Has your criminal case been scheduled for a Phoenix Docket Conference? If so, you will want an experienced and knowledgable criminal or DUI defense attorney to review the discovery to determine if you should accept your Phoenix plea offer, try and negotiate a new offer, or go to trial. 

What is the Phoenix Court Docket Program?

Phoenix Court is a expedited criminal docket system designed to resolve certain types of cases quickly. In 2008, representatives from the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office traveled to Maricopa County, Arizona to learn more about a program to resolve non-violent misdemeanor cases. In 2010, Allegheny County began implementation of the Phoenix Docket Case Management System, otherwise called Phoenix Court. The Phoenix Court program has reduced the time of disposition on certain types of criminal cases from an average of 409 days to a new average of 209 days. 

What types of cases are accepted into the Phoenix Court Docket? 

The most common Phoenix Court cases are: First DUI Cases where no accident or other crime occurred, and the Defendant is not ARD eligible, Second DUI Cases where no accident or other crime occurred, misdemeanor Possession of a Controlled Substance cases, misdemeanor Possession of Drug Paraphernalia cases, Resisting Arrest cases where no assault occurred, Retail Theft cases and Bad Checks cases. This is a general overview, but not complete listing, of cases that are typically accepted into Phoenix Court. 

How do I get my case on the Phoenix Court Docket? 

Most Phoenix Court cases are independently screened by both Court Administration and the District Attorney's Office, as early as the time of your preliminary hearing. Typically, it must fall under the category of misdemeanor cases listed above.  

How does Phoenix Court work? 

If your case is classified for Phoenix Court, you will receive all of your case reports and documents, referred to as case discovery. You will also receive a written plea offer that day and your case will be scheduled for a Phoenix Docket Conference. 

At your Phoenix Docket Conference, you must decide whether or not to accept the written offer you received at arraignment, to plead guilty without an agreement in place, to attempt and negotiate a new agreement, or to list your case for trial. 

What are the benefits of Phoenix Court? 

The main benefit is that most Phoenix Court plea offers are offers for sentences in the mitigated range of your sentencing guidelines, or for only the mandatory minimum periods of incarceration on a DUI case, with permission for alternative housing. For example, a repeat Retail Theft offender facing 3 months in the mitigated range and 6-16 months in the standard range will typically receive an offer to plead guilty for the reduced 3 month period of incarceration, instead of a higher 6-16 month sentence. 

A second benefit for someone who is incarcerated awaiting trial is that his or her case will typically resolve more quickly through Phoenix Court than a non-Phoenix court case. Most Phoenix Court pleas occur within 1 month of Formal Arraignment, instead of 2-6 months on standard criminal dockets

Should I retain an attorney for Phoenix Court? 

Yes, without question at the earliest stage of prosecution. There are several reasons why hiring an experienced Pittsburgh criminal defense or DUI defense lawyer can work to your benefit. First, at the preliminary hearing, it may be possible to negotiate a withdrawal of certain charges at your preliminary hearing to help ensure that your case is appropriately considered, or "flagged" for Phoenix Court entry. For example, a firm client had Aggravated Assault on a Police Officer charges withdrawn at the preliminary hearing so the client could enter the Phoenix Court program on a Resisting Arrest charge. 

Second, it may be advantageous for you to take your case to a pre-trial motion, or suppression hearing, or trial. An attorney can review your case discovery, discuss your version of events and make contact with any potential defense witnesses that may be needed at trial. Things move quickly, so it's important to get a lawyer to review your case well before you approach your formal arraignment. 

Third, although the Phoenix plea offers are for mitigated range sentences, they are not necessarily the best offers you can receive on a criminal case. For example, our firm has been able to negotiate the following agreements on Phoenix Court cases that were far better than the original offers:

  • House arrest with work, educational and medical release on DUI cases where the plea offer was for alternative housing only;
  • Possession of a Controlled Substance charges amended to Possession of Drug Paraphernalia or Disorderly Conduct offenses, eliminating the 6, 12 or 24 month license suspensions the clients faced;
  • At sentencing, successfully arguing for non-reporting probation or no further penalty for clients who live out of state; 
  • ARD Acceptance for a client improperly charged with a 2nd Offense DUI, based upon a belief that an out of state "Wet Reckless" driving offense counted as a prior offense for sentencing purposes; 
  • Felony Retail Theft charges amended to summary and/or misdemeanor Retail Theft offenses, to help the client avoid a felony record;
  • Negotiating a full withdrawal of Bad Checks cases under a Rule 586 Settlement. 

The Zuckerman Law Firm can help you with your Phoenix Court case

While we cannot make any promises or guarantees, our firm typically charges a lower rate for Phoenix Court representation (without a trial) than for cases that proceed through the general docket. If you are facing a Phoenix Court case, contact the Zuckerman Law Firm today at 412-447-5580 for a free consultation.