Understanding the Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure

Understanding the Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure

Understanding the Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure

Being charged with a misdemeanor or felony can change the course of your life forever, if you do not hire an attorney experienced in criminal defense AZ law to represent you. As we will explain below in this article, the criminal defense process is long and offers defendants several chances to have the charges dismissed with the help of a seasoned attorney.
You must remember that being charged with a crime does not automatically mean being sentenced for it. The US justice system is based on the same core principle: presuming defendants to be innocent until proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This is precisely the role of an attorney specializing in criminal defense under AZ law: to raise doubts and bring forward evidence supporting these doubts concerning your alleged guilt.

What Happens after Being Arrested under Suspicion of Having Committed a Crime?

According to the Arizona Judicial Branch, there are six steps in a criminal law case:

  • Arrest
  • Initial appearance
  • Preliminary hearing
  • Grand jury
  • Arraignment
  • Trial

We will look at all these phases in light of your need to be represented by an experienced criminal defense AZ law attorney.


A law enforcement officer in Arizona can arrest a person under the following circumstances:

  • The officer observed the person committing a crime
  • A judge issued a warrant for their arrest
  • There is probable cause to believe that the person committed a crime.

Within 24 hours after the arrest, the person must be presented before a judge or released.

Initial Appearance

If you are not released within 24 years after your arrest, you must secure legal representation for your initial appearance before the judge. The criminal defense AZ law attorney will hear the charges as well the conditions of release from custody (usually on bond), if applicable. For violent crime charges, such as aggravated assault, the defendant is usually not eligible for release on bond.

Preliminary Hearing

During the preliminary hearing, the judge will hear evidence from both sides: the prosecution and your criminal defense AZ law attorney. If the judge concludes that there is probable cause that the defendant may have committed the crime, an arraignment date is set, prior to the start of the trial.
This phase is not applicable if the defendant has already been indicted by a grand jury.

Grand Jury

In certain cases, a grand jury formed by citizens of the state is summoned to determine probable cause in a criminal law case. In this phase, neither the defendant, nor their criminal defense AZ law attorney is allowed to be present during the proceedings.


The arraignment is the phase where the defendant will take one of the possible three pleas:

By this phase of the legal procedures, your criminal defense AZ law attorney has collected sufficient evidence to advise you on the best plea to take in order to minimize the negative consequences for you. The attorney may even negotiate a lesser sentence with the prosecution in some instances.


If you pleaded not guilty, a trial by either judge or jury will determine whether you are guilty or not guilty. Your criminal defense AZ law attorney will represent you: present evidence and witnesses, as well as cross examine witnesses for the prosecution.

Let an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer Represent You

If you were charged with a crime, you have the right to retain the best defense you can. A skilled criminal defense AZ law attorney can fight on your behalf, explain to you your chances openly and honestly, and represent you during the relevant phases of your case.