If you are facing a federal criminal charge in Arizona, remember above all else that a conviction on some federal charges, such as in a drug trafficking case, may subject you to strict federal sentencing guidelines. This will net you, in many cases, a long stay in federal prison.
But for that to happen, the federal government must follow all of the rules of federal prosecution in Arizona first. The first step in this process is to inform you of the exact nature of the federal charges you face. After you are told of what the charges are, it is customary for you to be held in custody in one of the federal districts in Arizona.
An exception to this is if you are able to make bond and leave jail pending the outcome of the case. If not, you will need to stay in federal custody until you make your first court appearance.
About the Preliminary Hearing
As in all states, the US government in Arizona has to have your preliminary hearing within 72 hours of when you are put under arrest. During the preliminary hearing, you will have your first opportunity to present a challenge to any evidence that the federal government has against you. It is important to know that at this point in the case, there is a low burden of proof on the prosecution. They simply need to show probable cause that you committed a federal crime in Arizona. In the criminal trial, the prosecution must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
The federal government has quite a bit more leeway in the early stages of a case than at the state level. For example, a federal drug case has fewer opportunities for your defense to review evidence and to interview witnesses before trial. That is why in a federal charge case, pretrial investigation is vital.
Also, at the federal preliminary hearing, the federal government can have witnesses testify about hearsay. In other words, in most cases, federal prosecutors in Arizona will have sufficient evidence to detain you until trial.
About the Bond Hearing
In Arizona, the federal bond hearing occurs any time that you are held on a federal charge. Of course, it’s natural that most of the accused will attempt to be release pending the outcome of the investigation and trial. But know that most cases tried at the federal level mandate that you be either an American citizen or a legal resident for you to be released. No one with federal warrants against them can be released on bond.
A good attorney will attempt to increase your chances of being released on federal bond. He or she may have witnesses testify about the quality of your character. It is very important for the federal government to ensure that you do not flee the country if you are released. Fleeing suspects for serious federal crimes makes the federal government look bad, particularly congresspeople in that state.
Federal Jurisdictions in Arizona
There is only one federal district court in Arizona, as authorized by Congress in 1910. It hears cases in Phoenix, Tucson, Flagstaff, Yuma and Prescott. Which city your trial is held in will depend upon where the alleged crime was committed.
Sentences for Federal Crimes in Arizona
If you are convicted of a federal crime in Arizona, you will be sentenced by a federal judge, and the federal sentencing guidelines will determine how long of a sentence that you receive. Keep in mind that in some cases, such as a drug one, you may have to serve a mandatory minimum sentence. These sentences were put in place in Arizona and across the country in the last 20 years or so with the purpose of putting hardened criminals behind bars for five or ten years or even more.
The length of your sentence also will be determined by your previous criminal record, and the seriousness of the crime. Your lawyer may be able to have you plead guilty to a lesser charge so you get a lesser sentence.
Know that even if you are convicted of a federal crime, you still can face state charges for the same crime or crimes in Arizona.
Top Arizona Federal Crime Issues
Federal records show that Arizona is one of the deadliest states for crimes committed with guns. Over a nine year period, the rate of gun deaths in the state was 7th in the US, and 6th for murders involving guns.
Arizona reported over 3,000 gun murders from 1999 to 2007, which is about six gun murders per 100,000 people. The national average was four.
Immigration crimes also are often prosecuted here at the federal level.
Statute of Limitations in Arizona
For federal crimes, there is a uniform statute of limitations for each type of crime in Arizona and elsewhere, depending upon whether it was a civil or criminal charge.
Note that states such as Arizona have different statutes of limitations, which would apply if you are charged with a state crime.
- Assault – 2 years
- Contract – 10 years
- False imprisonment – 2 years
- Fraud – 5 years
- Judgements – 20 years
- Libel – 1 year
- Personal injury – 2 years
- Property damage – 5 years
- Slander – 1 year
- Wrongful death – 2 years
- Arson – No limit
- Assault – 3 years
- Burglary – 3 years
- Murder – no limit
- Manslaughter – no limit
- Rape – no limit or 3 years, depending on case
- Kidnapping – 3 years
- Robbery – 3 years