PAUL MATTERN. CHANGING THE SYSTEM ONE CASE AT A TIME.
CONTACT PAUL MATTERN
Attorney at Law
4150 W. Peoria
Phoenix, AZ 85029
Paul Mattern, Attorney ● 4150 W. Peoria, Suite 219A ● Phoenix, AZ 85029 ● 602-715-8160 ● firstname.lastname@example.org
THE BEGINNING OF A CRIMINAL PROSECUTION
I. INITIAL INVESTIGATION
Most often, there is an investigation of a citizen for a crime,
and a law enforcement officer creates a report. If the suspect is
at the scene of the crime, or if law enforcement saw the offense
(like in a DUI), the suspect will usually be arrested immediately.
Some times there is a lengthy investigation before charges
are filed, and other times charges are filed immediately.
However, police and victims do not file the formal criminal
charges in felonies. One of the greatest myths in Arizona is
that somehow the victim files the charges, and the victim has
the right to drop the charges.
Victims in Arizona do have rights to provide input and participate in the proceedings, but victims do not have the right to drop charges. Once the reports written by police or other law enforcement agencies are submitted to the prosecutor, it is the prosecutor who decides whether there is enough evidence to file formal charges.
II. FILING OF FORMAL CHARGES
In misdemeanor cases, the officer often writes a ticket and files it with the court (very often in DUI cases) and that citation is the charging document. However, a prosecutor will review the case before the first court appearance to ensure that the officer’s charges were reasonable.
In Arizona, if the case is a felony, citizens have the right to what is known as a “determination of probable cause” before they face formal charges. However, there are two ways this can be done, and the prosecutor is can choose the way to bring the formal charges.
The first is called a preliminary hearing. The second is when the prosecutor sends the case to the Grand Jury and seeks an Indictment. In Maricopa and Pima Counties, Preliminary Hearings are rarely held. If they are, however, a hearing is held where any witness with knowledge of the event (usually a police officer) may testify, using hearsay and where most of the rules of evidence are not used, and attempt to prove that 1) a crime was committed; and 2) it is more probable than not that the defendant committed it. If the judge finds probable cause, then the formal felony charges are affirmed.
The more common way for all Arizona counties to initiate formal charges is to present the case to a Grand Jury. The Grand Jury Proceedings are sealed, or secret, and consist of a group of jurors selected at random, and like in a Preliminary Hearing, a witness may use hearsay and even read from police reports what another officer has alleged. If the Grand Jury decides that there is probable cause to believe that a crime was committed and the accused committed it, a “True Bill” is issues and the formal charges are filed.
III. MEET WITH AN ATTORNEY NOW
If you, a friend or a loved one believe you will be charged with a crime, or have been charged with a crime, you should seek legal advice immediately. Many attorneys, including Paul Mattern, provide initial consultations free of charge.