If you are charged with a criminal offense you MUST go before the Judge.
In criminal cases defendants may be represented be an attorney. However, this frequently is not the case, especially in a court of limited jurisdiction such as ours. People may represent themselves in court without an attorney, as long as they follow court rules. They often are called pro per or pro se litigants. In some cases, depending on financial status and if the judge is considering jail time, a defendant may qualify for a court appointed attorney.
Initial Appearance - First appearance in court by a defendant. The defendant is advised of the charges and rights. The judge appoints an attorney if the defendant qualifies for one.
(Note: Like in many limited jurisdiction courts in Arizona, the San Luis Municipal Court combines the initial appearance and arraignment.)
Arraignment - The defendant appears in court to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. The court first explains each option.
If the defendant pleas NOT GUILTY a pre-trial conference with the city prosecutor will be scheduled. If the defendant pleas GUILTY or NO CONTEST and the court accepts the plea, he/she will be sentenced.
Trial - If the defendant pleads not guilty, and no agreement is made with the prosecutor, a trial is held. The judge, or at the defendant’s request, a jury, can hear evidence on the charges and find the defendant guilty or not guilty.
Sentencing - If the defendant is found guilty, the court imposes the appropriate punishment (sentence).