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Criminal Law Blog

Understanding the Steps of a Criminal Case

Tucson Criminal Court with Janet Altschuler

August 19, 2022

You may have seen the steps of a criminal case play out on television, but criminal cases look much different in real life. If you are accused of a crime, it is important to understand the steps in a criminal case and what you can expect at each stage. The law office of Janet Altschuler is committed to helping you navigate the intricacies of a criminal case and receive the best possible outcome. Read on to get a better understanding of the steps of a criminal case in Arizona.


The first step in a criminal case is usually an arrest. The police will take you into custody and transport you to the station for booking. You will have your mugshot taken and be fingerprinted. The police will also search you and confiscate any evidence they find on your person. If you are arrested, it is important to remain calm and avoid saying anything that could incriminate yourself. Even minor details you let slip could affect the outcome of your case. You have the right to remain silent, and you should exercise that right until you have an attorney present. Police may try to manipulate you into disregarding your rights, but you should never speak to them until your lawyer can be in the room.

Establishment of Charges

After you have been arrested, the prosecutor will review the evidence against you and decide what charges to file. The charges will be formally filed in a document called an indictment or information. In some cases, the prosecutor may offer you a plea bargain, which is an agreement to plead guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for a lighter sentence. You should not accept a plea bargain without first consulting with an attorney.

Arraignment and Bond Hearing

After the charges have been filed, you will appear before a judge for your arraignment. The judge will read the charges against you and ask you how you plead. You can plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest. You will be informed of your right to counsel, and the presiding judge will set the conditions for your potential release and bail amount. Often, the arraignment will happen on the same day as the arrest.


The pretrial stage gives your attorney and the prosecutor the opportunity to review the information about your case. Your attorney may file motions to suppress evidence or dismiss the charges against you. If the case does go to trial, the pretrial stage is when witness lists are exchanged, and depositions are taken. The vast majority of cases are resolved during the pretrial stage through plea bargains or dismissal of charges.


If your case does go to trial, both sides will present their evidence and argument to a jury. The jury will decide whether the prosecution has proven your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The prosecution will often deliver their arguments first, followed by the defense. Attorneys will question witnesses, present their cases, and make their best case to prove their arguments. The jury will then decide whether to convict you. This can be the most stressful part of the criminal case process, but you will be glad you have an experienced attorney by your side.


If you are convicted of a crime, the judge will hand down your sentence. The sentence will depend on the severity of the crime and any aggravating or mitigating factors. You may be sentenced to probation, house arrest, jail time, or even prison. The severity of the sentence is usually greater for more serious crimes, while minor crimes may receive milder outcomes. In some cases, you may be able to appeal your sentence. Your attorney can advise you on the best course of action if you are convicted.


If you are convicted of a crime, you have the right to appeal your conviction. The appeals process is complex and can be difficult to navigate without an experienced attorney. Janet Altschuler will review your case and determine if there are any grounds for an appeal. If an appeal is filed, it will be heard by a higher court. The court will review the record of your trial and decide whether to overturn your conviction.

If you’ve been arrested or accused of a crime, you don’t have to face your criminal case alone. Janet Altschuler has been helping the residents of Tucson, AZ navigate the steps of criminal cases in Arizona for over twenty years, and she can help you get the best possible outcome.

For your convenience, Janet Altschuler can be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. To schedule a free consultation, you can call 520-247-1789 or 520-200-5003.

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