Arizona Misdemeanors are the most common type of criminal charge in this state. They are also often the most ridiculous. Ridiculous because of the lack of evidence, the process that is used in haling someone into court and the way these cases are too often handled by prosecutors. This article will concern itself with all Arizona Misdemeanors except DUI’s, as that deserves its own blog entry.
It usually goes like this: someone is ticketed by the police, usually for more than one crime. That person then goes to Court after being told by the police that it is no big deal. Then, without ever having the opportunity to speak with a lawyer, they are asked by the prosecutor if they are willing to talk.
The prosecutor then says something along the lines of: you can either take this to trial and risk going to jail for one year and $5,000.00 in fines, or you can plead guilty to the disorderly conduct charge, I will dismiss the other charge, and you will only pay a $250.00 fine. They might even offer you diversion so that the charge will eventually be dismissed. Sounds great, right? Not always.
First of all no matter what the prosecutor offers you in terms of a plea deal, and no matter how great it sounds, you now have a criminal record that will never go away. You can possibly have it set aside one day, but it will be impossible to ever get it completely removed (and no it does not go away automatically after so many years). Secondly, let’s not forget you have the right to a lawyer!
Going into court can be quite intimidating. When you sit down with that prosecutor you have literally the entire State working against you; no one is on your side. To quote a famous Supreme Court opinion on the right to a lawyer, “[g]overnments…spend vast sums of money to establish machinery to try defendants accused of crime.” For this reason it is essential that you have an attorney before agreeing to anything. Often times misdemeanors are some of the best to take to trial because of this entire process. I hate to say it, but because everyone involved (but the defendant) knows that it will almost certainly end up in a plea agreement, there does not need to be solid evidence to convict someone. And because it is not a felony (where a prosecutor would not dare even speak to you before you speak to a lawyer), people often end up pleading guilty before they even realize what they have done. I see it every day. So do yourself a favor and before walking into that court with an Arizona Misdemeanor charge…call a lawyer.