Arizona Criminal Defense Attorney Blog

Articles Posted in Arizona Criminal Defense

Woman chaced and pulled over by policeYour Rights at a Stop; 10 Defenses for Drug Charges; Mitigating Sentencing; Drug Trafficking Laws; Penatlies.

This is Part 2 of our Case Study on a recent Arizona Court of Appeals ruling involving Marijuana Trafficking charges.

If you’re just joining us, here’s a quick summary of the case: Recently, an Arizona Superior Court granted suppression of the Marijuana evidence that led to the State’s dismissal of the charges. The State promptly appealed arguing that the lower court erred in dismissing the Marijuana evidence found in the vehicle the suspect was driving.   The state argued on Appeal that the detention of the suspect for 40 minutes while awaiting the drug K-9 unit was not unreasonable.

The Appeals Court agreed, and overturned the lower court’s ruling, based on totality of the circumstances at the time.   The factors that the Appellate Court considered were the police officers extensive knowledge and experience in drug trafficking detection; prior drug crimes history of the suspect; voluntary statements made by the suspect at the time of the stop; and the suspect’s consent to search the vehicle he was driving.

In this discussion we focus on criminal rights at a stop, common defenses for drug crimes, laws, and drug trafficking penalties in Arizona.

Criminal Rights at a Police Stop

In the case study, the police used the suspect’s inconsistent statement about his destination to police which were used against him. The suspect also agreed to a search of his vehicle, which led to the discovery of the boxes of Marijuana in the trunk of his rental car.

Under the 5th Amendment of the US Constitution a person is afforded protection from self-incrimination. A person has the right to remain silent upon questioning by police, except to answer routine identification or procedural question during an investigative stop. But a suspect does not have to answer questions about where they were, or where they were going at an investigative stop.

At a police stop, a person has the right remain silent, including the right to refrain from answering questions about where we are going.  A person also has the right to refuse a search of their vehicle. There are a few exceptions to this including police having a valid warrant, or what is known as exigent circumstances. A person has these rights under state and federal laws, whether the Miranda warning is read to them or not. It is critical to invoke these rights. Failure to do so may result in arrest and prosecution.

In this case, the statements offered by the suspect were seemingly innocent, and had nothing to do with the illegal drugs that were in the trunk of the vehicle.  However, the officer testified that he found the suspect’s statements “perplexing” and “confusing”, which raised the officer’s suspicions of the suspect’s potential criminal activity.

Alone, the suspect’s statements may not have been sufficient to raise suspicion of criminal involvement. But the officer took into account other factors he observed, when he decided to further detain the suspect. So the seemingly innocent statements made by the suspect, were used by police against him in this case. When this happens it constitutes a form of self-incrimination.

Under the 4th Amendment, a person is protected against unlawful search and seizures. If a person consents to the search, the officer may search their vehicle without a valid search warrant. In this case the suspect consented to a search of the vehicle. But he refused to extend his consent to the contents of an unmarked, taped box in the trunk. At this point the police requested the K-9 unit to investigate the boxes with the suspicion that the boxes contained illegal drugs. It was the original consent however of the vehicle that led the discovery of the suspicious boxes in the trunk of the vehicle.

10 Common Drug Crimes Defenses

A number of defenses can be used to challenge drug charges. Which defenses your attorney uses to challenge the charges will be heavily based on the facts and circumstances surrounding the case. There are also, different types of defenses that made be used pre-trial or during trial. Below is a sample of 10 defenses commonly used by experienced drug crime defense lawyers:

• Reason for the stop:
• Unlawful search and seizure rights;
• Violations of Miranda Rights;
• Unlawful detention;
• Police procedural violations;
• No probable cause for arrest;
• Other constitutional violations;
• The drugs belonged to someone else;
• Entrapment;
• The suspect was unaware that they were in possession of the drugs:

Note: It is not a valid defense for someone to be unaware of the laws in Arizona regarding the legality of Marijuana. But rather, it would be a valid defense if the accused was reasonably unaware that they possessed illegal drugs, or that the vehicle they are driving contained them.

5 Sentencing Diversion or Reduction Factors

If a person is found guilty or pleads guilty to a drug crime there are multiple factors the court takes into consideration.   The general rules are that crimes involving repeat drug convictions, and higher quantities call for the most severe of penalties under the Arizona criminal justice system.

