I Have Been Charged With a Misdemeanor, Now What? (Step 2, The Pretrial Conference)
If you have been given a citation, arrested, or served with a summons for a misdemeanor offense, you probably want to know what is going to happen next. If you have never been charged with a crime it is totally understandable to be confused and concerned about the immediate consequences, and if you have been through “the system” before, understanding the rules and procedures of a misdemeanor case will enable you to properly exercise your rights. These articles were written to highlight and explain the procedure through which misdemeanor cases are processed in the limited jurisdiction courts.
“I Have Been Charged With a Misdemeanor, Now What?“
2. Pretrial Conference.
Up to this point, the prosecuting agency (the State, i.e. prosecutor) has not had a chance to review the charges or police report for the basis of the allegations unless they have drafted and issued a summons and complaint. The Court notifies the prosecutor that a defendant has been arrested or issued a citation. The prosecutor then obtains the police reports in anticipation of the pretrial conference.
At the pretrial conference, the prosecutor must provide a copy of the police report(s) to the defendant and their attorney as basis for the charges. Rule 15.1(c), Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure. This is given because a defendant has a right to know what evidence would be presented if the case went to trial. Statements made by the defendant or the list of witnesses are documented and noted in these reports. The reports can be evaluated for accuracy by the defendant and their attorney.
A prosecutor, at their sole discretion, will make a plea offer to the defendant to resolve the case. A plea offer is an offer of settlement in which the defendant will agree to change their plea from not guilty to guilty in exchange for a lighter sentence or guaranteed outcome. Most criminal cases are resolved with plea agreements. If a plea agreement is not accepted the case is set for a trial. A defendant can accept the terms of the plea agreement on the advise of counsel or make a counter offer as a result of negotiations.
The result of the pretrial conference is reported to the court. A change of plea hearing will be be set or a trial date requested. This is the general procedure for pretrial conferences in limited jurisdiction courts in Mohave County. Lake Havasu City consolidated court (LHC Justice and Municipal Court) set an additional pre-determined hearing on another date called an Omnibus/Change of Plea Hearing. At that hearing a change of plea is conducted or a trial date is given to the defendant.