Criminal Justice Procedures in Superior Court
DiscoveryThis is a vast area of criminal procedure, and may actually occur prior to arraignment. It is the system of obtaining information from the opposing party about the case, witnesses, etc. It is a procedural device designed to ensure that for the most part, there will be no big surprises at trial from either party. The state has a duty to disclose the names and statements of witnesses and potential exculpatory evidence within 10 days of the arraignment.
MotionsAll motions are to be filed 20 days before trial. There is no limit to the subject matter of a motion. Examples of defense motions include motions to suppress physical evidence, motions to suppress statements, motions to preclude prior convictions and/or other bad acts, etc. state's motions may include motions to preclude defense evidence as immaterial, etc. Some motions require an evidentiary hearing, after which the court may rule from the bench, or may take the issue under advisement and issue a minute entry ruling. If a party receives an unfavorable ruling on a motion which is crucial to its case, the party might file a special action to the Court of Appeals prior to trial.
Change of PleaIn most cases, a plea agreement is offered to the defendant, who might decide to take the plea rather than go to trial. In court, the defendant will plead guilty to the crimes in the plea agreement. The prosecutor, defense counsel and the defendant all sign the written agreement, which is then accepted by the judge who ascertains that the plea is knowing and voluntary and that there is a sufficient factual basis underlying the guilty plea.
Speedy Trial IssuesThe defendant must be tried within 90 days if in custody and 120 days if not in custody. Any continuance made on behalf of the defendant is excluded from the calculation.
TrialA jury must unanimously find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If the defendant is convicted, the defendant has 10 days to file a motion for new trial.
SentencingBefore sentencing, a pre-sentence report is prepared by the probation department, which sets forth information about the offense, defendants' statements to probation officer, victims' statements, and the probation department's recommendation regarding sentencing. The probation department is an arm of the court. The pre-sentence report is disclosed to the defense, the state, and the judge.
There may also be an aggravation / mitigation hearing where the state presents aggravating evidence, and the defendant presents mitigating evidence. If the defendant is death penalty eligible, this hearing will always occur.
If the defendant is placed on probation at some point, and later violates it, the state or the probation officer may file a petition to revoke the defendant's probation. If a violation is shown, the court has a variety of sentencing options available, including revoking probation and sending defendant to prison.
The trial judge must order restitution if the victim has suffered financial loss. A separate restitution hearing may occur prior to or after sentencing if the amount of restitution is unknown or disputed.