How Does The Bail Process Work In Arizona?
I have a really good friend who runs a successful bail bonds company here in Arizona. I refer my clients to his agency, Sanctuary Bail Bonds, because he runs his company the way I run my law firm, with a focus on customer service and satisfaction. Most offenses are bondable. There are a couple of situations where offenses are going to be non-bondable. One such situation is if a person is already on probation for a felony offense and then arrested and charged with committing a new offense. In that situation the person is presumed to be non-bondable.
For capital cases and even some sexually motivated offenses, the court can hold a suspect non-bondable. The Court must determine what type of threat as suspect may pose to the community when determining an appropriate bond. The Court can consider whether the suspect is a flight risk as well. The Court can also consider the suspect’s criminal history when imposing a bond. For the most part, bonds are going to be imposed, and I typically refer clients to the bail bondsman at that point. There are going to be several options for people when it comes to bonds. Depending on the bond, a suspect or their family or friends will be able to put some cash down as well as some collateral in order to get bonded out. Some bonds here in Arizona are cash only, so you have to pay the entire bond in cash to bond out.
A lot of the bond agencies are very adept at dealing with collateral, whether it is cars, homes, or other types of property that can serve as collateral while the case is pending. I always warn people that their friends and family members who are thinking about posting their bond are putting up cash or collateral, so that means that if they do not show up to court hearings, those people can lose their property.
The Criminal Process after Posting Bail and Getting Out Of Jail
Once you bond out or you are released on your own recognizance, you have already had an initial appearance. This happened when you were taken into custody, or shortly thereafter, and you were given an explanation of the release conditions. In Arizona, we deal primarily with felony and misdemeanor cases. In a misdemeanor case, you are going to get set for what is called your arraignment where a judge will read the charges against you. You will enter a guilty or not guilty plea at that time. If not guilty, you will have a pretrial conference next where finally you or your attorney will get to meet with the prosecutor, receive discovery, and discuss potential plea offers.
In a misdemeanor case, you can continue those pretrial conferences to negotiate and review evidence and make a decision as to whether you want to resolve the case through a plea or a trial. Those timelines are typically four to six months in a misdemeanor case until you are at its conclusion in some way, shape, or form. In a felony case, it is a bit longer. Oftentimes, cases here in Maricopa County go to what is called the regional court center or expedited drug court, so it splits up drug crimes and non-drug crimes in an effort to resolve cases with the best plea offer prior to your arraignment.
If you do not resolve your case at that level, then the prosecution will either put on a preliminary hearing or submit their case to the grand jury to get an indictment. Then, you will be set for an arraignment. After the arraignment, you are set for an initial pretrial conference in about thirty days. At the initial pretrial conference a judge will set a couple of other dates as well as a firm trial date. If you are in custody, that trial date is set quicker than if you are out of custody. A lot of this depends on the availability of judges and if older cases than yours are pending trial as well.
In a felony case, to give you an example of one I recently went to trial with my client in, the case began in October or November of 2014 and it did not go to trial until January of 2016! It was a very simple aggravated assault case, and there was not an overwhelming amount of witnesses. Another recent felony case I went to trial in was designated “complex” because there was tons of evidence and witnesses, as well as complex issues that needed to be litigated prior to trial. In a complex case, the timelines can be extended.
In that complex case, it was charged in May of 2013, went to trial in May of 2014, and resulted in a not guilty verdict on the higher charge and a hung jury on the lower charge. It was set for a retrial on the lower charge, and, almost a year later, in March of 2015, the remaining count was dismissed by the prosecution. That was a case that took almost two years to completely close out with a high level child abuse charge. The timelines on felony cases are varied, and judges have great latitude to continue the trial date to make sure everyone is prepared. Delays can be really frustrating for clients in those situations; however, preparing a good defense can be well worth it in the end.
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