In a case before the Arizona Court of Appeals earlier this month, the defendant appealed his conviction and sentence for aggravated driving while under the influence. Originally, the defendant was charged and found guilty after a jury trial; he was sentenced to concurrent twelve-year prison terms because the jury found that he was on felony release when he committed the offenses. The defendant asked the higher court to vacate his sentence, but after reviewing the case, the court rejected the appeal and affirmed the original conviction.
Facts of the Case
According to the opinion, the defendant was charged with two counts of aggravated driving while under the influence. The State tried to offer the defendant a settlement deal, which would have allowed him to accept a sentence of five years in prison if he agreed to plead guilty. The defendant rejected the deal and decided he wanted to move forward with trial.
Two days before trial, the trial judge had the parties in for a scheduling conference, just to talk about logistics for trial. At that conference, the judge asked the defendant about whether he was sure he did not want to settle the case. The defendant stated that he was sure, and that he wanted to proceed with trial as originally planned.
The case went to trial, and the defendant was found guilty as charged. After he was sentenced, he appealed before the court of appeals. The defendant’s argument was that the trial judge broke one of Arizona’s rules of criminal procedure by participating in the parties’ settlement discussions. According to state rules, the judge that is going to proceed over a defendant’s trial is not allowed to also be involved in conversations about whether the case is going to settle.
The court of appeals examined the trial court judge’s conduct to see whether he did, in fact, break the rule that the defendant was referencing. The higher court determined that the judge was actually just verifying that the defendant wanted to go to trial, given the fact that he could face a harsher sentence if found guilty at trial. The court thus determined that the judge was ensuring the defendant knew his rights instead of actively participating in “settlement discussions.” The kind of conversation that the judge had with the parties, said the higher court, was not prohibited under the law.
Given this conclusion, the court denied the defendant’s appeal.
Are You Facing DUI Charges in the State of Arizona?
If you or a loved one is facing charges for a DUI or other crime in Arizona, give us a call at the Law Office of James E. Novak. We understand that criminal procedure can be tough to navigate, and we are fully committed to handling the litigation of your case so that you don’t have to. If you are fighting criminal charges, don’t wait. Call us today for a free and confidential consultation at 480-413-1499. You can also fill out our online form to have your questions answered.