I’m Being Investigated for a Felony - What can Happen to Me?

One of the scariest things that can ever happen to a person is being arrested for a felony. If you are ever arrested, never ever resist the officer or officers placing you under arrest. If you are asked to place your hands behind your back for the purpose of being handcuffed, do so. If you do not, you could be charged with the additional crime of resisting arrest, or worse, assaulting a police officer. These charges could, in fact, be worse than the charge for which you are being arrested.

Even though you will be upset at the time of an arrest, do not discuss your case with the arresting officer. Let your lawyer make your arguments for you in a court of law.

There are several different procedures that take place after an arrest. These include being booked, fingerprinted, searched, and being brought in front of a judge or magistrate for an initial appearance.

At an initial appearance, four events will take place:

  1. You will be informed of the felony allegations.
  2. You will be advised of your right to an attorney.
  3. Your conditions of release will be established. In that regard, the judge will determine if you will be released on bond or on your own recognizance, or in rare occasions, remain jailed until your case goes to trial.
  4. Your next court date will be set.

Felony charges are initiated by the filing of a complaint or an indictment. If the prosecutor files a direct complaint against you, the crimes you are alleged to have committed will be set forth in the complaint and the Court will set the case for a preliminary hearing. At a preliminary hearing, the prosecutor will present evidence and witnesses to establish whether there is probable cause that the crime was committed and that you should stand trial. If charges are initiated by a grand jury indictment, you are not entitled to a preliminary hearing. The Grand Jury, consisting of 16 jurors, determines whether probable cause exists based on evidence presented by the prosecutor. These Grand Jury hearings are secret and only become public after the Grand Jury hands down an indictment.

The first hearing you will appear at after your initial appearance is an arraignment. This is a brief hearing where you will have an opportunity to enter a plea to the charges filed against you (whether by complaint or indictment). If you enter a not guilty plea, the court will set one or more pretrial conferences prior to setting your case for trial.

IF your case proceeds to trial, the state is required to prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The jury verdict must be unanimous or a mistrial can be declared and the case could be retried. If you are found not guilty, all charges against you are dismissed and you cannot be retried on the same charge.

If you are found guilty after a trial, you will face a range of possible sentences depending upon the charges for which you are found guilty. The judge will set a sentencing date approximately 30 days after the jury returns a guilty verdict. At sentencing, both your attorney and the prosecutor can present evidence to help the judge determine an appropriate sentence. In Arizona, victims have the right to address the court on what they believe would be a proper sentence.

If you find yourself or a family member charged with a felony, you will need to be prepared to endure the stressful procedures outlined above. In so doing, remember that you are presumed innocent until proven guilty, and that your case can be resolved, often favorably, at any time through the above process.