The client of a criminal defense attorney in Arizona is usually brought to federal criminal prosecution by indictment, although occasionally, law enforcement officers will initiate the process through a criminal complaint. For his/her initial appearance before a judge, the client and his criminal defense attorney must be brought before the US Magistrate Judge in the district where the offense is alleged to have occurred, or in the district where the defendant was found and arrested. This must be done without “unnecessary delay,” which is generally within 5 days or less. The magistrate informs the client of his rights and sets the case for bail hearing and preliminary hearing.
The Preliminary Hearing
When a complaint is filed, the client of a criminal defense attorney is granted the right to a preliminary hearing, which must be within 10 days if the defendant is under government custody. The detention hearing is often consolidated with the preliminary hearing, allowing the judge the judicial economy of hearing testimony regarding the weight of the evidence in a single hearing, rather than stretching it out between 2 hearings.
Frequently, a federal indictment will arise out of a case that originally started at the state level. In these cases, a preliminary hearing was already likely held at a state court. The testimonies of these hearings are of critical importance to the criminal defense attorney in defense of the federal indictment. Whenever a criminal complaint is filed at the federal level, defense counsel has a similarly excellent opportunity to gather information that may prove useful to the case.
The prosecution may request pretrial detention and a hearing for that purpose in the event of:
- An alleged crime of violence;
- An alleged drug offense carrying a potential of 10 or more years in prison;
- An alleged felony if the defendant has prior violent or drug felonies carrying 10 or more years
- An alleged crime with a punishment of life imprisonment or death;
- Cause to consider the defendant a flight risk;
- Or may obstruct justice.
If the government requests the defendant to remain in custody, it may seek up to a 3 day continuance of the detention hearing. A criminal defense attorney may also request continuance to obtain witnesses or to prepare for the detention hearing. If the prosecution seeks pretrial detention, the defendant is usually held in detention pending the bail hearing. A removal hearing may even precede the detention hearing if the defendant is an illegal alien.
A defense attorney appointed according to the Criminal Justice Act is frequently arranged immediately following the defendant’s appearance before the magistrate judge, with the detention hearing being only a few days away. This time will be spent with the criminal defense attorney speaking to the client and his or her family and discussing options in the steps of the legal process ahead of them.
The felony case stages of the legal process are scheduled according to a time line designed to be expedient while allowing the defense plenty of time to consider its case. Both prosecution and defense need to prepare to make their case. Time is of the essence, as an extensive trial can be considered cruel and unusual punishment.
About the Author
David Michael Cantor is an AV rated (the highest possible rating) lawyer and a Certified Criminal Law Specialist per the Arizona Board of Legal Specialization. For more information about an Arizona criminal defense attorney, visit our site.