Below are some common alternatives that can be used to reduce the severity of  penalties or help a defendant avoid incarceration:

  • Successful completion of substance abuse program, (TASC) in place of incarceration for qualified first time offenders with no criminal history;
  • Amount of illegal drugs involved was below the Statutory “Threshold Amount” or lower than the person had been originally accused of possessing;
  • No weapons were involved No other aggravated circumstances were involved;
  • No prior criminal records;
  • Felony charges reclassified to allow which serve to reduce sentencing and penalties.

Arizona Marijuana Transportation Laws

In Arizona it is unlawful to possess, use, sell, transport or distribute Marijuana, outside of the scope of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA) A.R.S. 36 – Chapter 28.1 recreational use of Marijuana is not lawful in any form.

A person may be guilty of violating A.R.S. 13-3405 (A) (4) if they knowingly transport for sale, import into the state; offer to transport for sale, or import into this state; or transfer marijuana in Arizona.

Marijuana Trafficking Penalties

The penalties below apply to non-dangerous, non-violent, non-multiple, non-repetitive offenses:

If a person is found guilty of illegally transporting an amount of less than two pounds of Marijuana they will be convicted of a Class 3 felony. Penalties for this offense range from 2 years Mitigated to 8.75 years Aggravated; 3.5 Presumptive prison sentencing.

If a person is found guilty of illegally transporting a weight of two pounds, the Statutory Threshold Amount, under A.R.S. 13-3405 (C) or more of Marijuana, they will be convicted of a Class 2 felony.  Penalties for this offense range from 3 years Mitigated to 12.5 years Aggravated; 5 years Presumptive prison sentencing;  ineligible for probation.

Fines not less than $750.00 or three times the value of the marijuana whichever is greater up to $150,000 per charge per person or 1, 000,000 per charge per enterprise; other fines, fees, costs, and assessments; supervised probation or parole if eligible; Felony Criminal Record; Community Service or Restitution; Completion of Drug Rehabilitation or Substance Abuse Program; Loss of civil rights to vote and possess arms; Other penalties ordered by the court.

Felony Drug Defense Attorney

In Arizona, all Marijuana drug sales and trafficking convictions call for serious punishment. It is possible that a person convicted of drug sales or trafficking, could spend the the rest of their life in prison. If you face any felony drug charge, it is important that you consult an experienced felony drug defense attorney to discuss your options for defense.

James Novak, DUI & Criminal Defense Attorney is an experienced and highly skilled drug defense lawyer. As a former prosecutor he has a vast amount of litigation experience in drug charges. The Law Office of James Novak, PLLC  is exclusively limited to DUI, and criminal defense.  If retained, James Novak, Attorney will protect your rights, defend your charges, and work hard to resolve your case for the most favorable outcome possible.  Some outcomes may include dismissal, reduction of charges and  sentencing, avoidance of incarceration, and other mitigation in sentencing.

James Novak provides a free initial consultation for active charges, in Phoenix, Tempe, Mesa, Chandler, Gilbert,  and Scottsdale Arizona.   You can call by phone or send a contact form thought the website to get a return call to confidentially discuss your matter and defense options.

 

“You have the right remain silent, and refrain from answering questions about where you are going. You also have the right to refuse a search of your vehicle, in absence of a valid search warrant.  You have these rights whether they are read to you or not”. 

Additional Resources:

 Related Articles 

Arizona Drug K-9 Unit

“Suspect’s 40 minute detention, while awaiting drug K-9 unit was not unreasonable”.

In a case decided earlier this month, an Arizona Appeals Court ruled that an officer had enough “reasonable suspicion” to detain a suspect 40 minutes while awaiting the drug K-9 unit.

The court considered the “Totality of Circumstances” or “the whole picture”, to conclude that the detention was not unreasonable.

Case Facts

The suspect was pulled over, after the police officer observed the driver swerving and traveling at varied rates of speed.

The officer approached the vehicle, and requested the driver’s license, and registration.  The driver complied as well as providing the rental car agreement.

The officer asked the driver where he was going, at which point the driver provided several answers. The officer reported that the answers were inconsistent, “confusing” and “perplexing”.   The officer reported that the responses raised the officer’s suspicions.

The officer then noticed that there were no personal belongings in the vehicle.  So he asked the driver if he was planning to stay in Phoenix AZ. The driver said no.  The fact that the suspect was not planning to stay in Phoenix, but had no personal belongings in the vehicle, elevated the officer’s suspicions of potential criminal activity in progress.

