Written by attorney Brian Douglas Sloan

Arizona DUI Defense Attorney Guide to a DUI Arrest - Step 15 - Preliminary Hearing / Grand Jury


In Superior Court, after your Initial Appearance / Not Guilty Arraignment, you will be handling the beginning of your case in two ways. You do not have a choice as to which way your case will be handled, and it is possible the beginning of your case will be handled by each of the two ways. The two ways are:

  • Preliminary Hearing – The Preliminary Hearing will take place in what is called theRegionalCourtCenter. The purpose of the Preliminary Hearing is to give you an early opportunity to take responsibility for the charges against you. You will be offered a plea agreement, which you can either accept, or reject.

If you accept the plea agreement, you should be allowed to see a judge, enter the plea agreement, and be sentenced either immediately, two weeks later, or a month later, in the discretion of the judge. You may be able to stay out of custody during this time if you are already out of custody.

If you reject the plea agreement, there are two things that you can do:

· Demand a Preliminary Hearing, which means that you want the prosecutor to bring in an officer to explain to the court why they believe there is enough evidence against you to allow the case to go forward. The officer will be under oath, and your Attorney will be allowed to cross-examine the officer. If the judge believes that there is enough evidence for the case to go forward, then your case is sent to the trial court level. There are a few problems with “Demanding a Preliminary Hearing,"

· The Preliminary Hearing will be held on a date in the future, usually the following week

· You will be expected to be there at 8:15 AM for your Preliminary Hearing, but your Preliminary hearing won’t actually be set until 1:30 PM

· When you wait around all day for your Preliminary Hearing to finally occur at 1:30 PM, the prosecutor will have dismissed your case, and sent it to the Grand Jury. See below.

· Straight Waive the Case, which means that you are telling the Court that you agree that there is enough evidence against you for the case to go forward towards trial, without admitting guilt. This is often the best and safest option if you decide you do not want to take a plea agreement, as it allows you to know your next court date, keeps the court from reconsidering your release conditions, and keeps the court from issuing a bench warrant for your arrest.

  • Grand Jury – This is basically a meeting of approximately 15MaricopaCounty citizens, who have been selected to be a “Grand Juror" for several months. The job of the “Grand Juror" is to listen to the facts presented to them, and decide if there is enough evidence for the case to go forward towards trial. At a Grand Jury proceeding, the prosecutor and the officer go before the approximately 15 “Grand Jurors," and present their evidence. You will very likely not be allowed to participate in this proceeding.

There is a difference in how this process is handled by an “Indigent Representation" lawyer and a Private Defenses Attorney:

  • If represented by an “Indigent Representation" lawyer at a Preliminary Hearing, you will likely meet with your “Indigent Representation" lawyer for the first time, having briefly seen a different “Indigent Representation" lawyer at your Initial Appearance / Not Guilty Arraignment a few weeks earlier.

  • You will be expected to be at theRegionalCourtCenteraround 8:15 AM, and you will wait around until the “Indigent Representation" lawyer comes to talk to you. The “Indigent Representation" lawyer will likely have between five and ten other defendants to talk to that day, and will meet with you to briefly discuss your case between 8:15 AM and 5 PM.

If the case is sent to the Grand Jury, neither you, nor the “Indigent Representation" lawyer, will be able to be present to listen to, argue, or present your side of what happened.

If represented by a Private Defense Attorney at the Preliminary Hearing, you will likely be the only client of your Attorney, and you will be likely be able to discuss your options and be out of the Regional Court Center within about an hour or less.

If you have a Private Defense Attorney, and the case is sent to the Grand Jury, the Private Defense Attorney may be able to alert the Grand Jury that you wish to address them, to tell your side of the story – so that it is not a one-sided presentation of the “evidence." This could make the difference between charges being brought against you, and the case being dismissed completely.

If you Straight Waive the case, the judge decides that there is enough evidence against you in a Preliminary Hearing, or the Grand Jury indicts you (decides there is enough evidence against you for the case to go forward), you will be provided your next court appearance at the trial court level, which, in Superior Court, is called an IPTC (Initial Pre-Trial Conference). The IPTC will be set about a month out, will be in a different court building down the street, and will be in front of a DUI Commissioner (Judge) who will oversee your case to completion, including being your trial judge if you decide to go to trial.

If charged in a City ofMunicipal Court– on Misdemeanor charges – things are a little different. You show up to an Initial Appearance / Not Guilty Arraignment. Charges are read to you, and release conditions are set, and you are scheduled for what is called a PDC (Pre-Trial Disposition Court).

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