Sequence of Events in a Criminal Prosecution
Criminal Court > Sequence of Events in a Criminal Prosecution

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6Arrest6Preliminary Hearing/Grand Jury6Preliminary Hearing
6Grand Jury6Arraignment6Adult Diversion
6Case Management Conference6Pretrial Conference6Trial Confirmation Conference
6Trials and Pleas6Sentencing6Probation
Within 24 hours of an arrest, the defendant must be taken before a Magistrate (City Court Judge or Justice of the Peace). This is called an Initial Appearance. The purpose of this hearing is to establish conditions of release, inform defendant of the charges, and appoint counsel if necessary. Depending on the type and severity of the crime, the Magistrate will decide if the defendant should be held in jail, released after posting a cash bond or released on their own recognizance or promise to appear. Sometimes defendants are released to Pretrial Services for pretrial supervision.
 Preliminary Hearing / Grand Jury5
After the defendant has had an initial appearance and conditions of release have been established, a hearing or meeting is scheduled to determine if there is sufficient evidence (probable cause) to justify a trial. Probable cause can be determined in two ways, either by Preliminary Hearing or by Indictment by the Grand Jury. Scheduled Preliminary Hearings are often vacated when a Grand Jury indictment is returned before the hearing date.
 Preliminary Hearing5
A Preliminary Hearing or PH is heard by either a Magistrate or a Superior Court Judge sitting as a Magistrate for purposes of the Preliminary Hearing. Evidence is presented as to the probability that a crime was committed and was probably committed by the defendant. If the Magistrate determines probable cause, the defendant is bound over and held to answer the charges in Superior Court and an "Information" or charging document is filed in the Superior Court. If no probable cause is determined, the charges are dismissed and the defendant is released.
 Grand Jury5
The Grand Jury is composed of sixteen people, taken from the regular juror pool. Instead of being impaneled to sit for a trial, they are given the responsibility of determining probable cause on felony charges. Grand Jurors are impaneled for 120 days and meet twice a week to hear cases. Facts of the case are presented to the panel by a Deputy County Attorney, police officers and witnesses. After hearing the evidence, they meet in the absence of the officers, attorneys and witnesses and if they decide that there is probable cause, a "True Bill" or Indictment (charging document) is returned. If the Grand Jury determines there is not enough evidence, a "No Bill" is returned. The case can be re-presented to the Grand Jury at any time. When the Grand Jury is finished hearing cases for one day, they appear before a Superior Court Judge who will hear each case read by the Grand Jury foreperson who indicates if the case was "True Billed." The Judge will give the case a Superior Court case number and assign it to a division. At this point, the Superior Court has jurisdiction, and either a Notice of Supervening Indictment, Summons, or Warrant is issued to cause the defendant to appear for Arraignment.
A defendant's first appearance in Superior Court is called an Arraignment. At this hearing a plea of not guilty is entered to all charges contained in the Indictment and a denial as to any allegations that may have been attached. The defendant is notified of the next court appearance date (Case Management Conference), the division the case has been assigned to, and is warned that failure to appear at future hearings could result in a warrant being issued and the proceedings occurring in the defendant's absence. If a defendant has not secured an attorney by this time and cannot afford to hire one, an attorney will be appointed to represent the defendant. Attorney fees may be assessed to offset the cost of defense.
 Adult Diversion5
If a defendant has no previous criminal record and the charges pending are non-violent, the defendant may be considered for the Pima County Adult Diversion Program. This program helps rehabilitate offenders by counseling, education, restitution, and community service. Usually a person cannot enter the program without the approval of the arresting officer and the victim. If accepted into the program, the defendant enters a plea of guilty but sentencing is suspended. The person will usually have to pay restitution to the victim. If the defendant successfully completes a one to two year treatment program, the charges may be dismissed. If at any time during the course of the program the defendant violates the rules of the program or the law, prosecution will resume and sentencing will occur.
 Case Management Conference5
Fifty (50) days after arraignment, a Case Management Conference will be held. At this conference, the Court will explore the possibility of a non-trial disposition. At this time the Court may, in its discretion, participate in settlement negotiations and guilty plea hearings are often scheduled at this time. If the case cannot be resolved without a trial. the Court will set a Pretrial Conference in 30 days and order a Joint Pretrial Statement filed in 26 days.
 Pretrial Conference5
A Pretrial Conference is generally held 30 days after the Case Management Conference. All attorneys are required to meet and jointly file a Joint Pretrial Statement with the Court setting forth all anticipated witnesses, defenses and motions and any issues which remain in dispute. This statement must be signed by the prosecutor and defense attorneys and filed no later than 4 days before the conference.
 Trials and Pleas5
If the defendant is not accepted into the Adult Diversion Program, then a finding of guilt or innocence must be made. In many cases, the Defense Attorney and the Deputy County Attorney will negotiate a Plea Agreement, in which the defendant will plea to all or some of the original charges or to lesser charges agreeable to the parties involved. If no Plea Agreement is reached, the case will proceed to trial. If there is a trial, victims, witnesses, law enforcement officers, and expert witnesses can be subpoenaed (summoned) to testify before the Judge or a jury who will decide the guilt or innocence of the defendant.

If there is a finding of guilt (by plea or trial), the Court will set a time for sentencing. Generally, the date will be within four weeks for those in custody and five to six weeks for those out of custody. If there is a reasonable possibility the defendant will receive prison time, the State may request that the Court order the defendant be taken into custody and the Court is required by statute to do so.

The Court will order the preparation of a pre-sentence report by the Adult Probation Department. The report provides information concerning the offense, the defendant's criminal, social, educational, employment, and mental health history. The report will also provide statements from the defendant and victim(s) and an evaluation by the investigating officer.

Either party may request a hearing to present aggravating or mitigating factors before sentencing. Additionally, the defendant, victim and other interested persons may submit letters for the Court's consideration prior to sentencing.


Following a defendant's Change of Plea or conviction at trial, the Court instructs the defendant to report to the Adult Probation Department for the development of a pre-sentence investigation. Probation officers conduct investigations to assist the Court in determining an appropriate sentence.

If probation is granted, it may occur under various levels of supervision. The most common level of supervision requires the defendant to report in person as directed, file monthly written reports, make monthly payments of fines and fees, participate in counseling as directed, maintain employment and not violate any state, federal or local laws. Additionally, the conditions may include requirements for community service, educational programs, mental health counseling, alcohol abstinence and/or antabuse, electronic monitoring, jail and other conditions that are deemed appropriate.

An individual requiring a greater level of supervision may be placed on INTENSIVE PROBATION SUPERVISION, the most restrictive supervision during which the defendant is required to maintain full-time employment, perform 40 hours of community service per month, and remain at his/her residence unless authorized by the probation officer. Specialized caseloads also provide greater levels of supervision and focus on addressing the needs of the sex offender, seriously mentally ill, special learning population, drug offenders and aggravated DUI.

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