The officer decided to do a background check on the suspect. The criminal records check revealed that the suspect had an extensive history of illegal drug trafficking and manufacturing crimes in a different state.

The officer asked for the suspect’s consent to search the rental car, and the suspect consented to the search.

Upon search of the trunk, the officer discovered two cardboard shipping boxes of “very solid weight” that were unlabeled, and taped closed.  The officer asked the suspect to open the boxes, but the suspect refused.

At that point the officer requested the police department’s narcotics K-9 unit to be brought to the scene and check out the boxes. The K-unit arrived approximately 40 minutes later.

The police dog “bit one of the boxes” in the trunk, signaling to the officer that the K-9 detected drugs in the boxes. The police officer opened the boxes and found the Marijuana.  Continue reading

video-camera-1412649-m.jpg A Tragic Video Confession

You might remember the viral video of an Arizona man, 22 year old Matthew Cordle, who caused a fatal drunk driving accident. He provided a confession in a four-minute online video that went viral with 2.3 million views last September.

Cordle began his chilling confession with “My name is Matthew Cordle and on June 22, 2013, I hit and killed Vincent Canzani. This video will act as my confession.”

Vincent Canzani 61, was the father of two daughters, and a former USA Naval Submarine Veteran. He was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident.

Immediately following the crash, Cordle was taken to the hospital for his injuries. But at that time he denied being intoxicated, driving impaired, or causing the fatal accident.

Cordle confessed in the video, that he was driving the wrong way on an interstate, and crashed into Vincent Canzani vehicle.

In the video was the blurred face of man, Cordle, admitting to barhopping, blacking out and driving home drunk. Cordle explained that he had been drinking heavily before getting behind the wheel, and blacked out just before losing control of his vehicle.

Cordle had not yet been charged at the time the video was made, but was expecting the charges to be brought based on the DUI blood test results.

Interestingly, Cordle had retained an attorney, but his attorney claimed he was not aware that his client had planned to post a video confession on the internet.

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Robberies need not be as epic as Bonnie and Clyde’s to be some of the most serious crimes under law.

makin-change-680711-m.jpgWhen I heard this story on the local news about “Bonnie and Clyde” style robbery suspects being arrested in Arizona, I stopped to reflect upon an image of “Bonnie and Clyde’s” get-away car I had seen several years ago, on display in Nevada.

Bonnie and Clyde, the historical crime duo, were killed in their get-away car which had been riddled with over 100 bullets in 1934. Because of their violent cross country crime spree, they were considered highly dangerous. So authorities decided to capture them dead instead of alive.

As I studied the bullet riddled car, and some shredded and tattered clothing they had been wearing at the time of their death, I felt this overwhelming sense of terror and sadness. It was an eerie. I was saddened by the thought that in some way people looked at the vehicle and other related items as trophies, and as for Bonnie and Clyde themselves, they were remembered as icons.

But why? I suppose it was the “One person’s villain is another person’s hero” syndrome. As I looked around the room, I saw newspaper clipping, stories, and photos framed from 1932 to 1934. They followed events of the cross-country crime spree, and violence. Finally, the last photo I noted was taken immediately following Bonnie and Clyde’s death, taken of them as they lay lifeless by the vehicle. It was difficult to look at.

No, these were no trophies. There were no heroes. These were symbols of tragedy, and consequences of crimes that to this day, have not ceased to exist.

At the same time, I saw a failed criminal justice system…”Wanted dead or alive” is how the posters read. Regardless of how serious or violent the crime they were entitled to a fair trial by jury, under the United States Constitution. Whether they deserved a fair trial or not, was irrelevant.
Robberies need not be as epic or dramatic as those committed by Bonnie and Clyde to be considered some of the most serious crimes under law. Robbery convictions in Arizona and call for the serious penalties with life long penalties. If a gun or deadly weapon is possessed, even if it is not used, it is charged as “Armed Robbery” in violation of A.R.S. 13 § 1904. Armed Robbery is a Class 2 felony, the most severe, just short of Class 1 felonies that are reserved for the most serious of crimes, homicide. Aggravated criminal penalties can result in life in prison.

Robberies were committed at businesses in the Phoenix metropolitan area, 5 of them in Gilbert, 3 in Mesa and 2 in Chandler. A thirty-year-old male and his twenty-seven year old wife were arrested and accused of working as a team to rob businesses. The husband had lost his job, the unemployment check hadn’t arrived, and they had four minor boys to feed.

