Stages of a Felony Case in Arizona – Tucson Criminal Defense Lawyers

Have you been charged with a felony in Tucson? Have you spoken with an experienced Tucson criminal defense lawyer about the stages of a felony case?

If you’ve been charged with a felony you are likely facing the most terrifying and uncertain experiences in your life. Therefore, it’s important to have a basic understanding of the criminal process that lies ahead. If you’ve been charged with a felony in Tucson or Pima county you can anticipate going through the following stages:


If you have been arrested for a felony you will either be taken into custody and booked or cited and released. If taken into custody you will have an initial appearance (or arraignment) before a judge within 24 hours of your arrest. Alternatively, if you were cited and released, you will be expected to appear at court at the scheduled date and time on the citation given to you at the time of arrest.

Initial Appearance

At the initial appearance a judge will determine your release conditions. Factors considered in determining your conditions of release include the severity of the crime, your prior criminal history, ties to the community, and whether you are a flight risk.

Preliminary Hearing

At the preliminary hearing the prosecution must prove to the judge that there is probable cause to file charges against you. The preliminary hearing is essentially a mini trial where the defense is given the opportunity to cross-examine the prosecution’s witnesses. The state may vacate the preliminary hearing and request a grand jury hearing to determine whether there was probable cause.


At the arraignment the judge will read the charges against you and will ask whether you have retained counsel or would like for the court to appoint an attorney. The judge will also schedule future court appearances.

Plea Bargaining

In most cases the prosecutor will present a plea offer in which the prosecutor offers to accept punishment in exchange for accepting a guilty plea.

Pre-Trial Conference

There are typically several pre-trial conferences that occur in a felony case and are scheduled about every 30 days. At the pretrial conference the prosecution and defense attempt to negotiate a plea deal, and the judge will ensure that all discovery items have been turned over to the court. Defense counsel often file motions during this stage such as a Motion to Suppress Evidence.

Jury or Bench Trial

If you are unwilling to accept the plea offered by the state (if any) your case will be set for trial. Trial may be by judge or jury, A jury trial consists of 8 or 12 members of the community that will determine whether you are guilty or not guilty. If the jurors are unable to reach a unanimous decision the judge will order a mistrial. In the event of a mistrial, the state can amend the plea offer, retry the defendant with another jury, or dismiss the charges. In the case of a bench trial the judge will determine whether you are guilty.


A sentencing hearing normally occurs within 30 days of a guilty verdict or plea. At the sentencing hearing the judge will hear mitigating factors presented by the defense in addition the recommendations by the state in determining your punishment.