Articles Posted in AZ CRIMINAL DEFENSE TOPICS

What to do if you are being assaulted by police: Your rights, defenses, & remedies in Phoenix, AZ

Part I of II

Introduction

This collaborative two part series was inspired by my friend and colleague, Eyitayo Ogunyemi, LL.B, B.L, Attorney and Human Rights Advocate in Lagos, Nigeria.

This is part I of II which applies to Phoenix, AZ laws, in the USA.

Eyitayo Ogunyemi has written Part II, which applies to Lagos, Nigerian laws.

To symbolize human rights, we have chosen the number “15”, to represent 15 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that often involve police brutality if violated. They include:

Freedom from slavery; Freedom of opinion or expression; Right to peacefully assemble; Freedom from non-discrimination;  Freedom from brutality and torture; Freedom inhumane or degrading treatment;  Freedom from arbitrary arrest, detention or exile; Freedom of thought, conscience and religion; Right to equality;  Right to life, liberty and security;  Right to remedies for violations of human rights under the law; Right to trial; Right to presumption of innocence until proven guilty; Right to adequate shelter, food, clothing, medical care and other fundamental needs; Right to protection against interference or attacks against privacy, family, home, honor, reputation,  or correspondence.

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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 the because of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA), 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.

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

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.

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All Meth crimes in Arizona are Charged as felonies; all felonies expose a person to prison.

Law enforcement officers recently conducted the biggest methamphetamine bust in Maricopa County’s history. Sheriffs investigated for several months before locating 18 bricks of meth (51 pounds) worth almost $1 million. The twenty-six year old suspect who possessed the bricks was arrested for meth possession and other felony charges. As outlined below, he may face serious prison time, depending on his prior felony record and other factors.

Earlier this year, Phoenix AZ participated in “Operation Justice V” sponsored by the U.S. Marshall. In one week 231 persons without outstanding felony warrants were arrested. A large number of those were wanted for “Dangerous Drug” offenses including Meth crimes.

The possession and sale of meth is a growing illegal drug market in Arizona, and some believe it has reached crisis proportions, now affecting teenagers as well. Even though Arizona’s teenage meth use has declined in recent years, Arizona remains among the top 10 states for teen meth use.

Meth is highly addictive and affects the neurotransmitter dopamine. It can be smoked, injected or snorted. Users experience a rush as well as increased energy, reduced appetite, and increased respiration. There is a danger of violent behavior, irritability or psychosis. Importantly, long-term use of methamphetamines can cause brain damage that is akin to Alzheimer’s.

Due to the addictive nature of Methamphetamines and other Dangerous Drugs, they have been found to lead other serious crimes by users, and dealers that include theft, burglary, assault, sexual assault, aggravated assault, home invasions, even murder.

Meth is classified in the Arizona Revised Statutes as a “dangerous drug.” Other “dangerous drugs” include LSD, ecstasy, mushrooms, mescaline and GHB. Willful possession of a dangerous drug can subject anyone who is convicted to serious punishments at the sentencing stage.

Possession of methamphetamine is a Class 4 felony, until someone possesses more than 9 grams, as in the case described above. Then it is charged as a Class 2 felony because it is assumed to be possession for sale. It is important to note that possession of methamphetamine cannot be charged simply as a misdemeanor, even if you have no priors.

Penalties are increased substantially for possession of large quantities of meth. If someone possesses more than 9 grams and it is a first offense, the presumption is that it is for sale. In that case, the minimum imprisonment sentence is five years, the presumptive sentence is 10 years and the maximum sentence is 15 years. However, if someone possesses more than 9 grams and it is not a first offense, the increase in sentencing jumps dramatically. A minimum imprisonment sentence for possession for sale of meth on a second offense is 10 years.

First time drug offenders are eligible for a deferred prosecution program in which they participate in probation during which the offender is subject to drug testing among other things. If they do not meet conditions of their probation, they may face jail time.

The Arizona Revised Statutes permit mitigation or enhancement of a sentence for reasons such as prior criminal convictions, the amount of the drug, and more. If charged with a Class 2 felony and aggravating factors, a defendant can face over 12 years in prison.

The sentencing laws are even harsher for those convicted of manufacturing methamphetamine. In response to the meth crisis, in 2000, Arizona’s child abuse law was expanded to include a presumption of endangerment when children or vulnerable adults are found at meth labs.

Additional Resources:

About Meth (Arizona Attorney General)
Arizona Drugs Defined Under Criminal Code
Mesa AZ Police Department

Possession of 2-4 pounds indicator of commercial dealings. Convictions call for mandatory prison.

