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How Felony Charges Are Filed in Phoenix

We are going to provide a brief description of how felony charges are filed in Phoenix and Maricopa County. Misdemeanor cases are handled by municipal prosecutors, while juvenile cases are handled by the juvenile court system.

Unless a crime was committed in the presence of law enforcement, the criminal process begins when someone reports a crime to a local law enforcement agency, such as the Phoenix Police Department (PhxPD) or the Tempe Police Department. Once a crime is reported to one of these agencies, a patrol officer is dispatched to investigate.

Once a parole officer arrives on the scene, the following occurs:

  • First, the officer assists anyone who is injured
  • The officer interviews any victims
  • The officer interviews any witnesses
  • The officer writes a report about the crime

If it was a violent crime, especially a homicide, crime scene investigators may be called in to take photographs, dust for fingerprints, collect ballistic or biological evidence, and any other potential evidence from the crime scene.

If it’s a homicide case or a fatal car accident, the Deputy County Attorney may even come to the crime scene and help the officers with any legal aspects of the investigation.

If the police on the scene have sufficient evidence that a suspect committed a crime, for example, in a domestic violence case, or a fatal DUI accident, they may arrest the suspect on the spot.

When a Suspect is Not Immediately Arrested

Often, the police are called to a crime scene after the offender has fled and is long gone. In these situations, the patrol officer will forward their report to detectives at the law enforcement agency so they can investigate it further.

From there, the detectives may:

  • Contact witnesses
  • Search for additional physical evidence
  • If there was stolen property, get more information about it

Once the detectives complete their investigation and they have probable cause, an arrest may be sought. Or, the detectives may go to the County Attorney’s Office and submit their findings with the prosecutor so he or she can review them.

If the prosecutor doesn’t believe there’s a strong case, they may send it back to the detectives, informing them that there’s insufficient evidence to press charges. The prosecutor may decline to prosecute (no file), or they may tell them that they need to gather additional evidence.

On the other hand, if the prosecutor does think there is enough evidence of a crime, and that they’ll win at trial, he or she will file formal criminal charges.

Are you the target of a pre-file investigation in Phoenix or Tempe? If so, contact the Law Offices of Joshua S. Davidson, PLC for a free consultation!

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