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Frequently Asked Questions

What happens if I am arrested?

Federal Cases

If you are arrested for a violation or violations of federal law, you will, in most cases, be taken into custody by a United States Marshall or an agent from another federal agency (FBI, DEA, Homeland Security, Border Patrol, ATF, Secret Service etc.). You will then be brought before a United States Magistrate Judge who will determine whether you will be released and under what conditions. At that time, the judge will also set your next court date.

State Cases

If you are arrested for a state offense in Maricopa County, you usually will be taken to the Fourth Avenue Jail in downtown Phoenix to be booked. Within 24-hours of your arrival at the jail, you will appear before a judge. This jail court is in session at all hours of the day and night. The purpose of being brought before the Judge in jail court is to determine whether you can be released and, if so, under what conditions you may be released (amount of bond, own recognizance, pretrial services supervision, etc.) This is called an initial appearance.

Retaining an attorney for this initial appearance could be invaluable because it is at this time that a judge makes critical decisions regarding your freedom while the case is processed through the court system. Having a lawyer represent your interests and to act as your agent before that judge may mean the difference between remaining in jail and being released. The judge will also set your next court appearance.

What should I do if law enforcement authorities want to question me?

Every citizen, as well as non-citizens, have an absolute right not to answer questions asked by a law enforcement agent. Before you answer any questions you are well advised to consult with a lawyer. To answer questions without the advice of a lawyer can be very risky even if you believe you have done nothing wrong. Once you have consulted with a lawyer you will be able to make an informed decision about whether to answer any questions posed to you by law enforcement officials.

When should I hire a lawyer?

If you become aware that you are under investigation, the best time to hire a lawyer is before you are questioned by law enforcement officials prior to being arrested for or being charged with a crime. There are a number of services a lawyer can provide before an arrest is actually made or a charge is formally filed. This includes guidance and advice to the person who is the target of the investigation. A person under suspicion should want someone with the proper legal background and experience to guide them through the minefield of police interrogation, pre-charging investigation and possible grand jury inquisition. Sometimes, if a charge is filed, a lawyer may be able to arrange for a voluntary appearance before the court in place of the issuance and service of an arrest warrant on the accused. This would avoid the unpleasant and distasteful process of being taken into custody, possibly in front of family and friends, and then being transported to the county jail for processing.

What happens after my initial court appearance?

Your case will be processed differently in different courts. However, there will be a number of pretrial proceedings such as preliminary hearings, pretrial conferences, motion hearings, etc. During these proceedings, a determination will be made about whether the case will proceed to trial or whether there will be a resolution without a trial (dismissal, plea agreement, remand for new finding of probable cause, etc.)

If the case proceeds to trial, a judge or jury will make the decision on whether the accused is guilty or not guilty. Many misdemeanors are tried before a judge only. Some misdemeanors and all felonies are tried to a jury of six, eight, or twelve citizens, depending on the type of case.

Before a conviction can be obtained, the judge or jury must agree that the Government has proven the guilt of the accused beyond a reasonable doubt. A jury verdict must be unanimous with all jurors in agreement.