Being charged with a criminal offense in the state of Arizona can be an incredibly difficult and confusing challenge! However, with the assistance of a qualified and skilled criminal litigation attorney, the process can be less overwhelming.  A good criminal defense lawyer can assist with the process from beginning to end. Most people believe that the end of a criminal case is when a guilty plea is entered or a verdict of guilty has been received and they have been sentenced.  This is only the end of the trial portion of the case. Even a good criminal lawyer will not win every case. It is important to know that if you have pled guilty to a crime or have been found guilty by a judge or jury that you still have avenues of relief that are available to you. Losing at trial does not mean that you have lost all hope.

The Arizona rules of criminal procedure provide for several ways in which someone who has been convicted or pled guilty to a criminal offense can obtain relief or assistance. As with many other areas of law, there are important time rules that must be followed. Failure to file the proper motion at the proper time could and most likely would prevent the possible relief from being granted even if it is warranted under the circumstances.  The specifics of these forms of relief are not going to be discussed at this point in time as each one of them deserves their own attention. Please see other blogs that address these specific forms of relief.

The first form of relief that is available to someone who is convicted either by a judge or jury is a rule 24.1 motion for new trial.  This rule specifically states that any request for a new trial under this rule must be filed within 10 days of the verdict being rendered. The rule and subsequent caselaw are very specific in stating that motions filed after the ten-day time of it has expired will not be considered.  One possible exception for this time limit is for a motion that is based on newly discovered evidence.  However, these is a possible exception and not the rule.

The second form of relief available is rule 24.2 motion to vacate judgment.  This motion must be filed within 60 days after the judgment has been entered in the sentence has been imposed.

Someone who has been convicted either from a plea of guilty or a finding of guilty by judge or jury has a third form of relief available to them under rule 32.  This rule addresses all forms of post conviction relief that are available and it is the most common form of  post conviction relief that is filed. It does not include issues that should be raised on appeal but can address most of the issues that are available under rule 24. As with the other rules, rule 32 post conviction relief requests must be filed in a timely manner. Rule 32 relief also can only be brought after the verdict of guilty has been entered and the sentence has been imposed. The time limit for filing rule 32 motions is 90 days following sentence.

fourth form of relief that is available after sentence is imposed is by filing a formal appeal from that sentence and conviction.  It is not possible to file an appeal following a plea of guilty. One of the rights you get when you plead guilty, is the right to an appeal. Any issues that come up as a result of a plea of guilty must be filed and addressed pursuant to rule 32.  However, all other findings of guilt and imposition of sentence can be addressed under the rules for an appeal in the state of Arizona. The most important thing to understand with regard to an appeal is that it is not merely a second opinion on your case. An appeal will only be granted when you can show that there has been some type of error in law or procedure.  The process of filing a formal appeal begins with the filing of a notice of appeal that MUST be filed within 15 days of the imposition of sentence.

Even after a plea of guilty or a conviction and sentence and all the time limits have run for a motion for new trial, appeal or post conviction relief, it is still possible to receive assistance and relief from whatever sentence or conviction you have received.  The Arizona rules of criminal procedure allow a fifth form of relief which is the filing of motions to modify sentence, to modify the terms and conditions of probation and motions to terminate probation prior to the actual expiration date for probation. These motions can be filed at any time by any party to the case including the judge.  A successful motion to modify probation can limit or even delete terms of probation.  Many individuals who resolve their felony criminal matter through a plea agreement do so by pleading to a class six open or a class six undesignated offense. These types of cases incentivize the defendant to successfully complete probation by allowing the defendant to have the offense designated a misdemeanor upon successful completion of probation. It is possible, under the rules of criminal procedure, to file a motion to terminate probation early and you have the offense designated a misdemeanor. It is good practice in all cases involving class six open or undesignated offenses to file a motion to designate the offense a misdemeanor upon termination from probation. It is not always automatic. Many people believe the court will be good and keep their word. However, often times it is necessary to file a motion to designate the offense a misdemeanor to remind the court of the obligation and to ensure that it is done in a timely manner.

Finally, many convictions for either a misdemeanor or felony he can have an effect on your civil rights. Felony convictions effect a person’s right to vote, to possess firearms, to serve in the military, and to serve on a jury, among other rights. Following a successful termination of the case and fulfillment of the sentence, it is possible to file a motion to set aside the connection and to restore civil rights. This is a good practice for any criminal conviction.  While it does not “expunge” the record, it does clean it up as much as possible under the laws of the state of Arizona.


In future blog entries, I will explore each of these forms of relief in detail. Until then,this blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice, please feel free to contact Mesa Criminal Attorney, Garrett L. Smith at 480-540-6021 log on to, or contact an attorney in your area.