In order to commit the robberies, the husband would stand in line like a prospective customer and then, once he reached the front of the line, grab money out of the register. His wife would wait in the van with their four sons.

Under A.R.S. §13-1902, “robbery” is defined as taking property from another’s body or immediate presence and against their will, where the defendant threatens or uses force against them in order to coerce the person to release the property. Robbery is more serious than theft because it involves violence or the threat of violence.

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Police crack down on violence, assaults and disorderly conduct in Arizona bars.

<img alt="pink-bar-1152398-m.jpg" src="http://blog.arizonacriminaldefenselawyer.com/files/2014/09/pink-bar-1152398-m.jpg" width="300" height="217" class="mt-image-left" style="float: left; margin: 0 20px 20px 0;"
Most people visiting a bar in Maricopa County, don't intend to commit a crime, or get in a fight with another customer, it often ends up that way. Alcohol or drugs can easily impact judgment and behaviors, and things can quickly get out of hand, and escalate to violence, assault, and worse.

As part of the Safe and Sober Campaign efforts still underway in Tempe, and East Valley Cities, Police and Maricopa County Deputies are monitoring bars closely to prevent violence, and other crimes, and make arrests.

Earlier this year, the actor Jason London (perhaps best known for his role in Dazed and Confused) got into a bar brawl in Scottsdale, Arizona and punched a bouncer as well as police officers. He was left with visible injuries and claimed he was the victim.

Arizona prosecutors charged him with assault–assaulting a peace officer is a serious felony. However, before trial, he reached a plea deal with prosecutors who dropped the assault charge in exchange for him pleading guilty to the much lighter charge of disorderly conduct. He was ordered to attend an alcohol treatment program and pay fees.

What constitutes disorderly conduct in Arizona? This subjective charge describes all kinds of behavior that law enforcement officers believe are inappropriate for a particular public setting. It can include scenarios like the drunken bar brawl described above. Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS 13-2904) lists these other acts as disorderly conduct:

• Engages in fighting or violence or disruptive behavior
• Makes an unreasonable amount of noise for the situation
• Employs abusive communication such that it’s likely to provoke another person to retaliate physically
• Makes any protracted commotion, utterance or display with the intent to prevent the transaction of the business of a lawful meeting, gathering or procession
• Refuses to obey a lawful order to disperse issued to maintain public safety in dangerous proximity to a fire, a hazard or any other emergency
• Recklessly handles, displays or discharges a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument.

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Assault and related victim crimes carry the most severe penalties of all crimes in Arizona

1108004_hand_srb_1.jpg
Violent crimes continue to plague Tempe AZ, especially on, and near Arizona State University (ASU). Tempe Police reported #911 and other calls for help had increased by 97 percent in 2012 over 2011, and arrests in criminal incidents continue to rise in 2013.
Incident reports and service calls for criminal violations in and around ASU are taxing Tempe and ASU Police resources.

Police report that the type of crimes that have increased include violent crimes, assaults, binge drinking, underage drinking, disorderly conduct, and criminal property damage. At least two deaths this year were reportedly linked to violence between fraternity rivals, while many others were seriously injured. Many of these are crimes against victims and carry the harshest sentencing of any crimes in Arizona.
Tempe officials are proposing ordinance changes making it easier to crack down on off-campus parties, while local police agencies seek out and making arrests for underage drinking laws, assaults, and other violent crimes.

Assault Crimes may be charged as Misdemeanors under A.R.S. 13-1203 or Aggravated Felonies A.R.S. 13-1204, depending on circumstances and nature of the offenses.
A person may be found guilty of misdemeanor assault in Arizona if they do one of the following:

(1) Intentionally, knowingly or recklessly injure someone else’s body;
(2) Intentionally give someone else a reason to fear they will be harmed;
(3) Knowingly touch another person in order to provoke, injure or insult the person.

Misdemeanor assault may be punished with up to one year in prison and maximum fines of $2,500. You may also have to pay restitution to the victim.

A prosecutor may elevate a misdemeanor assault to an aggravated (felony) assault charge in eleven different circumstances. Felony aggravated assault carries significantly greater penalties than misdemeanor assault. For example, felony aggravated assault may be punished with 15 years of imprisonment, as well as the stigma of a felony conviction, loss of a professional license, ineligibility to own or possess a firearm and many other harsh consequences.

