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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the procedure for entering a plea to a criminal charge?

What happens at a trial on criminal charges or complaints?

What will be my sentence?

What happens at the arraignment?

What happens after I enter a plea at arraignment?

How do I post bond?

I do not have money to post bond. How can I find a bail bond agency?

What happens at the pre-trial conference?

Can I reschedule (continue) my court date to a later date?

Can I plead by telephone or mail?

How do I get unsupervised probation?

My relative got arrested. Who do I need to talk to?

I posted bond for someone. How and when can I get my money back?

What victim services are available?

What is a public defender?

Will the county attorney represent me?

Can you appoint an attorney for me?

What is a warrant?

What are the different warrants?

What attorney should I call to handle my case? Who would be good?

I cannot afford to hire an attorney. How do I get one appointed?

What have I been charged with?

What sentence will I get if I plead guilty?

When do I have to pay my fine?

Will you give me an extension to pay my fine?

How do I appeal my case?

What is the procedure for entering a plea to a criminal charge?

There are three possible please to a criminal charge:

  • Plea of Not Guilty–The defendant denies guilt and the State must prove the criminal charges against the defendant. The State is represented by the city or county prosecutor's office.
  • Plea of Guilty–The defendant admits that the defendant committed the acts charged in the complaint, that the acts are prohibited by law and that the defendant has no legal defense for such acts.
  • Plea of No Contest–This plea, also known as nolo contendere, means the defendant is not admitting guilt and not denying it. The defendant is saying that the defendant does not wish to contest the State's charges. Upon a plea of no contest, the judicial officer may find the defendant guilty and enter a judgment of guilt.
What happens at a trial on criminal charges or complaints?
Depending on the alleged offense, a defendant may be entitled to a trial by jury. The defendant is entitled to hear all testimony introduced against him or her. A defendant has the right to cross-examine any witness who testifies against him or her, to testify on his or her own behalf and a Constitutional right not to testify. If the defendant chooses not to testify, a refusal cannot and will not be used against the defendant in determining guilt or innocence. However, if a defendant chooses to testify, the prosecutor will have the right to cross-examine the defendant. A defendant may call witnesses to testify on his or her behalf and has the right to have the court issue subpoenas to ensure the appearance of reluctant witnesses.
What will be my sentence?
The judge imposes the sentence. Court personnel cannot guess, as different facts and law may apply to each case, as well as good and bad aspects of the defendant’s background.
What happens at the arraignment?
The process may vary depending on the court. The judge usually sets bail, and informs the defendant of the charges, available rights, consequences of a conviction, and the importance of appearing for scheduled hearings. The defendant enters an initial plea at arraignment, too, typically “guilty” or “not guilty.”
What happens after I enter a plea at arraignment?

Once you have decided on your plea you must enter a plea with the judge at your arraignment. Unless the case involves a victim who has asked to be present, no witnesses will be present at arraignment and no testimony will be taken. At an arraignment, the judge will not grant a request to dismiss any charges. You must enter a plea to the charges against you.

  • If a plea of guilty or no contest is entered you may be sentenced immediately following the judge’s acceptance of your plea or you may be sentenced at a later date.
  • If a plea of not guilty is entered, a pre-trial conference will be scheduled followed by a trial setting. You must decide, if you have not already done so, whether to hire an attorney to represent you.
  • You may be represented only by yourself or an Arizona licensed attorney. In some circumstances, a court-appointed attorney may be provided to you.

If you cannot afford an attorney and wish representation, you may request that an attorney be appointed to represent you. An examination of your financial status will be made to determine if you are entitled to a court-appointed attorney. If eligible, you may be ordered to pay a portion of the attorney’s cost.

How do I post bond?
Procedures vary. Contact the local court or jail for locations and hours for posting bond. Some courts or agencies accept cash, money orders, bank checks (cashier’s checks), personal checks, MasterCard, Visa or other major credit cards. Some agencies will only accept the exact amount of cash or a money order. Call first.
I do not have money to post bond. How can I find a bail bond agency?
Some courts provide lists of bonding companies. Bonding companies may also be found in the yellow pages or search online for bail bond agencies.
What happens at the pre-trial conference?

A defendant or the defendant’s attorney will be given an opportunity to meet with a prosecutor to review the facts supporting the State's criminal charges against him or her. At the pre-trial conference, a defendant is entitled to review any written police reports or any other evidence that the State intends to use at the trial. Witnesses do not attend the pre-trial disposition conference and no testimony is taken. However, victims do have the right to be present if they request to do so. A defendant has three options at the pre-trial conference:

