Generally Speaking, What Is The Timeframe For A Case To Be Resolved?
For a felony, once the charges are actually issued, you may have as many as three or four hearings in the early stages where they are trying to get you to take an early plea and get the case resolved before it goes too far. Individuals with very serious crimes like murder, sexual assault and gang violence typically don’t get plea offers early on. For these types of cases, one can expect months before even having the opportunity to resolve a case. On less serious cases like burglaries and stolen cars, some cases resolve by plea agreement within weeks of charges being filed. Just that preliminary process of trying to get you to take a plea in the first couple of hearings can last up to about two months; that is before you even get indicted.
Once you get indicted, you have a hearing called an arraignment where you go in and you just say, “I’m not guilty.” Everybody pleads not guilty; you are not even allowed to plead guilty at the arraignment anymore. After the arraignment, you have your initial pretrial conference about thirty days after that. Then you have two more pretrial conferences that are about thirty days apart. By this point, your case has lasted anywhere from three to five months already and then you have a trial date. The trial date is usually about three to four months after your arraignment, but ninety-five to ninety-nine percent of cases that go to trial do not even go on the first trial date.
There are a lot of “continuances” (or delays) in most criminal cases. This is usually because the parties are working through the evidence. A good defense attorney will take the time to fully investigate all possible defenses, and this can be time consuming. There are frequently challenges in scheduling all the witness interviews. Oftentimes, the prosecutor or defense attorney will have conflicting trial dates on other cases that are older, which results in the newer case being continued. The average felony case probably takes anywhere from five months to about a year and a half to resolve if it is going to go to trial. If you enter into a plea agreement, that can happen at any stage of the whole process and that cuts everything short. Similarly, if your attorney can get the case dismissed by convincing the prosecutor that they cannot win the trial, that can happen at any stage in the process. The timeframe for misdemeanors is similar. The hearings are not exactly the same with misdemeanors, but it is a similar process and misdemeanors can last anywhere from two months to over a year as well.
What Is The Difference In Terms Of A Misdemeanor And A Felony? Are There Certain Sentencing Guidelines For Each?
Misdemeanors are obviously less serious crimes than felonies. Using the old law school definition, felonies are crimes that can be punished with more than a year of incarceration and where the judge can sentence you to prison (as opposed to county jail). On a misdemeanor in Arizona, your maximum penalty is six months in city or county jail and a $2,500 fine. You can also get other consequences like community service, probation, mandatory classes, and things of that nature. For a felony in Arizona, the maximum penalty is death. More common penalties include a prison sentence ranging from four months to life, or probation, which may include fines, drug testing, jail up to a year, classes, community service and others. The maximum fine for a felony is $150,000 so that is a big difference. The real difference is that with felonies, you can go to prison and you can get fined a whole lot more. They will typically disrupt your life much more than a misdemeanor; however, this is not true for everyone.
Other consequences of receiving a felony conviction is that you lose your right to vote and your right to bear arms, which means you cannot possess a firearm. With misdemeanors, those rights do not go away, except certain domestic violence misdemeanors can result in a loss of the right to bear arms. There can be other consequences of misdemeanors such as restrictions to your driver’s license or other professional licensing that you hold. A typical misdemeanor is something like a simple assault where you slap somebody in the face. Some other examples include most DUIs, creating a scene at a bar that disturbs the peace of the other patrons, petty theft, and driving on a suspended license, just to name a few.
Felonies are things that most people are pretty familiar with, such as murder, burglary, and assault with a deadly weapon. Thefts are felonies when the stolen property is valuable or when it is a mode of transportation, like a boat or car. Usually any offense involving a deadly weapon will be a felony. In Arizona, possession of any controlled drug that isn’t prescribed is typically a felony, even Marijuana. There are hundreds of other crimes that constitute felonies. While most of these are intuitive, there are some acts that many people would be surprised to know are felonies. If you are concerned about something you may have done, it is best to speak to an attorney to find out whether you face criminal consequences, and how serious those may be.
What Are Alternative Programs? Can You Get A Case Dismissed?
In Arizona, there are programs that allow you to get your charges dismissed on a conditional basis. Those are more common in misdemeanor cases than in felony cases. The only felony case where a diversion agreement is available in many Arizona jurisdictions is a drug possession case. The state does do diversion on drug possession where if you successfully complete drug testing and classes and you pay fines for a certain period of time, they will dismiss the case. That is typically not available in drug sales cases, or second or subsequent drug cases, though there are exceptions that may be realized by a skilled attorney.
In misdemeanor cases, sometimes the state will allow you to do some community service, take classes, or pay fines in lieu of a criminal conviction. If you do that, the charges get dismissed. Those programs are available only on some misdemeanors, but they are frankly quite rare. The attorney usually must really do good work to make those available to their client. There are a lot of opportunities to avoid incarceration on your first felony offense, usually, and on misdemeanors where you can get probation. In Arizona, if it is not a violent or a very serious crime, your attorney has a good chance of getting you probation in most cases if they do their job right. Even in some very serious cases, a skilled attorney may obtain a probation offer for their client.
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