised of the right to an attorney and a determination is made regarding indigent representation, and they receive their next court date.

Initial Appearance by Summons are heard on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday afternoons on the 3rd floor of the South Court Tower (SCT, 175 W. Madison St.) in Phoenix. The average number of defendants seen per month is 488 in FY2016, which is a decrease of less than 1.6% from FY2015.

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Early Disposition Court (EDC)

Early Disposition Court, formerly called Expedited Drug Court, was developed in 1997 as an innovative approach in processing cases to alleviate the backlog of trials in the Criminal Division and to respond to the community's desire to offer treatment to drug offenders. Cases filed in EDC involve victimless charges of possession of illegal drugs for personal use and/or paraphernalia. The commissioners that hear EDC cases also hear welfare fraud cases filed by the Office of the Arizona Attorney General.

The three (3) EDC calendars (Two (2) in the downtown Phoenix complex and one (1) at the Southeast Regional Complex) are generally large. In FY2016, there were 11,083 cases filed in EDC, a decrease of 2.29% compared to the number of cases filed in FY2016. Most of the cases resolved in EDC are diverted into a drug treatment program administered by a private drug treatment company under contract with the Maricopa County Attorney's Office. If the defendant successfully completes the treatment, their case is dismissed.

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Regional Court Center (RCC)

The Regional Court Center for early felony processing was designed to speed resolution of lower level criminal cases. The direct complaint program handles all felony complaints (typically Class 4, 5 and 6 felonies) from inception, eliminating complaint paperwork being transferred between the Justice Court system and Superior Court, with judicial officers able to preside over the full range of case complexities. Preliminary hearings and arraignments are consolidated to the same day at the RCC, which saves ten days of potential jail time for in-custody defendants, eliminates duplication of efforts, and reduces Sheriff Office transport of in-custody defendants to the various Justice Courts. Status Conferences are scheduled a few days in advance of the Preliminary Hearing to encourage early communication between the parties and promote possible case resolution.

The four (4) calendars in the RCC (three (3) in Downtown Phoenix and one (1) at the Southeast Regional Complex), are larger in size to those found in EDC. In FY2016, there were 15,690 cases filed, which is 6% less than the number of cases filed in FY2015. However, many of the cases filed into RCC are diverted to a Grand Jury by the County Attorney's office before in the preliminary hearing in RCC. If those cases are not included in the determination of a RCC resolution rate, the percentage of cases that actually appear in RCC that are resolved in RCC increases significantly.

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DUI Court

The Driving Under the Influence (DUI) Court is responsible for the management of cases that involve the charge of aggravated DUI. This includes status conferences, settlement conferences, changes of plea, trials, and sentencings for those cases. During FY2016, 1,495 cases were set to be sentenced in DUI Court, a decrease of almost 14% from the previous fiscal year.

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Therapeutic Drug and DUI Court

Therapeutic Drug and DUI Courts handle defendants who have been convicted of drug or DUI charges. These Courts incorporate increased supervision and monitoring by the Court, the Adult Probation Department and treatment providers as part of the coordinated strategy to intervene with repeat and high-risk offenders. Successful completion of the program often results in reduction of the felony charges. Defendants are screened prior to admission to either of the programs to achieve desired long-term success.

In FY2016, Drug Court held status conferences four (4) times per week and non-witness violation hearings every Thursday afternoon. In FY2016, more than 11,284 drug court status conferences were held, a 55% increase from FY2015. The DUI calendar was held once a week, and heard more than 2,263 matters, almost a 30% increase from the previous fiscal year.

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Not Guilty Arraignment (NGA)

Defendants appearing on the Not Guilty Arraignment calendar are from Grand Jury indictments. Defendants may be in-custody or out of custody. During this proceeding, the defendant is notified of the charges against them, the court enters a "not guilty" plea on their behalf, release conditions are discussed and the defendant receives the next court date and location. Determination is also made as to the need for indigent representation. Cases coming from the NGA calendar may be sent to a judicial division or a specialty court for future court hearings.

NGA calendars are heard on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday mornings. The average number of defendants appearing on each of these calendars is eighty (80) to ninety (90). From July 2015 through June 2016, 13,644 defendants appeared on the NGA calendar.

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Master Calendar

In December of 2008, the Criminal Department created a pilot project called Master Calendar to explore changes in the way most felony cases flow through the Court. The pilot involved roughly a third of the Criminal Department trial judges and one (1) commissioner. Cases distributed to that group were not assigned to individual judges as they were outside of the pilot. Instead, the pre-trial matters were handled by the commissioner or one of the judges acting as a Motions Judge (Motions Judges heard substantive pre-trial motions, the Comprehensive Pretrial Conference (CPTC), and the Final Trial Management Conference (FTMC) to ready the case for trial). Any cases that needed to be resolved by trial were given a Firm Trial Date months in advance and ordered to appear on that date before the Associate Criminal Department Presiding Judge (ACRPJ), also referred to as the Assignment Judge (AJ). At that time, the ACRPJ assigned the case to a trial judge based on judicial officer availability. The pilot was in place until the end of June, 2009.