  • Accept the prosecutor’s offer, including any sentencing agreements, and then plead “guilty” or “no contest.” But the judge must still approve the settlement.
  • Reject the prosecutor’s offer, but still plead “guilty” or “no contest” to the original charges. Both sides would then have the right to ask for any sentence they want.
  • Maintain his or her plea of not guilty and ask for a trial.
Can I reschedule (continue) my court date to a later date?
Only the judge can continue a court date. You may file a written request with the clerk and provide a copy of the request to the other parties (or the prosecuting attorney in a criminal case) for the judge to consider the request.
Can I plead by telephone or mail?
If authorized by the court and the case is a misdemeanor, a telephonic plea may be available if (1) you are an out-of-state resident, (2) you reside more than 100 miles from the court, or (3) you have a serious medical condition so that appearance in person would be an undue hardship, regardless of the distance to the court. A telephonic plea must be in writing; see Form 28. A law enforcement officer must certify that you signed a plea of guilty/no contest form, and the officer affixed your fingerprint to the document. Courts of limited jurisdiction also may accept a written plea of guilty or no contest to a misdemeanor or petty offense by mail if the court is satisfied that a personal appearance by the defendant would constitute an undue hardship such as illness, physical incapacity, substantial distance to travel, or incarceration. A plea submitted by mail must comply with the requirements of Rule 17 and Form 28(a) and must be signed by the defendant.
How do I get unsupervised probation?
Probation is determined by the judge. If you are representing yourself, you may request that the court impose unsupervised probation at the time of sentencing. The final decision is up to the judge.
My relative got arrested. Who do I need to talk to?
If your relative has an attorney, you may contact your relative’s attorney. Court personnel may provide public information, such as upcoming court dates and how to post bond. In some cases, the arresting agency can provide terms of release or other information and may be able to accept bond.
I posted bond for someone. How and when can I get my money back?
If the defendant has appeared at all required court dates, the bond will be exonerated (released) after the conclusion of the case or when ordered by the court. The court must have a current mailing address to return money, which usually occurs within a few days of the exoneration order.
What victim services are available?
Victim services are available through the local county attorney’s office. Victims’ services vary between courts and agencies and based on misdemeanor or felony crimes may be available through the prosecutor’s office involved in the case, the law enforcement agency involved in the case, or an outside agency. A victim advocate can explain the judicial system, act as a link between the prosecutor and the victim, give current case status information, assist in obtaining orders of protection, make referrals for counseling, food, shelter, and escort victims while they testify or appear at hearings. Under Arizona’s Victims Bill of Rights, a crime victim always has the right to retain private counsel, and to be notified of both upcoming hearings and possible plea offers before they are proposed to the defendant. If you are a victim, it is imperative that you stay in touch with the prosecutor’s office and appear in court for each hearing – or they may assume that you do not care how they resolve the case.
What is a public defender?
A public defender is an attorney who represents a person who is accused of a crime and who cannot afford to hire an attorney. Some counties have public defender offices that have a number of attorneys on staff. Other counties may contract with private attorneys to provide services on court appointments.
Will the county attorney represent me?
The county attorney and other prosecutorial agencies usually represent the State and its municipalities in criminal cases. For more information, the party may contact the county attorney or prosecuting agency.
Can you appoint an attorney for me?
Only a judge can appoint an attorney, and only in certain cases. In most civil and family court cases, attorneys are not appointed.
What is a warrant?
A warrant is an order from the court to law enforcement to take someone or something into custody. Some warrant information is forwarded to law enforcement agencies throughout Arizona. For example, the court may order a “bench” warrant for law enforcement to arrest someone who failed to appear in court, or the court may issue a search warrant for law enforcement to seize and remove property from a person, place, or thing.
What are the different warrants?

The criminal court may issue a warrant in many instances: at the beginning of a case, during a case if a defendant fails to appear, or after sentencing when a defendant fails to comply with a court order, such as a probation violation. Criminal arrest warrants may be issued when there is reasonable case to suspect an individual of a misdemeanor or felony crime.

An arrested suspect usually remains in jail until he or she posts a bond or appears in court. The judge will decide if bond is required or if the defendant can be released on his or her own recognizance, meaning the defendant remains personally responsible for appearing, but is not required to post a bond.

When a person fails to appear for a scheduled court date, a warrant is issued. The defendant may be arrested and may be required to post a bond and another court date will be set. If a defendant knows ahead of time that he or she cannot attend court at the scheduled time, the defendant may request a continuance of the court date. The defendant must appear unless the continuance is granted by a judicial officer. The defendant may contact his or her attorney, if one has been appointed or retained, or appear as soon as possible in court to ask the judge to quash (cancel) the warrant and to reset the court date. The judge decides whether to require bond.

What attorney should I call to handle my case? Who would be good?

Court personnel cannot advise a party whether the party should hire a lawyer, nor may they recommend a specific lawyer. Some courts provide a list of local attorneys and there may be a list of local resources of attorneys who will work for a reduced fee or no fee.

I cannot afford to hire an attorney. How do I get one appointed?
You may request the court to appoint an attorney when you make the first court appearance. You will have to complete a financial affidavit to determine whether or not you qualify for a court-appointed attorney. If you wish to represent yourself, the court may appoint an attorney as advisory counsel. The court may order you to pay a monthly amount towards the costs of your attorney either during the case or, if you are convicted, after you have been sentenced.
What have I been charged with?
A defendant has the right to be informed of the charges at the initial appearance. Court personnel can also show you the public record file if it is not confidential or sealed.
What sentence will I get if I plead guilty?
The judge imposes the sentence. Court personnel cannot guess, as different facts and law may apply to each case. However, certain offenses have mandatory sentences, meaning a judge cannot order a lesser sentence than is required. Other offenses allow a judge to use discretion to determine the appropriate sentence. If a charge has a mandatory sentence, the judge will inform you of that during the sentencing proceeding.
When do I have to pay my fine?
The terms and schedule for paying fines and other obligations are set by the judge at the time of sentencing. If you have lost the paperwork, the information may be available in the public record or from the probation office, if applicable.
Will you give me an extension to pay my fine?
Usually only a judge may grant an extension. You may file a request in writing with the clerk who will then process the request to the judge for consideration. In some cases, probation officers have the authority to grant extensions. You may check with the probation officer first.
How do I appeal my case?
In superior court, you may only appeal a criminal case under certain circumstances. The party’s Notice of Rights of Review after Conviction will tell you what may be appealed. If you do not have the right to appeal, you may file for post-conviction relief. The Notice of Rights of Review after Conviction provides the procedure for filing post-conviction relief.