Arizona Criminal Defense Attorney Blog

Articles Posted in Arizona Criminal Defense

1st Place - The Expert Institute 2015 Best Legal Blog Contest

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like 

wrapping a present and not giving it.”

-William Arthur Ward  

The Expert Institute recently announced the results of their 2015 Best Legal Blog Contest.


Though heard often, these two words carry the utmost sincerity, gratitude and appreciation.  

Thanks to all friends, friends of friends; family, extended families, and neighbors.

Thanks to peers, peer networks; social media friends, connections, communities, and groups who voted and shared to their own friend networks and campaigned on my behalf.

Thanks to all loyal readers of our blog.

Thanks to all of you for whom I have not had the fortune of meeting, but still you voted, shared, and showed your support in the The Expert Institute 2015 Legal Blog Contest.

Thanks to all the guest authors who have contributed to the Blog articles.  You have added value, authority, and enriched the content and benefit for the readers.

Thank-you to all contestants for your unique and interesting Blogs. They were of the highest quality and benefit to readers.   It was an honor to be competing with your Blogs.  I knew that winning would no easy task for any contestant.

Congratulations to all the winners in all categories.  Your victories were well deserved.

Thanks to the Sponsor of the campaign, The Expert Institute hosting this well run contest.

Thanks to Joe O’neill, Senior Associate, Marketing, at The Expert Institute, who kept us informed and well instructed throughout the contest.  He worked very hard to make it a huge success.

“Depth of friendship does not depend on length of acquaintance.”  – Rabindranath Tagore

                         Lessons Learned                                 

I learned that participation in an industry contest is a lot harder than it looks.

I learned that while you might have the best blog entry in the contest, it will not be recognized as such, unless you promote it.

I learned that to be a competitive, you must set aside your pride, and ask for help.  There is no indignity in teamwork.

I learned that creative, enthusiastic, and committed volunteers are the key to success.

I learned that people  genuinely are willing to help if asked, and want to see you succeed.  In the least, if they took the time to vote, they want to make sure it counts.

I learned that others will take the contest only as seriously as you do.

I learned contests can be a lot of fun.  I enjoyed engaging with old friends on social media, and making many new friends at the ones.

I learned that if you look for the goodness in others, and expect the best in them, you will find it.

I learned that there are no strangers on Social Media.

There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven’t yet met.

– William Butler Yeats

                                                                 Memorable Moments 

There were a lot of memorable moments  behind the scenes during the contest. This was especially the case, in the way of comments and interactions on social media.

Interacting helped me to identify three key elements which I think will help anyone succeed:

  1. Strategy, teamwork, and utilization of every your resource in your arsenal;
  2. Work hard until the last minute of the race; reach high for 1st place; and never give up;
  3. Have fun; Let people give what they wish to give. Accept graciously. Acknowledge every act of support.

I.  Strategy, teamwork, and utilization of every resource in your arsenal

Google Plus Community Post  – These are just a few of 36 comments on this Post 

(Throughout the post are comments in red to illustrate my reality checks at the time).    

Me Post: What do you all think about this integration of “We Dig” movement, “Collections” and  our “Campaigns” all in one?   Also, I would really would appreciate your “We Dig” Vote for my Blog!  

Monika: Sorry it won’t let me vote…

(Wait, wait, this can’t be happening…OK, Just breathe).

Me:  Thank-you for trying, and thank-you for the heads up so I an check it out. Anyone should be able to vote. :-(  I need to check this out. 

George:  I can dig it. If I were you I would add some blog posts into your collection.

(I didn’t expect to get help with campaign strategy. And I need all the help I can get. Go George!) 

Fran:  I think you’re right on. How could I not vote for fellow Arizonian.

 (This might just work. The Arizona home team approves). 

Melinda: Great idea. I voted and it went through even though it said “already voted”.

 (I wonder how many people tried to vote and couldn’t?  Oh no, it’s Saturday, and we won’t be able to contact The Expert Institute for guidance.  How many votes will I lose this weekend?  We’re doomed.) 

Patti:  We Dig Voting for James Novak! Done. Good luck.  

(OK, calming down now. Patti’s vote counted.) Outsourcing Strategy, Teamwork, Al.lTust 3   

George: You need to include a CTA in each post.

(Wow, George is sharing more ideas for strategy. I’m not leaving this thread for anything. George, you rock!) 

Me: George what’s a CTA? 

George:  “Call to Action”. 

(Oh, right…I knew that:-) 

Sue: I have voted for you James Novak. And I love the We Dig image. 

(OK Litmus test for “We Dig” passed.)