A few of the eleven circumstances in which a defendant who is 18 years old or older may be charged with aggravated assault include those where he: causes “serious bodily harm”, uses a weapon or dangerous instrument, enters a private home with the intent of committing the assault, assaults someone who is 15 years old or younger, or assaults people of certain professions while they are working (including teachers, nurses, prison officials, fire department members, and paramedics).

Felony aggravated assault may also be charged if someone commits one of the forms of simple assault described above and also intentionally or knowingly prevents “the normal breathing or circulation of blood of another person by applying pressure to the throat or neck or by obstructing the nose and mouth either manually or through the use of an instrument”, and a domestic relationship exists. In other words, this special type of aggravated assault can be charged against someone who attempts to strangle a domestic partner.

A few weeks ago, the Court of Appeals ruled on a case involving both simple assault and aggravated assault. In the case, a couple was arguing via text messages. When the male partner came home, he grabbed the woman, knocked her head, and squeezed her neck. Later he pressed his arm against her throat and told her to leave.

The male partner was charged with aggravated assault for strangling her, simple assault for knocking her head, and also for trying to stop her breathing a second time. The jury convicted him of the first and last charge. He was sentenced to eight years in state prison.

The defendant appealed on the grounds that the charge of aggravated assault related to strangulation was unconstitutionally vague (among other reasons). He claimed that nobody in Arizona could know what the statute meant by “normal” breathing or circulation and he referred to the state’s own expert who testified that it was difficult to say what “normal” breathing was, even in medicine.

The defendant also argued that his due process rights were violated because all three forms of simple assault were included within the aggravated assault charge. He further argued that the jury should have been instructed as to which type of assault he had committed.

The appellate court explained that even though “normal” is a relative term, it is not unconstitutionally vague. Plainly read, the statute prohibits stopping another person’s normal or typical breathing. The court also explained that this type of aggravated assault is a unique offense, not just another variation on the eleven circumstances that turn simple assault into felony aggravated assault. Ultimately the court affirmed the defendant’s sentence.

In many cases, these crimes have been serious and resulted in felony charges. Penalties are severe if convicted. Criminal penalties can include jail or long term prison sentencing; large fines, fees, assessments; restitution; counseling, probation, or community services, victim restitution, and other court ordered penalties. But the consequences are much broader than criminal penalties. A student may be suspended or expelled from school or athletic teams, lose scholarships, residency status as a US Citizen, termination from their job or lose opportunities for future employment, become ineligible for school loans, and have a criminal record, lose driving privileges, and lose other rights that they currently enjoy.

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Impact of Maryland v. King Ruling on Arizona: What it gives and what it takes.

1220700_dna_sequence.jpgPrivacy rights were outweighed by law enforcement interests in the United States Supreme Court’s June 3rd ruling in Maryland v. King. In this case, the Court was divided 5-4 over the question of DNA sample collection. All states and the federal government require convicted felons to submit DNA samples to law enforcement. But this was the first case to look at whether even those who are merely arrested (and assumed innocent until proven guilty) can be required to submit their DNA to law enforcement.

The Supreme Court ruled that states may–without a warrant– routinely collect DNA samples from people arrested for a “serious crime.” This was a highly anticipated ruling because it is the Court’s first on the privacy of genetic information. The ruling focused on Maryland’s law, which requires DNA sampling of those arrested for serious crimes, supposedly for the purpose of identifying them. However, the case’s language was so broad that it opened the floodgates for all states to permit DNA sampling of people arrested, even if they are arrested only on a minor charge.

The case arose from a criminal defendant’s appeal after he was convicted for a felony only because the Maryland police were able to match his DNA in a federal database. After the defendant was arrested for assault, the police swabbed the defendant’s cheek to get a DNA sample and they submitted the sample to a federal DNA database. The swab was not necessary to prove the assault.

The federal database to which the sample was submitted matched the defendant’s DNA to DNA collected from a crime scene six years earlier. Because of the routine cheek swab, the defendant was convicted of the earlier serious crime.

The Maryland Court of Appeals threw out the defendant’s conviction on the grounds that a cheek swab violated Fourth Amendment rights against illegal search and seizure. Usually the State must obtain a warrant if it wants to conduct any kind of invasive physical testing. The State appealed the appellate ruling.

