An Attorney That Has Built a Good Reputation in the Courts Provides a Great Benefit to the Client
Interviewer: Do you feel because you’ve appeared in front of the same set of people many times that you developed a professional relationship with them? What do you think it does for you and for your clients?
Mike Munoz: I think having a good reputation with any court room is always going to help you with your clients. When you practice in the same courts over and over again, you understand their system, you understand how the prosecutors and the judges like their courts, how they run their courts, and how they want things done.
And when you know how a courtroom wants things done, if you do it that way then you’re more likely to get a more favorable outcome for your client. When you’re trying to do things that may not be possible or unlikely in a court, that’s obviously going to cause more friction. Being able to plan ahead based on your prior experiences is a great benefit for your clients.
What Are the Steps in the Defense of a Criminal Case?
Interviewer: In criminal cases, what are the names of the types of court appearances that you have to make and what happens, for instance, at the arraignments or the pre-trial hearings?
In Misdemeanor Cases, the First Court Appearance Is Typically the Arraignment
Mike Munoz: For misdemeanor cases, your first court date is likely going to be your arraignment. Your arraignment is really a hearing that goes back from when our country was first founded. The whole purpose of the arraignment is to give notice to the defendant of what they’re being charged with. That’s the purpose of the arraignment. It’s really a notice hearing.
It Is Customary in Arizona to Plead Not Guilty at the Arraignment
An example is, “Mr. Smith, you’ve been charged with X, Y, and Z, on this date,” and it’s essentially explaining the allegations of what crime was alleged to have been committed. Then the court asks you, “How do you plead, guilty or not guilty?” It’s customary in America and in Arizona to always plead not guilty at the arraignment
The purpose for that is that there has been no work on preparing a defense and a prosecution for the case. At the arraignment, it’s very unlikely to know what evidence the state plans on trying to use against the person. There’s no reason to plead guilty when you’re presumed innocent until we know what their evidence is. So that’s the whole idea of defense.
Meeting with the Prosecutor at the Status Conference or Pre-Trial Disposition
When you plead not guilty at the arraignment, then every court has a version of what they call a pre-trial conference, also known as a status conference or also known as a pre-disposition conference. Every court has different terminology but they’re really the same thing. They’re status conferences. So after the arraignment they’ll put a status conference. You’ll appear at the status conference and meet with the prosecutor.
Discovery Is Obtained at the Status Conference
On your first status conference, you’re likely going to be given the discovery, which is a fancy name for police reports. The police will disclose the witnesses they plan on using, the evidence they have against your client and then you may even get the initial plea offer.
That is the opportunity to meet with the prosecutor face to face and talk to them about possible plea negotiations, and give them any information as well to them in terms of your defense.