Jim:  After clicking the link, I saw an orange button on your website that said “Already Voted 54+” At first I was baffled thinking it implied the button was incorrectly reflecting that somehow I had already voted. I searched around to see if there was some other button I could push. Finding none, I said “What the heck” and clicked on the orange button to see what would happen. Darned if it didn’t refresh and say “Voted 59+”. What?!… 

(Jim wanted to make sure his vote counted as much as I did! How cool is that? He was on a mission to find out, so that we could share instructions in posts for people. Right on Jim!) 

Monica:   I tried it again! And now, in this minute, the voting seems to run in the correct way:
Click on: “vote” (=thumbs up) on the left side. Immediately the number will count one up   etc.

(Monica then provides step by step instructions on the correct way to cast your vote. Go Monica!)            

II. Work hard until the last minute of the race; reach high for 1st place

“Donny” Campaigning on Facebook

Helping Hand 3 _FullDonny: James, where are we?                                           

Me: We’re in 5th place.   

Donny:  That’s not good enough….

Me: We’re in 4th place…

Donny: Where are we now?

Me: Oh my gosh, we just moved to 3rd place! 

Donny: That won’t do. We’re not done here… 

I was excited to be in 3rd or 4th place, up from 9th. But Donny wouldn’t settle for that.  He reminded me that we were in to win.  No slowing down or settling with less.   Rock on Donny! 

III. Acknowledge every act of support; Let people give what they wish to give, and accept graciously.

“T.L.”  Campaigning Everywhere!

T.L:  James, How many now?                            

Me:  1800  and something.                                

T.L:  That’s not enough. I told my family, and called on more of them in Vietnam.  I told them that everybody loves James’ blog.  I told them that you help a lot of people when they make a mistake like getting a DUI, and get arrested. So they need to vote for your blog.     

Me:  Thank-you so much!  

T.L:  My daughter also teaches Taekwondo Class and has lot’s of students.  She is going to spread the word there and ask them to share with their friends too.      

Me.  Wow. that’s awesome. Please extend my thanks to her for that. 

T.L:  And I told my friend that if she spreads the word I will make her some egg noodles. She loves my egg noodles!   rice-1329209-639x493

Me: T.L.  Great! Let’s have a voting – egg noodle party. What can I bring?  

T.L. was a loyal and generous volunteer. She never stopped giving and campaigning. She was creative and tapped into everything in her arsenal. Thank-you T.L. I will be forever grateful. Now about that egg noodle party… 

The Law Office of James Novak is committed to the goal of providing high quality law educational resources and articles you can use.

We have great articles and topics in store for the end of the year 2015 and 2016. We hope you stay connected for more interesting and resourceful articles.

Thank-you again everyone!

Continue reading

Aggravated Assault - Justification - Crime Prevention Defense: Arizona Court of Appeals Overturns Conviction

  ♦ Featuring Tips from Authorities: How to Safely Respond (or not) to Road Rage ♦

Our Federal and State Constitutions afford us the right to bear arms, to protect ourselves, our families, and others from immediate harm due to serious crimes in progress.

So why then, must we be concerned with facing criminal charges if we exercise those rights?

The answer to this question is two-fold:

First there’s a fine line between what we may feel is justified and what the language of the law dictates.

Second,  the police, prosecution, court and jury may not feel the actions were as justified as we did under the same circumstances.

So while it is true we have these rights, we must be prepared to defend our actions.

In this article we outline a recent Arizona Court of Appeals case that began as a road rage incident.

The defendant was convicted of Aggravated Assault with a deadly weapon.  He appealed his conviction, challenging the jury instructions provided in the trial.

At the heart of the case were two important legal concepts, that proved to be central to the verdicts:

  1. Arizona’s “Justification – Crime Prevention” Defense;
  2. The importance of accurate and complete Jury Instructions

The discussion topics in this article are broken down into the following 8 segments:

  • Incident – Circumstances that led up to the incident;
  • Why the Jury got it Wrong/ Why the jury ruled the way they did;                                 
  • Appeals Court Extended Summary;
  • Arizona’s 15 Justification Defenses;
  • Justification Use of Force – Crime Prevention;
  • Arizona Aggravated Assault with Deadly Weapon Laws;
  • What to do if you find yourself the target of Road Rage;
  • Criminal Defense for Aggravated Assault Charges in Arizona

                                                           Part I –  The Incident  

The defendant was driving with his fiancé and her 4 year old daughter in the vehicle.

Following a minor traffic mishap, another driver began honking and tailgating them.

The angry driver (victim) pulled up alongside the defendant’s vehicle in road rage.

