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Why do I Have Two Court Dates?

Many felony charges like possession of drugs, aggravated assault and robbery are filed by the county attorney's office in a section of the Superior Court referred to as the Regional Court Center. When cases are filed in the Regional Court Center a defendant is typically given two court dates - a status conference and a preliminary hearing. Although only the preliminary hearing is required by the Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure, the prosecutor's office has been scheduling status conferences for several years now in an effort to resolve cases prior to a preliminary hearing being conducted.

At the status conference the prosecutor will typically provide copies of the police reports to the defense attorney and engage in preliminary discussions which may result in a negotiated settlement of the case. If the case is not resolved at the status conference then the matter will proceed to a preliminary hearing where the prosecutor will be required to present evidence to the court and demonstrate that probable cause exists in order for the case to continue moving forward in the court system.

In 2007 the county attorney's office drastically reduced the number of cases for which it would actually conduct a preliminary hearing and began instead to send cases to the grand jury. The Rules of Criminal Procedure do allow the prosecutor's office to obtain an indictment from a grand jury in lieu of conducting a preliminary hearing and in most instances the prosecutor will proceed in that fashion and an actual preliminary hearing will seldomly occur. In the least serious of felony cases such as possession of marijuana and some aggravated assault cases the prosecutor's office will utilize a preliminary hearing but the remainder of most cases end up going to the grand jury. Unlike a preliminary hearing a grand jury presentation is what's called an ex parte proceeding where neither the defendant nor the defense attorney is present.

Because the defendant is not there to defend himself the prosecutor has special obligations when presenting evidence to the grand jury. Those proceedings are transcribed by a court reporter and made available to the defense after an indictment is returned. If there are any irregularities in the grand jury presentation or if the prosecutor fails to present evidence in a fair and impartial manner in the defendant's absence, legal grounds may exist for the case to be remanded to the grand jury for a re‑determination of probable cause.

Contact Phoenix Criminal Attorney Joshua S. Davidson today if you have any questions about your felony charges.

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