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Criminal Law Blog

Specialty Courts in Tucson

June 10, 2022

Pima County has several legal systems within it-and even more within each system. Sounds complicated? It can be. Each town or municipality has its own court system to handle misdemeanor offenses. The Town of Oro Valley and Marana Municipal Court for example each have a courthouse with a dedicated magistrate judge to resolve misdemeanor criminal offenses and traffic offenses. The City of Tucson and Pima County Justice Court also handle misdemeanor criminal offenses. What about felonies in Pima County? All felony offenses begin in Pima County Justice Court and move up to Pima County Superior Court. 

Sounds simple enough? There is more. Let’s say you are a veteran or an active duty service member-if you are accused of a criminal offense, you may find yourself in Veterans Court in Pima County Justice Court or Tucson City Court. Veterans Court helps resolve criminal cases where the accused is someone  who has served our military or are currently serving in the armed forces. Generally, a diversion resolution is offered by the State of Arizona through the prosecutor. Diversion means the accused undergoes some kind of counseling and in exchange the charges are dismissed. The prosecutor may not always offer diversion to resolve the case. Even if the prosecutor does not offer diversion in veteran’s court, a person may still want to stay in Veterans court because free or very low cost counseling services may be available or certain kinds of counseling with the Veterans Administration may be available. Vet Court is a specialty court and is grant funded so the plea offers must conform with the grant money rules. One example of grant money guidelines is that only certain offenses may go in Vet Court at the State’s discretion. Driving Under the Influence offenses and indecent exposure offenses are examples of kinds of offenses that are frequently excluded from specialty courts like veteran’s courts. 

There are other specialty courts. Homeless Court, Domestic Violence Court, Behavioral Health Court, and Animal Welfare Court. Sometimes those accused can get a better outcome in a specialty court-other times it is the same or worse. If you are accused of a DV offense, you will begin your case in front of the DV judge in either city court or Pima county justice court-that assumes you are charged in those places and not Sahuarita, Marana, or Oro Valley, or South Tucson. So, if you stay in DV court in City or Justice Court then the prosecutor, the State, has plea guidelines they must follow for that court. These guidelines could say that the prosecutor is not allowed to dismiss charges-never ever ever. So even though it may be that all of the alleged victims are deceased, and all the supposed witnesses are deceased, and the law enforcement officers involved quit and cannot be located, you will still have charges and likely have to go to trial to get them dismissed because the prosecutor cannot simply dismiss the case. An extreme example but you get the idea. Other times, being in specialty court is helpful. Let’s say your licensed and vaccinated well cared for dog gets out and growls at some neighbor kids-over and over again. Yes, that is a crime in AZ. The prosecutor may offer to dismiss the charges if you get the latch on the fence fixed so the dog cannot get out anymore. 

As with any case, call a criminal defense lawyer to discuss the specifics. Most of us will chat with you for free and try to help by providing information.

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