The angry driver waved a gun while pulled up next to their vehicle, frightening the passengers.

At the next stop light, the defendant got out of his vehicle, and brandished his own gun.

The defendant stood there, with his gun. But he did not move to harm the victim;

The light turned green.  The defendant got back in his vehicle, and drove away.

The victim continued to chase him, and ran two red lights in the process.

The victim then called #9-1-1 reported the defendant.

The Police dispatcher repeatedly urged the victim to stop chasing the defendant, and to return to a nearby shopping center to meet an awaiting police officer.

The victim did not immediately obey the dispatcher, but did finally retreat and return to the shopping center.

The victim then took a detour to another area of the shopping center before meeting the officer.

Once stopped, the officer searches the victim’s vehicle but did not find any weapons. The victim denies having a gun.

The defendant was subsequently charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

The defendant chose to go to trial to prove his innocence.

The jury found the defendant guilty. He was sentenced to 5 years in prison for Aggravated Assault with a deadly weapon.  Read More… Continue reading


Why Two Appeals Court Rulings Contrasted: Justices Review Effects of AMMA on Marijuana Odor on Probable Cause.

In late July, two different Appeals Courts in Arizona released contrasting opinions involving appeals to dismiss the Marijuana evidence due to lack of probable cause for the search.

In both cases the defendants argued that the effects of Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA) were that the smell of Marijuana should not be used for determination of Probable cause.

In one case the conviction was reversed.  In the other case the conviction was affirmed.  Here we find out why they differed.

Arizona Appeals Court Ruling – Case #1 (No. 2 CA-CR 2014-0181)

On July 20, 2015, the Arizona Court of Appeals Division Two issued the first ruling.

The Court considered the effect that the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA) had on probable cause to for issuance of search warrant, based on an odor of Marijuana.

In this case, the Appeals Court ruled that the scent of marijuana alone was insufficient evidence of criminal activity.

Therefore, it was not adequate to justify probable cause for search and seizure warrant.

The Appeals Court held that in order to satisfy the probable cause standard, the scent of the Marijuana would need to be combined with other evidence or facts, which were not presented in this case.

Continue reading

Police officers are not exempt from search warrant requirements, in order to perform community caretaking duties.

Unlawful Home Search Under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the Arizona Constitution, you have a right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.
This means that in most cases, a warrant is required to search your home, with few exceptions.

The exceptions include situations where “exigent circumstances” exist.

This allows police to make a warrantless entry when they have probable cause to arrest a suspect who has fled, or to stop the imminent destruction of evidence.

Another exception is that the police may make a protective sweep incident to a lawful arrest.

Still another exception is an entry due to an objectively reasonable basis for believing someone within the house needs immediate aid.

Recently, the Arizona Supreme Court limited warrantless searches in connection with the “Community Caretaking Exception,” which is the topic of this discussion.

The Incident

In this case, police officers and paramedics went to the defendant’s residence after receiving calls from neighbors, complaining that the defendant was behaving erratically.

When police and paramedics arrived, the defendant told them that he and his family had been handling up to seven pounds of mercury inside the home, which was being kept in the home in a glass jar.

Continue reading

Case analysis; Impacts of Ruling on Arizona; Your 4th Amendment Rights at a Stop: Arizona Criminal Defense

Police cannot prolong stop’s duration beyond its initial purpose, without reasonable suspicion.

The United States Supreme Court recently decided an important case  that tilted in favor of 4th Amendment protections against unlawful detention, search and seizures.

Police dog

The case arose when a K-9 police officer pulled over the defendant for moving traffic violation.  The driver was in driving on a highway shoulder, in violation of state law.  The officer took the driver’s and passenger’s driver’s licenses, registration and proof of insurance.

The officer returned to his patrol car and began a records check of the driver.  The officer then returned to the suspect’s vehicle, and began questioning both the driver and passenger about where they were coming from and their destination.

After conversing with the driver and passenger the officer returned to his patrol car, and finished the records check.    Following the completion of the records check, the officer called for backup.

While waiting for back-up, the officer began writing a warning ticket to issue to the driver for the traffic violation.  For the third time, the officer returned to the suspect’s vehicle where he issued the warning ticket to the driver.

Continue reading

Your Rights at a Stop; 10 Defenses for Drug Charges; Mitigating Sentencing; Drug Trafficking Laws; Penalties.

Police Stop Arizona

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.

Continue reading

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

Arizona Drug K-9 UnitIn 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.

Continue reading

video-camera-1412649-mA 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.

Continue reading

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

makin-change-680711-mWhen 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.

Continue reading

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

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.

Continue reading