Cultivation or manufacture of marijuana for non-medicinal purposes (or growing outside the strict guidelines provided in connection with medical marijuana cards) remains a felony in Arizona. Those arrested and prosecuted for felony marijuana manufacturing can face serious punishments at sentencing.

There have been several significant arrests in Phoenix and Tucson for cultivation of marijuana recently. In mid-May, Tucson police found a house where 356 marijuana plants in various stages of growth were growing. They also found $18,000 in cash. On June 3, 2013 a canine unit from the Arizona Department of Public Safety found a driver carrying 7 pounds of marijuana. After arresting him, the Arizona Department of Public Safety searched his house in Phoenix and found 100 marijuana plants as well as handguns and growing equipment.

But Medical Marijuana Card Holders Not without Risk

Almost three years after passage, Medical marijuana remains controversial in Arizona. Medical Marijuana was legalized in 2010 through voter passage of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA). The purpose of the AMMA is to protect patients with debilitating medical conditions, so that they can obtain necessary relief.

AMMA allows patients to get a registration identification card to show law enforcement officers that they are permitted to use marijuana for medicinal purposes. Visitors from another state that recognizes medical marijuana, like California, with equivalent cards are also protected.

Notwithstanding these state protections, some law enforcement officers refuse to recognize the card. Federal law, which trumps state law, does not recognize or permit a medicinal use for marijuana. An appellate case heard earlier this year further legitimized medical marijuana cards, but the facts of the case illustrate that it there are still risks from a legal perspective to be a medical marijuana user in Arizona.
In the case, a California driver (the defendant) was stopped when she entered Arizona. The authorities found and seized marijuana and other contraband. The State filed drug charges against the driver, dismissing them only after she produced proof of permission to use marijuana for medical purposes. The Superior Court ordered that the driver’s marijuana be returned.

The State appealed. It argued that the superior court could not order the sheriff to return the marijuana and that Arizona law not only requires “summary forfeiture” of any marijuana seized by law enforcement, but the sheriff could not return the driver’s marijuana or risk violating federal law and getting prosecuted.

The appellate court reasoned that law enforcement officers did not seize the marijuana in connection with a drug offense, since the driver was permitted to possess marijuana for medical purposes. Nor could the State win on the grounds that it could keep marijuana that came into its possession. This was because to do that would require either bringing civil forfeiture proceedings, or to be holding drugs possessed in a crime. Since AMMA decriminalized medical marijuana, the latter situation did not exist.

The State also argues that the AMMA did not expressly require them to return marijuana from a qualifying patient. The appellate court disagreed. It noted that no penalty could be placed on a qualified patient under the statute.

The State had also argued that the sheriff could be prosecuted for transferring marijuana under federal law. This, too, the appellate court repudiated. Federal law “immunizes” law enforcement officials who follow a court order.

The State’s final argument was that the superior court could not order that the driver’s marijuana be returned to her because her possession was a federal crime. The appellate court declined to decide whether federal law preempted AMMA for purposes of adjudicating this case. There was no actual or threatened prosecution of the driver under federal law, and the State was not a party with a personal stake who had standing to argue that federal law prevented the driver from possessing the marijuana. Accordingly, the appellate court affirmed the ruling of the superior court.

It’s clear that this will not be the last time a defendant will have to deal with a situation in which state law enforcement attempt to ignore AMMA. Officers may continue to arrest drivers, requiring them to come to court to fight the charges brought against them.


Additional Resources:

Arizona Drug DUI Laws

Arizona Court of Appeals Division 1

Arizona Drugs Defined Under Criminal Code

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Criminal Rights and Exceptions of Right to Counsel

A person’s rights to counsel can be found in the State’s Rules of Criminal Procedures; The US Constitution 5th and 14th Amendment; the Arizona Constitution; and Under Arizona Criminal Code A.R.S. 13-114. This segment focuses on the Rules of Criminal Procedure in Maricopa County.

Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure – Right to Counsel

Rules 6.1 (a.) & (c.) entitle a defendant to be represented by counsel in DUI and criminal proceedings. However, they are not entitled to counsel if the offense has no possibility of resulting in jail or prison if they are found guilty.

A defendant may waive their right to counsel at any time.

Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure – Withdrawal of Waiver of Right to Counsel
Rule 6.1 (e.) allows for a person who previously waived their right to counsel, to also withdraw their waiver of right to counsel, at any time.

There is one exception to withdrawing a waiver of right to counsel at any time: A person is not entitled repeat a proceeding, they previously waived their right to an attorney, on the sole ground that they were unrepresented.

