If you are facing criminal misdemeanor charges in the Scottsdale City Court
or one of the Maricopa County Justice Courts in Scottsdale, especially
if this is the first time you have ever been involved in the criminal
court system, you may be wondering what to expect during misdemeanor court
Misdemeanor cases are handled in either the Scottsdale City Court or one
of the nearby Justice Courts - McDowell Mountain Justice Court and Desert
Ridge Justice Court. The procedures are generally the same, although some
rules may vary slightly from one court to another. When you hire a
Scottsdale Criminal Defense Attorney, the first legal documents your attorney will typically file on your behalf
will include a Notice of Appearance and a Motion for Discovery. The Notice
of Appearance informs the court and assigned prosecutor that your attorney
will be appearing with you at all future court dates. The Motion for Discovery
is filed so that your attorney can obtain all discovery materials from
the assigned prosecuting agency.
The Arraignment is usually the first court appearance in a misdemeanor
case, where you and your attorney will enter a plea of "guilty"
or "not guilty" with the court. If you have hired this Firm
prior to your arraignment, Attorney Trent Buckallew can file a motion
with the court to waive the arraignment, thereby alleviating the need
for you or your attorney to appear in court, as long as the court grants
the motion. If granted, a plea of not guilty is entered for the defendant,
the arraignment is vacated, and the court will set a date for Pre Trial
Conference. The notice of hearing date will be sent to your attorney and
your attorney will notify you of this and any other future court dates.
Pre Trial Conference
At the Pre-Trial Conference hearing, your attorney will have an opportunity
to discuss your case with the assigned Scottsdale City Prosecutor, or
other prosecutoring agency. On many occasions an initial plea offer will
be extended by the government at the first Pre-Trial Conference. Except
for the most unusual of circumstances, it is normally best not to enter
into a plea agreement at your first Pre-Trial Conference simply because
there has not been sufficient time to investigate your case to develop
a criminal defense strategy. Nor has there been sufficient time, at the
first Pre-Trial Conference, to really make a determination of the strengths
and weaknesses of the prosecutor's case. Most of the time, especially
in misdemeanor courts, you will probably have at least three Pre-Trial
Conference hearings (in 30 day intervals). This should be sufficient time
to develop a Defense Investigation Outline, and to conduct a proper defense
investigation of your case. This process will allow your attorney an opportunity
to identify the strongest legal and factual defenses available to you.
It should be noted that in some misdemeanor courts it is not normally
necessary for the client to appear at the initial Pre-Trial Conferences
with their attorney, but you will be notified of all hearing dates and
should discuss with your attorney whether or not you will need to appear
at each hearing.
Some cases (not all), may be set for an Evidentiary Hearing, which is a
contested hearing in front of a judge where the parties litigate pre-trial
issues. The most common issues litigated at an Evidentiary Hearing will
be procedural defense issues raised by the
Scottsdale Criminal Defense Attorney seeking suppression of evidence, or dismissal of the case. Other issues
litigated at this stage can be challenges to the evidence under the various
Rules of Evidence. Normally these types of arguments involve the parties
litigating the admissibility, at a later trial, of various pieces of evidence.
Trial Management Conference
A Trial Management Conference is a final conference that precedes a jury
trial. In misdemeanor courts it is often called a 'calendar call'.
Regardless of the name given, the purpose of the hearing is for the attorneys,
you and the assigned judge to discuss final attempts at settlement, and
to discuss any legal issues that may be relevant to the upcoming trial
once it is determined that settlement will not occur. A Trial Management
Conference can also be an opportunity for the court to rule on substantive
pretrial motions that have been filed by your attorney. This can include
judicial rulings on
Motions to Dismiss,
Motions to Suppress, and other pre-trial motions arguing procedural defenses. This is an important
hearing as it may be your last opportunity for a successful resolution
short of a trial. Thus, it is important that you work with your attorney
in a collaborative effort to prepare for the Trial Management Conference
so that you may achieve your litigation objectives.
Trial (Bench and Jury)
Cases which are not dismissed, or settled with a negotiated plea agreement,
will proceed to trial. A trial can be either a bench trial (trial before
a judge only), or a jury trial (a trial in front of a panel of citizens).
In misdemeanor courts (City and Justice Courts) the right to a jury trial
is more limited. However, even in a misdemeanor court some crimes are
still jury trial eligible, including
DUI cases. Your attorney should be able tell you if your case is jury trial eligible
in the misdemeanor court, and your attorney should file the appropriate
legal motions necessary to preserve your jury trial rights in the lower courts.
In the unfortunate event that you are convicted of a criminal offense,
whether it is as a result of a negotiated plea agreement, or by a finding
of guilt following either a bench or jury trial, under either scenario
the court will have to proceed to sentencing. On cases where you have
entered into a negotiated plea agreement the sentence should be spelled
out within the plea agreement itself, and the sentence should be pre-approved
by you before you agree to enter the plea. Under this scenario there is
no mystery at sentencing as to what the punishment will be because you
have already negotiated your punishment directly into the plea. This will
limit what the judge can do to you at sentencing. Finally, if you went
to trial and were found guilty your attorney should discuss with you your
rights to appeal the conviction, and your attorney should file the
'Notice of Appeal' for you – before he or she withdraws from the case.
If you are facing misdemeanor criminal charges in
Scottsdale, contact the Firm today for a free case evaluation with a
Scottsdale Board Certified Criminal Defense Attorney. The Firm handles all types of misdemeanor cases, including (but not limited to)
Shoplifting, OUI (boating DUI) cases and any other misdemeanor or felony case in the City of
Scottsdale and across the entire Valley.
Copyright © 2011 Trent R. Buckallew, Attorney at Law
**This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not
create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not
be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice, please contact
the Firm to schedule a consultation regarding your case.