The Supreme Court’s majority opinion, written by Justice Kennedy, compared DNA sampling of the arrested to fingerprinting which is legal. The Court overturned the Court of Appeals. Justice Kennedy wrote that states could collect DNA from people arrested for “serious offenses.”

The majority opinion reasoned that Maryland’s law supported the well-established and legitimate governmental interest of identifying people in custody as opposed to solving crimes. The majority also reasoned that a cheek swab is minimally intrusive from a physical perspective.

Justice Scalia, joined by three liberal justices, wrote the dissent. He warned, “As an entirely predictable consequence of today’s decision, your DNA can be taken and entered into a national DNA database if you are ever arrested, rightly or wrongly, and for whatever reason.”

This ruling impacts all people in states that authorize DNA testing, including Arizona. At present, Arizona’s law enforcement is able to collect DNA from anyone imprisoned for a felony offense, including those on probation. However, Arizona has also passed legislation to allow for the collection of DNA from those who are merely arrested, not convicted, of a serious crime.

This group includes those who are arrested for certain sexual offenses, burglary, prostitution, and other serious, violent or aggravated offenses. Although this group represents a relatively narrow number of criminal defendants now, as Justice Scalia pointed out the Supreme Court’s ruling is broad enough that states could widen the net of people who are required to submit to DNA sampling. As Justice Scalia suggests, in the future, DNA sampling may be part of police booking procedure even in traffic cases.

Additional Resources

DNA Laws Database
Mesa Police Department
Mesa Municipal Court

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No “substantial penalties” can be imposed as a result of exercising their Fifth Amendment Rights

1921_sweet_lips.jpgMost people know they have a Fifth Amendment right not to be forced to incriminate oneself. This right encompasses not only the right not to speak about something that might lead you to actually admit to wrongdoing, but also the right to not have the court infer that your silence is itself an admission of guilt.

No substantial penalties can be imposed as a result of exercising your Fifth Amendment right. Moreover, if a defendant chooses to remain silent during sentencing, his silence is not to be taken as either an admission or a lack of contrition. However, if a defendant chooses to express remorse during sentencing, his statement can be used by the sentencing judge as a mitigating factor–a reason to be more lenient.

In an appellate case heard earlier this year, the rule against self-incrimination was applied to the issue of how a defendant’s silence can affect sentencing. In that case, the defendant (a woman) was on trial for major felony charges and was convicted.

Before sentencing, the trial judge said he would not put her on probation because the probation officer had reported she would not make statements about her offense during the investigation. Therefore, the probation officer had concluded she would not be able to participate in any counseling or treatment diversion program which required frank communication.

The defendant appealed, arguing that the trial court had improperly sentenced her to a two-year prison term instead of placing her on probation or suspending the sentence. In her view, the prison term violated her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination because it punished her refusing to talk about the details of her case with a probation officer.

The appellate court explained that in this case the defendant was neither entitled to probation nor to have her sentence suspended. Probation was a sentencing alternative, rather than a right. These were matters over which the trial court had discretion. Appellate courts give deference to the trial judge’s opinion about what seems necessary to rehabilitate a defendant.

The appellate court reasoned that a sentencing court was not prevented from considering a defendant’s silence regarding the offense in determining whether he or she could be rehabilitated through probation. In this case, the trial court had grounded its assessment in the probation officer’s report as to her unwillingness to talk about the offense even for purposes of rehabilitation.

The appellate court found that the sentence imposed was among those available by statute and therefore could not be considered a “substantial penalty” for silence or exercise of a Fifth Amendment right. The defendant in the instant case had relied on a Fifth Amendment case. In that case, a probationer was not required to answer certain polygraph questions because the court ruled he was entitled to assert the Fifth Amendment with respect to questions that could implicate him in future criminal matters.

The court reasoned that even a probationer would be required to answer questions relating to a past offense for which he was given probation. The defendant had refused to answer questions and had not intimated they might incriminate her in future criminal proceedings.

Additional Resources

Arizona Sentencing Chart
Maricopa County Criminal Procedures

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Why Disorderly Conduct Charges are often challenged and dismissed

“Disorderly Conduct” is also known as “Disturbing the Peace”. There are a number of offenses under Arizona Criminal Code A.R.S. 13-2904 that fall within the classification of Disorderly Conduct. These are among the most successfully challenged criminal offenses due to their vague and sometimes biased nature.

