Arizona Criminal Defense Overview
In Arizona, tens of thousands of cases are filed every year. In 2019 alone, the state reports that a staggering 368,400 criminal cases were filed in the Arizona courts – not including traffic tickets or violations; that number is incredibly higher at 1,025,138 cases.
While many criminal cases filed in the state each year are misdemeanor offenses, other cases are felony offenses carrying the potential for lengthy prison sentences and substantial fines.
A Phoenix criminal defense lawyer defends their clients throughout the entire court process, including during the pre-charge/investigatory phase, arrests, filing of charges, arraignments, pleas, plea bargains, motions hearings, trials, sentencing hearings, and post-conviction appeals.
People who have been charged with crimes should understand what criminal defense lawyers do and how they might help secure more favorable resolutions to the charges that have been filed against them.
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Types of Criminal Cases that Might Require Help to Prepare a Defense
The most common types of criminal cases filed in Arizona are misdemeanor offenses such as DUIs, misdemeanor thefts, simple assaults, and others. Depending on their classification, misdemeanor penalties can range from a maximum of 30 days in jail and a $500 fine for a Class 3 misdemeanor to a maximum of six months in jail and a $2,500 fine for a Class 1 misdemeanor.
While the penalties for misdemeanors are severe, they are much less severe than felony offenses. Felony crimes are treated seriously and carry hefty penalties.
Some of the types of felony offenses that will necessitate preparing a strong defense include the following:
- Homicide offenses
- Sexual assaults
- Aggravated assaults
- Murder offenses
- Sexual conduct with a minor
- Sexual exploitation
- Felony thefts
- Felony drug offenses
Whether you are facing a misdemeanor or felony charge, your ultimate goal is likely to try to win a dismissal of the charges against you. If that is not possible under the facts and circumstances of your case, the second-best option might be securing a favorable plea agreement that allows the most serious charges to be dismissed and carries reduced penalties. However, the prosecution often will not extend plea offers to benefit criminal defendants.
Regardless of what you might be charged with, it is critical for you to have an experienced criminal defense attorney to help you build a strong defense. It will be important for your attorney to have trial experience since your lawyer should be prepared to fight for you at a jury trial if the prosecutor does not agree to extend a favorable plea offer to you.
Jury trials require defendants to understand the Rules of Evidence, undergo jury selection, admit evidence, cross-examine witnesses, and challenge the evidence admitted by the prosecutors. Trying to represent yourself when you are the person on trial can be both overwhelming and difficult.
You are likelier to secure a better outcome when you retain an experienced criminal defense lawyer who understands the court’s procedures and rules and has jury trial experience.
What is Involved in Criminal Defense?
Criminal defense involves understanding and applying the various criminal laws, case law, the rules of evidence, and the rules of criminal procedure. Criminal defense lawyers analyze and investigate their clients’ cases to find witnesses and evidence to help their clients secure the best possible outcomes under the circumstances.
To become criminal defense attorneys, people must complete their undergraduate degrees, followed by several years of law school. They must also pass the bar and ethics exams and participate in ongoing continuing education to ensure that they keep current with changes as they occur in the law.
When preparing defense cases, defense attorneys look at many different factors, including the circumstances and facts of what occurred, how the police investigated the cases, and how they conducted the stops, searches, seizures, and arrests.
Your attorney will also review any forensic analyses that might have been conducted, review the relevant statutes and court decisions, and draft motions to challenge some of the evidence.
Since criminal cases are frequently complex, people facing criminal charges are better offer when they work with experienced criminal defense attorneys who know how to build strong defenses on their clients’ behalf.
What Does a Criminal Defense Lawyer Do?
Criminal defense attorneys hold prosecutors to their burden of proof. Prosecutors must present enough evidence to convince courts and juries beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendants are guilty of the offenses for which they are charged.
Defense attorneys fight for the best interests of their clients and protect their rights. They do so by designing and implementing defense strategies to fight against the criminal charges that have been filed against their clients by police and prosecutors.
When a criminal defense lawyer is retained, he or she should immediately begin investigating the case. He or she might work with investigators and experts to find evidence and witnesses to support his or her client’s defense.
Defense attorneys also closely analyze reports and evidence collected by the police and prosecutors and evaluate how the police conducted their investigations to identify problems with the state’s cases against their clients.
Your attorney could draft evidentiary motions to challenge evidence collected illegally or to suppress statements that were coerced or gathered unconstitutionally. Defense lawyers also appear on behalf of their clients in court and at hearings, including trials.
Retaining a Lawyer During the Investigative Phase is Important
Especially in serious felony cases, investigations might take months or years before charging decisions are reached. Hiring a criminal defense lawyer as soon as you learn that the police are investigating you for a crime is important.
When you retain an attorney during the investigatory phase, your lawyer might help you to avoid making critical errors that could make it likelier that you will be charged and convicted. Your lawyer might also be able to convince the prosecuting attorney that charges are unwarranted in your case.
You should never agree to go to the police station for an interview. Police officers try to question people they suspect of committing crimes in this way to try to secure confessions or inculpatory statements that can be used against them later. You can tell the officer that you want to remain silent and to have a lawyer represent you. You cannot be questioned by a police officer any further if you assert these rights.
You should never make the mistake of believing that you can talk your way out of being charged with a crime.
Police officers are trained in how to elicit incriminating statements from criminal suspects and might use coercive tactics to try to get you to admit to committing a crime that you did not commit.
Asking for a lawyer and asserting your right to remain silent can prevent you from making statements that could make your defense more difficult.
Should You Hire an Attorney After an Arrest or After Receiving a Criminal Complaint in the Mail?
If you are arrested for a crime or receive a criminal complaint and summons in the mail, you should immediately contact a criminal defense lawyer. Hiring a lawyer before you have to appear in court for the first time can allow your attorney to thoroughly analyze the evidence and the potential defenses that might be available.
Retaining an attorney soon after you have been charged or arrested might also allow your lawyer to find mitigating evidence and witnesses before they can be lost. Working with a lawyer from the beginning of your case might also help you to understand how to navigate the criminal court process and what you might anticipate happening next.
Meet with Your Defense Attorney at Gurion Legal
The attorneys at Gurion Legal represent people charged with crimes, including serious felony offenses. We can review the facts and circumstances of your case and help you to understand the legal options that might be available to you. Contact us today to request a consultation.
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