What are the Steps in the Criminal Prosecution Process?

July 21, 2021 Criminal Defense

When you or a loved one face criminal charges, your future is uncertain. However, knowing the process behind criminal prosecution can relieve some of your anxiety and put your mind at ease. The following is a brief overview of the criminal prosecution process from the initial arrest to the potential of post-trial proceedings.

For specific case information, consult an experienced Phoenix criminal defense attorney.

Arrest and Initial Appearance

Upon the completion of a police investigation, a suspect is arrested and booked into jail. Fingerprints and photographs are taken in relation to the charge at this time.

A hearing is held before a magistrate or judge to inform the defendant of their charges and appoint an attorney if the defendant is indigent (unable to afford an attorney). Generally a court-appointed attorney is a public defender.

Terms and conditions of release are set such as a bond or release on the defendant’s own recognizance. This is a promise the defendant makes to appear without a bond being set. Conditions of release may also include no contact with the alleged victim or witnesses, orders not to leave the state, or random drug testing.

Preliminary Hearing

A date is set for a preliminary hearing to determine if probable cause exists for the arrest. At this time, the prosecutor may decline the charges, submit the charges to the appropriate city prosecutor for review, or choose to proceed with the charges and a hearing.

If the hearing is successful for the prosecution, the defendant will receive a date for an arraignment.


At the arraignment, the defendant enters a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest. The judge will set a pretrial conference or trial date. If the defendant enters a guilty plea, the judge will set a date to sentence the defendant for the crime.


After the arraignment and a plea of not guilty or no contest, a defendant has the right to a trial before a judge or jury for all felonies and some misdemeanors. Prior to trial a defendant may choose to enter into a plea negotiation with the prosecution and enter a plea rather than proceed with trial.

Post-Trial Proceedings

If there is a conviction at trial, a sentencing hearing is scheduled at which both sides will present arguments before the judge. A defendant may have grounds to file a motion for a new trial immediately following their trial or enter an appeal of their sentence within thirty days of its entry.

An Experienced Arizona Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help

If you need immediate help and answers to your criminal defense questions, speak with the experienced attorneys at Younglove Law Firm. We have helped clients in both California and Arizona with their criminal defense matters since 1997.

You have a right to competent legal defense after being charged with a crime. You can feel confident putting your legal matters in the hands of experienced former prosecutor, Douglas Younglove. Contact our office today and discuss how we can guide you through the criminal court process in the greater Phoenix area.

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