When a prosecutor in Arizona files criminal charges against a person in the courts of the state, the matter, if it goes to trial, will be heard in the superior court of the jurisdiction where the prosecutor filed the charges. If the matter ends and the non-prevailing party believes that a mistake was made at the lower level, that party may appeal the case to intermediate appellate court for review.
In Arizona, there are two intermediate appellate court sites: one in Phoenix and one in Tucson. When a matter is heard by the appellate court three judges will listen to arguments and work together to make a decision regarding the basis of the appealing party’s claims. It is not uncommon for a matter to be sent back down to the superior court after an appeal to have the potentially problematic element addressed at the trial level.
If a party does not agree that an appellate court ruled appropriately on their appeal they have one additional level of appeal to pursue in the state: the state Supreme Court. Unlike the lower appellate courts, however, the state Supreme Court has discretionary power and does not need to hear every case that is appealed to that level.
When a case reaches the state Supreme Court and is approved for review, it will be heard by the seven-judge panel of the court. A ruling at the Supreme Court level may send a case back down to a lower level court for review and rehearing.
The appellate courts are in place to ensure that mistakes may be addressed in both the criminal and civil justice systems. Criminal defendants should be aware that they have rights to appeal and can discuss their options with their criminal defense attorneys.