In July, 2009, all criminal cases assigned to the Downtown Phoenix Superior Court complex (except Capital, DUI, and other cases individually assigned by the Criminal Presiding Judge (CRPJ)) were managed using the Master Calendar framework. In December of 2009, the four (4) trial divisions that were handling criminal cases at the Southeast Regional Courthouse were moved to the Downtown Phoenix Superior Court complex and assimilated into the Master Calendar. The Master Calendar framework now includes six Master Calendar Commissioners, each of whom is responsible for conducting all Initial Pre-Trial Conferences (IPTC's). The IPTC is set 45 days from the Not Guilty Arraignment, the CPTC's for non-complex cases are set thirty (30) days after the IPTC, Settlement Conferences are set as requested by the parties to the case, and a commissioner will also conduct any hearings related to motions presented to them. All of the Criminal Department trial judges served on a two (2) month rotation as one (1) of four (4) Motions Judges (MJ). They handled the CPTC's for complex cases, hearings on motions presented to them, and the Final Trial Management Conference (FTMC) which is set five (5) court business days prior to the Firm Trial Date (FTD). All cases were scheduled in front of the AJ for their Firm Trial Date. The AJ is provided a list of judicial officers available for trial each day, and assigns cases for trial.

In September of 2010 the role of the Motions Judge in the Master Calendar framework was eliminated and in its place was created the Case Management Judge (CMJ). Six teams were created with one Master Calendar Commissioner (MCC) continuing to handle all IPTC's and most CPTC's. Each of the teams also had three (3) to four (4) judges serving as Case Management Judges. Cases are still assigned to each team based on the last two digits of the case number (e.g. MCC for Team A is assigned digits 00 to 17). The Case Management Judges also are assigned cases based on the last two digits that are a subset of the range of digits within their team (e.g. the first CMJ for Team A is assigned digits 00-04, the second CMJ for Team A is assigned digits 05-08 and so forth). Under this new framework the labor of hearing substantive motions is spread among the Case Management Judges.

In an effort to encourage more timely case resolutions, Criminal Court Administration implemented a new process allowing attorneys the opportunity to opt out of their IPTC hearing. This Opting Out process went into effect on August 29, 2016 by Administrative Order. The Administrative Order outlined the procedures and requirements attorneys need to follow including: both parties agree to the waiver of the IPTC, the State has complied with Rule 15.1, the Defense has complied with Rule 15.2, the Defendant has been given notice of date and location of the CPTC, there are no pending motions, and a written plea offer has been communicated by the State.

In order to ensure that the defendant has a CPTC hearing set, the Not Guilty Arraignment Court (NGA) began setting both the IPTCs and CPTCs for incoming Master Calendar cases effective June 20, 2016. This means that Master Calendar Divisions will be setting the Final Trial Management Conference (FTMC) and the Firm Trial Date (FTD) at the CPTC (if the IPTC was vacated).

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Capital Case Management

All cases where the State has filed a Notice to Seek the Death Penalty are managed through a unit under the direction of the Criminal Presiding Judge (CRPJ). A total of ten (10) Criminal Department judges handle all pre-trial matters for this caseload. These judges also preside over the trials when available. If the judge who handles the pre-trial matters is not available at time of trial, the CRPJ assigns another judge to preside over the trial. The Capital Case Management judges, the CRPJ, the Associate Criminal Presiding Judge (ACRPJ), and Criminal Department Administration staff meet monthly to ensure timely management of all capital cases, in accordance with the Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure. This focus on active caseflow management has made a significant impact on the Court's ability to reduce the backlog of capital cases that has built up during the past five (5) years. At the close of FY2008, there were 119 active capital cases, with the inventory peaking during that time too more than 140 pending cases. During that fiscal year, 35 capital cases were resolved. In CY2008, 41 new capital cases were initiated, and 29 existing capital cases were resolved. As of January 1, 2009, there were 139 capital cases still pending. But by the end of December, 2009, that number had decreased to 101, due in large part to the resolution of 60 cases during CY2009. These efforts have continued each year thereafter, and is still in practice. Through June of 2016, there were 66 active capital cases pending resolution, a testimony to the effectiveness of the capital case management strategy employed by this court.

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Bond Forfeiture

Bond Forfeiture Hearings are conducted to determine if a bond should be forfeited, restored, or exonerated due to some violation of release conditions. If the bond is forfeited, those monies are then transferred from the Clerk of Court's records to the County Treasurer for disposition. If the bond is exonerated, the Clerk of Court will return those funds to the bond poster, which could be an individual or a bonding company.

For FY2016, there were 1,730 bond forfeiture cases heard which resulted in approximately $1,957,256 in forfeited bonds and a total of $1,725,397 in total bonds collected (includes cash and paper bonds).

