Arizona Criminal Law 101: What Is a Form 4?

It’s not rocket science and, in fact, it’s pretty basic. Yet, few criminal defense attorneys in Arizona understand what a Form 4 is - let alone its value in defending clients facing serious felony charges.

When someone is arrested in Arizona, whether it’s for a sex crime, a white collar offense, a drug conspiracy charge, or even something as minor as littering, the arresting officer must complete a Form 4. Although many people have been mystified over the origin of this important document’s title, the truth is that the term Form 4 is derived from the fact that it originated in a book of criminal law forms, somewhere between Form 3 and Form 5. Amazing, isn’t it?

What’s Contained In a Form 4?

When the arresting officer completes the document, some of the things that are typically included about the person who was arrested are:

  • Residence and length of time at the that address
  • Injuries to any victim
  • Prior convictions
  • Domestic violence issues
  • Information applicable to drug offenses
  • Probable Cause Statement

This last item is perhaps the most important. I’ll get back to that in a moment, so please bear with me.

Who Reads a Form 4?

When someone is arrested in Arizona, they must have an initial appearance within 24 hours and have their release conditions determined by a judge or magistrate. The first thing the judge will do is review the Form 4 to see if there is probable cause for the arrest.

The probable cause statement is generally a summary of the conduct that the officer believes constitutes a crime and forms the basis for an arrest. Sometimes the statement has minimal detail and other times it looks like a full police report. If the judge does not find probable cause for the arrest, the person must be released on the spot.

If the judge does find probable cause after reading the Form 4, then the Court must set release conditions. The Court will utilize the other information in the Form 4 to determine how much bond is necessary to ensure that the person will appear at all future court dates. In some cases, the person can be released on their own recognizance, i.e. their promise to appear.

How a Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Use a Form 4

Let me first say that I love to utilize a Form 4 for my client’s defense. Very few other criminal defense attorneys in Phoenix do and, for the life of me, I just can’t understand why they don’t. Not only can a Form 4 be chock-full of information about an investigation that police don’t necessarily want to reveal right away, but they are also submitted by the officer under penalty of perjury.

If the officer later makes statements or gives testimony that is contrary to the Form 4, he or she can be cross-examined about the inconsistencies between their respective statements. And even in the worst case scenario (or the best case scenario for my client), it is unlikely that perjury charges will be brought against the officer (remember that we are in Arizona), but the jury will almost never take kindly to this sort of thing and will think poorly of the officer’s credibility. That only assists in getting a not guilty verdict.

If you or someone you love has been arrested or charged with a serious felony offense, contact us at (602) 663-9100 to speak with our experienced and successful Phoenix criminal defense lawyer today!

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