What do I do if I’m arrested for or charged with a violent crime?
A. Consider Hiring an Attorney
If you have been charged with a violent crime, you may be feeling very overwhelmed. That’s natural. Not many people plan on being charged with a crime, so facing one can be a daunting experience. An experienced criminal defense attorney knows what you’re going through, and he or she can help navigate you through it. Many attorneys offer free consultations, so call around and meet with someone who can assist you. Generally, just having an attorney removes a lot of pressure from my clients.
B. Is it a misdemeanor or felony?
This should be the first questions you ask yourself if you decide to go it alone. A misdemeanor a lower classification of crime. In Arizona, class one misdemeanors are punishable with a maximum of six months in jail, a $2,500.00 fine, and three years probation. Examples of misdemeanor violent crimes are Assault under A.R.S 13-1203 and Disorderly Conduct.
A felony is much more serious offense. There are multiple felony levels in Arizona, and the level of felony depends on the type of violent crime. For example, an Aggravated Assault while impeding someone’s breathing is a class 4 felony. An Aggravated Assault on a police officer is a class 2 felony.
The classification of your crime should be in your complaint, your summons, your booking paperwork, or all three. If it isn’t readily available, you can usually google the Statute number you are charged with to determine whether it is a misdemeanor or felony.
C. Is it classified as Domestic Violence?
This can be a tricky subject to understand. Domestic Violence is a classification of offense. It does not matter whether actual violence occurred. All that matters is the relationship between you and the alleged victim. A.R.S 13-3601 defines every relationship that gives rise to an offense classified as domestic violence. Many are surprised to find out that roommates are classified as a relationship that gives rise to a domestic violence offense.
Both Misdemeanors and Felonies can be classified as domestic violence offenses. If you reside with the alleged victim, you may also be given release orders preventing you from returning home. It is also important to know that the State will not just “drop” your charges in a domestic violence situation after the alleged victim asks them to do so.
D. Which Court do I need to Appear in?
If you are charged with a felony offense, you will need to appear at the Superior Court for the County in which you reside, i.e. Maricopa County Superior Court. Superior Courts almost always require you to appear in person. If you are charged with a misdemeanor, you will have to appear in either a city or justice court. The court assignment can generally be found at the bottom of the citation given to by the officer, on your booking paperwork, or on the summons you received.
E. Do I have any criminal history?
Have you been arrested before? Previously convicted of a crime? Completed a diversion program? If so, you may be facing harsher penalties this time around. If not, then your chances of getting a favorable result are much higher. Many courts offer diversion programs if your charge is a first time misdemeanor offense. At the end of the program, which usually involves a fine and some classes, your case is dismissed. Note that not all of the courts offer such a program. If it is a first time felony offense, you will be eligible for probation, unless the crime is designated as dangerous. Dangerous Offenses are classified as those involving the use of a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument.
F. What happens on my first court date?
Again, this depends on whether you are charged with a misdemeanor or felony. For misdemeanors, you will appear before a Judge who will ask you whether you plead guilty or not guilty. If you are interested in working out a resolution with the prosecutor, you should plead not guilty. Some courts will have a prosecutor there to discuss your options with you. Other courts will set a new court date for you about a month out to meet with the prosecutor.
If it is a felony, you will be provided an attorney. You may get discovery and a plea offer. You may see a Judge. It all depends on which felony court you find yourself.
This link provided a brief description of the process f you find yourself faced with a felony violent crime in Maricopa County: http://www.superiorcourt.maricopa.gov/SuperiorCourt/CriminalDepartment/caseProcedures.asp
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact The Nava Law Firm, PLLC today for a free consultation. Armando Nava is an experienced attorney with many years spent defending violent crimes.