You have the Constitutional right to proceed to a trial. You are going to have a "bench trial." A bench trial is a trial which occurs before the judge and not a jury. This sheet is intended to give you some information about how to present your case at a bench trial. The procedures of a trial are controlled by Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure. Please review the following steps to help make your trial proceed smoothly
- Read the law. The law that you are alleged to have violated is on the copy of the citation the police officer gave you or on the copy of the complaint you received from the County Attorney's office. It is referred to as "A.R.S." (Arizona Revised Statute) and then there is a number, which is the chapter number and then there is a section number.
- Prepare for your trial. If you plan to call witnesses or present documents,
maps, records or other items at your trial, you must disclose that information
to the county attorney's office. There cannot be any surprises. This is known
as Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure, Rule 15. Also under this Rule, the
prosecutor's office will also provide you with the names of their witnesses and
the documents that they intend to use. This Rule is "…the prosecutor shall make
available to the defendant the following material and information within the prosecutor's
possession or control:
(1) The names and addresses of all persons whom the prosecutor intends to call as witnesses in the case-in-chief together with their relevant written or recorded statements. You can ask to have your witnesses "subpoenaed" which is an order of the court directing them to appear in court.
(2) All statements of the defendant and of any person who will be tried with the defendant, (3) All then existing original and supplemental reports prepared by a law enforcement agency in connection with the particular crime with which the defendant is charged.. (5) A list of all papers, documents, photographs or tangible objects that the prosecutor intends to use at trial or which were obtained from or purportedly belong to the defendant, .. 8) All then existing material or information which tends to mitigate or negate the defendant's guilt as to the offense charged, or which would tend to reduce the defendant's punishment therefore … Most of this information is contained in the police report the county attorney gives to you at the pretrial conference.
- Right to an Attorney: You have the right to have an attorney to represent you at all stages of the proceedings. You can always hire an attorney to present your case at a trial, even if you did not have an attorney when the trial date was set. If you need to have your case continued because you have hired an attorney, do this before your trial date. If you wait until the day of the trial, the judge may not agree to give you a different day for the trial.
- Witnesses - You cannot contact the victim of this offense. The law prohibits you from directly contacting the victim who may be called to testify in this case. Please read the law regarding the rights of victims and witnesses as they have constitutional protections as well as legal protections.
- The Trial -- You will receive a written paper in the courtroom with the date and time of your trial. It will occur at that time and your case may be the only case set at that time: be on time.
- Rule 9 permits the trial to take place without you. If you do not appear for your trial, the Judge may permit the county attorney to present the witnesses' testimony. If the judge finds you are guilty, a warrant can be issued for your arrest for sentencing.
- You will sit at the front table marked "Defendant." The county attorney and her or his investigating officer will be at the table marked "Plaintiff."
- Bring paper and pens to write notes
- Give any photos or documents you want the judge to consider to the judge's clerk. Make sure you have a copy for the prosecuting attorney.
- Trials will often last an hour or two. Make arrangements for your parking, childcare, family responsibilities. You will not be able to use your cell phone in the courtroom. You will not be able to leave once your trial starts.
- This proceeding is formal. You may want to think about your clothes. Just think: What if the judge wore what I am wearing?
- Witnesses Courtroom Testimony
- You cannot submit written or video statements from people rather than having them come to court to testify.
- You can ask questions of people who testify for the county attorney. Questions are very hard to ask. Ask questions by using the words "who, what, where, when or why."
- If you start to argue with the witness or give your version during the testimony of a witness, the judge will stop you. You must follow the court procedures, which requires the prosecutor to present the witness' testimony through answers to questions. You can then ask for more information or clarification by asking questions of the witnesses.
- The judge cannot guess, speculate or imagine what really happened. Sometimes the judge will ask questions, but the questions will only be based on what information was given by the witnesses.
- The judge is not friends with the police officer, the county attorney or the witnesses in the case. If a judge knows any party or witness, the judge must disclose the relationship and may assign the case to another judge.
- If you have witnesses testify for you, please make sure that they are prepared. You don't have to ask the witness questions. Your witness can make a general statement. The statement must be based on what your witness actually saw, heard, smelled, experienced. The witness usually cannot give an opinion.
- After your witness makes a statement, your witness may be asked questions by the County Attorney. This is called cross examination.
- Presenting people to testify about your character (you are a good person) is very limited. You have to be charged with an offense in which your personality is disputed. For example, if you are charged with possession of alcohol as a minor, your character is not in dispute.
- Everything said in the Courtroom is recorded. It is important that you speak clearly and give answers to each question.
- You have the Constitutional right to remain silent and not present
any evidence. If you wish to present a lawful defense, you must be prepared
to present a defense. The State does not to it for you.
The judge will decide the case, based on the evidence or the answers given, if you are guilty or not guilty. The judge will decide if the evidence presented proves beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty of the charge. If the state is unable to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty of the charges, then the judge will find you not guilty. The judge does not have an opinion about your case until all of the testimony is given.
To find the statute or law that you are charged with breaking or violating, go to your local library and ask to see the Arizona Statutes.
OR If you have access to a computer, go to a search engine, such as "Google" and type in the statute number.
For example, if you are charged with violating ARS 13-1203, assault. "13" is the title of the Criminal Code law and "1203" is the section number.The link is http://www.azleg.state.az.us/ArizonaRevisedStatutes.asp?Title=13 -- A person commits assault by: 1. Intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causing any physical injury to another person; or2. Intentionally placing another person in reasonable apprehension of imminent physical injury; or 3. Knowingly touching another person with the intent to injure, insult or provoke such person.
After you read the law, consider the events regarding your case in an objective manner. Remember, a judge cannot find you not guilty of a crime because it wasn't fair that you were arrested or because you don't agree with the penalty the county attorney recommended. The judge will find you not guilty only if the judge has reasonable doubt as to your guilt. The judge will find you guilty if the evidence presented proves that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
In the Pima County Consolidated Justice Court, the judges do not appoint an attorney to represent you unless there is a realistic possibility that a jail sentence will be imposed. Even if the crime you are charged with has a potential jail sentence, the judge or the county attorney will tell you at the beginning of the case if you jail will be recommended if you are found guilty or plead guilty to the charges. If jail is recommended or required, an attorney will be appointed to represent you. If jail is not going to be a possible sentence, then you can hire an attorney or represent yourself. Only licensed attorneys can represent people in court. You can't have a friend or relative speak on your behalf.