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Fugitive of Justice (FOJ)

The Fugitive From Justice calendar monitors defendants who are arrested on an active warrant from another state. They are given an initial appearance and receive their next court date on the FFJ Complaint calendar. At this hearing, the defendant is given the option of signing a waiver to be extradited to the state where the complaint originated or they can contest the complaint. If the defendant chooses to contest the complaint, the Court sets 30, 60 and 90 day review hearings. If the defendant is unable to resolve the complaint from the other state, the governor of the State of Arizona can issue a warrant to extradite the defendant to the original state on or before the 90th day.

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Probation Adjudication Center (PAC)

The Probation Adjudication Center (PAC) resolves requests to revoke probation in a timely and efficient manner by consolidating probation revocation hearings and co-locating the court operations with other justice partners. There are three court calendars each day handled by two (2) commissioners, which are heard at 8:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m., and 1:30 p.m. In FY2016, there were 14,262 probation violation cases arraigned, a 5% increase from FY2015. More than 79% of the cases involve in-custody defendants. During FY2016, there were 10,780 Petitions to Revoke Probation/Order with a Warrant or Warrantless; 191 Petitions to Revoke Probation/Order with a Summons. When a new criminal charge is filed against the defendant, along with the violation of the existing probation, this is called a "Term 1" violation because Term 1 of the Standard Terms of Probation precludes the defendant from committing a new crime while on probation. These cases are eventually transferred to trial divisions and matched up with the newly filed charges. The court and its co-located partners (Adult Probation Department, Public Defender, Sheriff's Office, and County Attorney) can facilitate an admission to a probation violation, hear a disposition recommendation from the Adult Probation Department, and complete sentencing, all at the first hearing scheduled in the PAC. This process results in substantial savings in jail days.

In September 2016 the Court added an additional Probation Adjudication division to hear new probation violation arraignments on Thursday mornings to address the increase of new probation violation arraignments.

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Post-Conviction Relief (PCR)

The Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure via Rule 32 provides any person who has been convicted of, or sentenced for, a criminal offense to seek appropriate relief. Depending on the disposition, that relief may be limited to review by the trial court rather than at the appellate level. On March 17, 2003 the Post-Conviction Relief unit was implemented to enhance Rule 32 processing time lines, and ensure the effective and consistent case processing of Rule 32 cases throughout the entire Court. Motions must be filed with the Court within specific time standards and state the specific claim for which relief is sought. Time standards for action at each step of the process ensure that these cases are processed efficiently and in compliance with state statutes. Staff route filings to the applicable judicial officer, and monitor all filings to ensure defendants and the court adhere to the strict timelines set forth in the rule.

In FY2016, there were 1,381 petitions for post-conviction relief filed, which is 29% more than the previous fiscal year. During the same timeframe, 1,408 petitions were completed, which was an increase of 32% from FY2015. The average monthly pending inventory for FY2016 is approximately 1,071 cases as of August.

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Direct Support Services

Direct Support Services is a pool of bailiffs who are available to provide direct support to criminal division commissioners and visiting and retired judicial officers. Their duties include the preparation of daily calendars, coordinating with the Jury Office for picking up jury panels for trials, and management of the courtrooms and jurors. They also coordinate attorneys, defendants, and interpreters in the courtroom, set hearings and post minute entries in the court's integrated Case Management System iCIS. Additionally, they take notes during court proceedings, update iCIS with results and future court dates. They also answer phones, process mail, and manage the commissioner's calendar.

Additional duties include processing of all Notices of Change of Judge by Rule 10.2, plea withdrawals and recusals within the criminal divisions, and updating iCIS to reflect judicial assignments and court dates. These actions may occur at any point on the timeline of the case.

The unit also coordinates the critical calendar coverage (critical calendars are defined as those calendars that must hear cases each day of the week) function for the Criminal Department to ensure that calendars are covered during critical times as well as to provide coverage whenever a commissioner is unavailable. In addition to those commissioners who are routinely designated to assist with critical coverage, judges pro tem are contacted to provide assistance as necessary. Usually the need for critical calendar coverage is greatest during the early stages of a case or post-adjudication. The unit effectively utilized the availability of judge pro tems and commissioners to cover 280 calendars during FY2016.

Public Information Desk

The information section of the Criminal Department is located in three (3) different areas of the Superior Court; on the second floor of the Central Court Building, on the first and thirteenth floors of the South Court Tower. This section of Criminal Court Administration assists the public by answering a wide array of questions such as case history, and the time and location of court appearances. They do this by using multiple databases to research and provide accurate and timely information. In 2016, the information section received more than 58,000 phone calls and assisted with more than 37,000 walk-in customers. In addition, they served more than 2,500 Spanish speaking customers.

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Self Surrender FAQ's

Self Surrender FAQ information.

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