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Posted on November 17, 2020 in Arizona Law

 What Happens at a Status Hearing in a Criminal Case? 

A status hearing is one of the many steps involved in a criminal case going to trial. In Arizona, the status conference is an opportunity for your criminal defense lawyer and the prosecutor to resolve the case.

During the status conference, your lawyer and the prosecutor discuss the charges against you and possible resolutions. For example, the prosecutor might agree to reduce the sentence if you agree to plead guilty. Your attorney might propose to reduce the charges against you based on the evidence he intends to present at trial.

If an agreement is reached during the status conference, a sentencing hearing is scheduled. The judge considers the matter. While the judge can impose any sentence authorized by law, most judges accept the prosecutor’s recommendation regarding sentencing.

When there is no agreement reached at the status conference, the court schedules a date for a preliminary hearing. In other words, your case proceeds through the judicial system toward a trial.

Benefits of Accepting a Plea Deal at the Status Conference

When you accept a plea bargain offered by the prosecutor, you are pleading guilty to a crime. You will have a criminal record, and a judge will sentence you. Therefore, you must consider a plea deal very carefully.

Your criminal defense lawyer can help you decide whether a plea bargain is in your best interest based on the facts of your case. For example, if the evidence the state has against you is overwhelming, you might want to accept the plea deal to receive a reduced sentence. If you were to go to trial, a jury might find you guilty of the original criminal charges, which could result in more severe punishments.

Potential advantages of accepting a plea agreement include:

  • Getting out of jail now instead of waiting for trial
  • Receiving a reduced jail or prison sentence
  • Reduced fines and other penalties
  • Avoiding a felony conviction
  • Quicker resolution to your criminal case
  • Reduced legal costs
  • Avoiding the public nature of a trial
  • Saving your family and friends from being called as witnesses during a trial

One of the most significant advantages of accepting a plea deal is that you can get on with your life. You can put the criminal case behind you and move forward without the threat of a trial hanging over your head.

When Should a Defendant Plead Guilty to a Crime in Arizona?

Do not plead guilty to criminal charges without talking to your criminal defense lawyer. There could be other alternatives to incarceration available to you based on the criminal charges and the facts of your case.

The prosecutor may not inform you of various programs that might be better for you, such as work release, house arrest, probation, community service, alcohol treatment, mental health treatment, and electronic monitoring.

Accepting a plea deal might be in your best interest. However, until your criminal defense lawyer reviews the agreement, you cannot be sure that the prosecutor has offered the best agreement available for your case.

Other Consequences of Pleading Guilty to Criminal Charges

In addition to facing criminal penalties for pleading guilty to criminal charges, you must also consider the other consequences of a guilty plea.

If you hold a professional license, a criminal conviction could negatively impact your license. The guilty plea could trigger disciplinary action by the licensing board, which could result in the loss of your professional license or suspension of your professional license.

Immigrants with a visa or green card must also be careful when accepting a plea deal. A criminal conviction of some crimes could result in being deported. Crimes of moral turpitude and crimes involving violent acts are examples of crimes resulting in deportation proceedings.

What Should You Do if You are Arrested?

After any arrest, contact a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. Do not say anything to the police officers, investigators, or the prosecutor. You have the right to remain silent.

Do not negotiate a plea deal or discuss plea deals with the prosecutor without your attorney present. Acting as your own lawyer is risky. Anything you say could be used against you.

Instead, locate a criminal defense lawyer who has experience handling cases similar to your case. If you are charged with sex crimes, drug offenses, or assault charges, hire a defense lawyer who practices in those areas of criminal law.

You need an attorney even if you are innocent. Being innocent does not guarantee that the criminal charges against you will be dismissed, or you will be found not guilty. The bottom line is that it is in your best interest to consult a criminal defense lawyer whenever you face criminal charges.