By law the police must have “probable cause” to make an arrest. And although they may feel that the arrests meet the standards for probable cause that a crime occurred, the charges are often disputed and unjustified. For example, police often issue charges of Disorderly Conduct when they are annoyed with a person, and no other criminal charges apply to their conduct.

Disorderly Conduct charges are often seen coupled with other criminal charges such as domestic disputes or domestic violence, assault, resisting arrest, and other serious felony criminal offenses.
Under A.R.S. 13-2904 in Arizona, a person may be guilty of disorderly conduct if they intentionally and with knowledge disturb the peace of a neighborhood, business, person, gathering, meeting, or procession. Behaviors that fall within this code include but are not limited to fighting; serious, violent or disruptive behavior; public belligerence; unreasonably loud noise music, or laughter; use of abusive or offensive language; use of offensive gestures to anyone present that will likely provoke immediate physical retaliation; refusal to obey a civil or lawful order to evacuate or disperse issued to maintain public safety in emergency; or reckless handling, display or discharge of a gun or deadly weapon.

Criminal defenses include but are not limited to violations of constitutional rights including right to free speech, and gathering peacefully; insufficient evidence; lack of eye witnesses, lack of biased witnesses; or conflicting witness testimony; justification defenses; and failure of the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a criminal offense occurred.

Most are charged as Class 1 Misdemeanor in Tempe AZ call for 30 days in jail if convicted. If the behavior involves reckless handling, display or discharge of a gun or other deadly weapon, they are charged as Class 6 Felonies. All felonies in Arizona expose a person to prison terms sentencing and other harsh penalties. Other penalties include fines, fees, assessments, costs, probation, community service, and court ordered anger management counseling.

You should always consult a criminal defense attorney if you face disorderly conduct charges in Arizona, to discuss your options for defense. Defenses may apply that can be used to challenge due to lack of evidence, and justification. But your chances of a dismissal increase substantially if you are represented by a qualified criminal defense attorney.

Additional Resources:

• Tempe Police Investigations Unit

Disorderly Conduct in Arizona

Arizona Revised Statutes

Arizona Sentencing Chart 2012 – 2013

• Tempe Municipal Court

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The Mayor of Phoenix AZ recently announced plans for the largest Gun Buyback Program to be held in May 2013. It is being funded by an anonymous donation of $100,000.00.
A Gun Buyback Program is an organized jurisdictional effort to compensate gun owners in return for their guns. The goal is to take unwanted guns off the street so that they are not a threat to police officers or residents of the communities.

Here are some facts that have been released about the program:
• It will be conducted every Saturday in May, excluding Memorial Day weekend;
• Sessions will be held in various different parts of Phoenix in church parking lots or other trusted locations;
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• Anyone can drop off a weapon anonymously. City officials announced that no questions will be asked regarding the source of the firearm or it’s possessor;
• The owner will receive an unknown amount to be determined at a later date for the weapon;
• The Phoenix Police will check to see if the firearm was stolen. If so, it will be returned to the rightful owner;
• If the weapon was used in a criminal offense, it will be retained by police to be used an investigation.

• All other firearms will be taken out of circulation.

More details will be released as May approaches. For more information a person can contact *Arizonans for Gun Safety at 602-547-0976.


Criminal Defense Attorney Phoenix AZ

Gun offenses are very serious crimes in Arizona. Convictions under A.R.S. 13-3102 Arizona criminal code call for harsh penalties, many of which are felonies. All firearms used in the course of conducting or fleeing from a crime are felonies, and call for aggravated sentencing of the initial crime. Felony convictions call for a minimum sentence of 1 year in prison, and loss of the right to possess a gun, and classify the person as a Prohibited Possessor under the Arizona gun laws.

If you have been arrested for any weapons crimes under Arizona you should always consult a criminal defense attorney before pleading guilty to charges. If retained, they will protect your rights, defend your charges, and make every effort to get a good outcome in your case. There may be constitutional rights that were violated, or other defenses that may be used to resolve the matter favorably on your behalf.

*The Law Office of James Novak is a criminal defense firm serving clients in the Phoenix area. It has no affiliation with Arizonans for Gun Safety or the Phoenix Police Department.

Additional Resources:

• Phoenix Buyback Program

Arizona Gun Laws

Arizona sentencing for serious, violent or aggravated offenses

Phoenix Police Department

Phoenix Superior Court

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