The Gilbert Municipal Court has jurisdiction over criminal misdemeanor cases. Class 1 misdemeanors in Arizona carry a maximum penalty of six months in jail and/or a $2,500 fine plus surcharges.
The following information is intended to provide a brief description of the options available to you when you appear in court and help you understand basic criminal proceedings, including your rights and duties.
If a criminal complaint or criminal citation has been filed against you: You mustappear in court on your arraignment date, as indicated on your summons or citation.
If you fail to appear for your arraignment date or for any other criminal court date, a warrant may be issued for your arrest, the case may proceed to trial, and you may be convicted of the charge(s) in your absence.
If you must request a postponement of your criminal court date, you must file a written motion in person, by fax (480) 635-7820, or mail it to the court before the court date. Be sure to write clearly and include your full name, case/citation number and a return address. If you do not have a response prior to your court date you must appear in court as previously instructed.
What happens at the arraignment date?
On your arraignment date, the Judge will
- confirm your true name and address
- explain your rights
- advise you of the charge(s) that you are facing
- tell you the range of sentence you could face for the charge(s)
- determine whether you would like a lawyer to represent you
- ask you how you would like to plead to the charge(s)
On the arraignment date, the Judge will not be able to hear testimony from witnesses on this date and will not have the authority to dismiss or modify any criminal charge. Crime victims have the right to be present and to make statements to the Judge at the arraignment date. The Judge will presume that you are innocent, unless the State can prove your guilt later at a trial.
How should I plead at my arraignment date?
Under our American system of justice, all persons are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Your decision on what plea to enter is one of the most important decisions you will have to make. There are three possible pleas to a criminal charge:
Plea of Not Guilty - This means that you are informing the court that you deny guilt and that the state must prove the criminal charge(s) against you. In the Gilbert Municipal Court, the state is represented by the Town prosecutor's office. If you enter a plea of not guilty on your arraignment date, the Judge will set your case for either a pre-trial conference or a formal trial date. The Judge will ask you to decide, if you have not already done so, whether to employ an attorney to represent you or, if you are concerned that you cannot afford a private attorney, whether you would like to ask the Judge to appoint a public defender to represent you. A public defender is an attorney who will take your case for a reduced cost. A financial affidavit must be completed in order for the Judge to determine if you are eligible for a public defender. If the public defender is appointed to represent you, you may be ordered to pay a portion of the attorney's cost once the case is over. The represented defendant should communicate with the Court through the attorney and NOT directly with the Court.
Plea of Guilty - You admit that you committed the act charged in the complaint(s), that the act is prohibited by law and that you have no legal defense for your act. A plea of guilty can result in the criminal conviction being entered onto your criminal record, and other agencies, such as the Motor Vehicle Department or immigration enforcement agencies, may impose additional consequences against you. Once you plead guilty, it is virtually impossibly to change your mind and go back to a not guilty plea. The judge will proceed with sentencing at this time.
Plea of No Contest - This plea means that you are not admitting guilt but that you also do not wish to contest the charge at a trial; in other words, you are willing to accept the conviction without admitting guilt. A plea of no contest can result in the criminal conviction being entered onto your criminal record, and other agencies, such as the Motor Vehicle Department or immigration enforcement agencies, may impose additional consequences against you. Once you plead no contest, it is virtually impossibly to change your mind and go back to a not guilty plea. The judge will proceed with sentencing at this time.
What happens at a pre-trial conference?
You and/or your attorney will be given an opportunity to meet with a Prosecutor to review the case. You are entitled to review a copy of the complaint(s), any written police reports or any other evidence that the state intends to use against you. Witnesses do not attend the pre-trial disposition conference and no testimony is taken. Crime victims have the right to be present at this proceeding. If you and the prosecutor reach a plea agreement, or a settlement, during this conference, the agreement will be put into writing and presented to the Judge. If no agreement is reached between the parties, the Judge may set the case for trial or for additional hearings or conferences as needed.
What happens at a trial?
At a trial, the State’s attorney will attempt to prove the charge(s) against you. The State must prove a criminal charge beyond any reasonable doubt, otherwise you must be found not guilty at trial. To prove their case, the State will often call witnesses such as officers, MVD employees, and eyewitnesses to the alleged crime.
At the trial, you are entitled to hear all of the testimony the State presents against you. You have the right to question any of the witnesses who testify against you. You also have the right to testify on your own behalf if you want to, but if you choose not to testify, your refusal cannot be used against you in determining your guilt or innocence. If you do choose to testify, the Prosecutor will have the right to question you. You may call witnesses of your own to testify on your behalf. You may ask the Judge to issue subpoenae that require the witnesses to appear and testify on the trial date.
Depending on the charge(s) you are facing, you may be entitled to a trial by jury.
If you are found guilty after a trial, your trial judge will then conduct a sentencing.
You have the right to appeal your conviction after a trial.
If you plead guilty or no contest to a crime, or if you are found guilty or a crime after a trial, the Judge will then determine your sentence.
For most misdemeanors, there is a wide range of possible sentence. For example, most class 1 misdemeanors have a range of a minimum sentence of nothing at all up to a maximum sentence of 6 months in jail, 3 years on probation, and $2500 in fines plus surcharges. For some criminal offenses, there are statutorily-required minimum sentences.
When choosing your sentence, the Judge will consider the State’s recommendation, your prior criminal history, whether you caused an damage or injury to another party, you or your attorney’s recommendation, your financial circumstances, the victim’s recommendation and any other concerns dictated by the facts of the case. The Judge will then craft a sentence that he or she feels will best meet the needs of rehabilitation for you,retribution for the victim, and restitution for the community.
If you were found guilty at trial and sentenced, you have the right to appeal your conviction to a higher court. For a guidebook on how to appeal a criminal case, go to the Arizona Judicial Branch official site.
The Judge will inform you that you have fourteen days from your sentencing date to file a Notice of Appeal with the Gilbert Municipal Court, otherwise you will lose the right to appeal. After your notice is filed, the Judge will mail you additional instructions and deadlines. Your sentence will be stayed pending the outcome of the appeal.