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Criminal Defendant

Criminal Defendant

If you’ve been arrested in the state of Arizona, you need to act fast. And when it comes to the world of criminal law, acting fast entails contacting a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible.

As a criminal defendant, it is imperative that you know what to expect as you and your attorney begin planning your defense. This article discusses what it means to be a criminal defendant and explains the rights of those who face criminal charges.

What Is a Criminal Defendant?

What Is a Criminal Defendant?

In an Arizona criminal trial, a defendant is an individual who has been charged with committing a crime. The opposing party in a criminal trial is a public prosecutor.

Criminal defendants in Arizona are usually taken into custody by law enforcement authorities and brought before a court pursuant to a valid arrest warrant. Criminal defendants usually must post bail before being released from the custody of the police. For serious criminal charges, such as murder, the court may refuse to grant bail to a criminal defendant.

With some exceptions, a criminal defendant must be present at every stage of the proceedings against them. If more than one individual is accused of a crime, the other defendants in a criminal case are usually referred to as co-defendants.

What Are a Criminal Defendant’s Rights?

As explained in detail below, the United States Constitution affords several rights to criminal defendants, including:

  • Right to a trial
  • Rights regarding plea deals
  • Presumption of innocence
  • Right to testify at trial
  • Right to file an appeal

Below, we discuss each of these rights in detail.

Right to Trial

In all felony cases and the majority of misdemeanor cases, a criminal defendant has a right to a jury trial. Although the Sixth Amendment gives criminal defendants the right to a jury trial when accused of a criminal offense, this does not apply to all criminal offenses.

The U.S. Supreme Court has stated that a criminal defendant generally doesn’t have a right to a jury trial for offenses in which the maximum penalty doesn’t exceed six months in jail. In addition, even if a defendant in a criminal case is charged with multiple minor offenses and faces a combined total sentence of over six months, they are still not guaranteed a jury trial.

However, most states, including Arizona, either provide judges with the discretion to grant a criminal defendant a jury trial for certain categories of misdemeanors. Alternatively, they give defendants the right to a jury trial for certain offenses, even if such offenses carry a penalty of fewer than six months in jail.

Rights Regarding Plea Deals

Prior to a criminal trial, prosecutors will sometimes offer a plea agreement to the defendant. The decision of how to respond to a plea offer belongs to the criminal defendant. However, a criminal defendant should consult their criminal defense attorney regarding this decision.

Presumption of Innocence

When a criminal case goes to trial, the government must prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. A criminal defendant may present evidence at trial or decide to do nothing at all. In fact, it is sometimes a criminal defendant’s best strategy not to call any witnesses, but to argue that the government failed to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Right to Testify at Trial

A defendant at a criminal trial also has the right to testify (and the right not to testify). Generally, criminal defendants are advised not to testify in court. However, there are some instances where testifying may strengthen a defendant’s case. If a defendant decides not to testify, the judge must instruct the jury that the defendant’s decision cannot be held against them.

Right to File an Appeal

Finally, a criminal defendant who loses their case has the right to file an appeal. Although a defendant’s attorney may advise them on the likelihood of success of an appeal, the decision ultimately rests with the defendant.

Contact a Phoenix Criminal Defense Attorney If You Are Facing Criminal Charges

If you are facing criminal charges in Arizona, you need the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney. Every criminal defendant deserves high-quality legal representation, and an attorney will aggressively defend you against your charges.

Regardless of whether you have been charged with a minor traffic violation or a serious felony, you should contact an experienced Phoenix criminal defense lawyer to schedule a free consultation. Orent Law Offices is here to help at (480) 656-7301.

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