When Legal Counsel is Necessary

Defense services of qualified legal counsel are needed in all stages of criminal proceedings, that expose a person to jail or prison, if they are found guilty of the charges. These stages include:

• Pre-trial Services;
• Trial Representation;
• Sentencing
A person should also consider hiring a lawyer to represent them in pre-indictment cases, when a suspect is being investigated for serious charges, but has not yet formally been charged.

Legal Representation for DUI and Criminal Charges in Mesa AZ

It is unwise for a person to waive their right to legal counsel for DUI or criminal charges in which a person may be exposed to incarceration in jail or prison if found guilty. If a person moves forward with criminal proceedings unrepresented, irreversible harm can result in their case, and their defense may be compromised.

A defendant should always retain an attorney as early as possible in order to preserve all rights and defenses that may be used in the future to challenge or defend the charges.

If a defendant has jeopardized use of defenses, waived rights, or provided self-incriminating testimony, an attorney generally can’t undo the damage that has been done. They can’t go back and abolish the proceeding on the sole basis that the defense was compromised as a result of the defendant’s waiver of right to representation by an attorney.

In general, defendants usually do not secure favorable resolutions to their charges when they go unrepresented. A person who represents themselves if expected to adhere to all Rules of Criminal Procedure; understand their rights and laws; and consequences of their decision in the event they are found guilty of the charges. Early retention of a criminal defense attorney is a key factor in obtaining any favorable outcome in criminal cases.

Additional Resources:

AZ Supreme Court – Rules of Criminal Procedure

Maricopa County Superior Court

Right to Counsel under Criminal Code

US Constitutional Amendments

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Domestic Violence Charges

The police and prosecution take domestic violence very serious. They egregiously pursue convictions in these cases because they are considered to be a crime against a victim.
Domestic violence refers to a familial relationship. The victim may be a spouse, partner, brother, sister, grandparent, child, or other persons residing together.

Police have the burden on the scene to distinguish the aggressor from the victim. Often the victim is cited or arrested when the police are unable to identify which party was the aggressor at the scene. It can also occur when false accusations are made against a victim by the aggressor.

Police Departments keep logs of incidents where the police have been called to a residence before. In many of these cases, an arrest will be made, or both parties will be cited, or arrested and forced to defend their charge in court.

Arizona Domestic Violence Laws

Domestic Violence (DV) crimes are described under Arizona Law ARS § 13-3601. This law applies to specified domestic persons who become victims of assault, homicide, threat, intimidation, neglect, abuse or other act of violence.

Offenses may be classified as felonies or misdemeanors, and penalties vary depend on circumstances involved. They include: aggravated or mitigated factors; age of the victim; nature and severity of injuries; if a weapon was used; and whether or not the crime was dangerous or non-dangerous; and if the crime was a first time or repeat offense.

Penalties for Non-Dangerous Domestic Violence Offenses
Non-dangerous Misdemeanor DV charges call for minimums of 30 days to 6 months in jail; and fines from $500.00 to $2500.00.

Non-dangerous Felony DV charges call for 6 months to 18 months in prison, minimums; and 4 to 10 years maximum ranges.

Persons convicted of non-dangerous domestic violence offenses may be ordered to participate in domestic violence offender or anger management counseling programs.

Penalties for Dangerous Domestic Violence Offenses

Dangerous Felony first time offenses expose a person to a minimum of 18 months to 3 years in prison; and maximum penalties of 7 years to 21 years on prison.
Felony domestic violence offenders will be exposed to court ordered fines that can reach a maximum of $150,000, plus restitution.

Persons convicted of domestic violence offenses will be ordered to participate in domestic violence offender or anger management counseling programs. Additional Court ordered penalties may apply such as community service, or probation.

Criminal Defense Attorney for Domestic Violence Crimes Mesa, AZ

If you have been charged with any domestic violence offenses you should consult a criminal defense attorney before pleading guilty. There may be defenses that can be used to challenge the charges, lead to suppression of evidence, or even a dismissal of charges. It is never a good idea to go to court without qualified legal representation for any criminal offense. If retained, an attorney will protect your rights, defend your charges. If the case can’t be dismissed, they will work to mitigate sentencing to help you avoid or reduce harsh jail or prison sentencing.

Additional Resources:

Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence .

City of Mesa Police – Family Violence Unit can also provide assistance

Arizona Court – Domestic Violence Information and Resources

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Did you know that the National Impaired Driving Enforcement Campaign is in effect August 17, 2012 to September 3, 2012? You have probably seen the Television commercials airing the messages: “Drive Sober or get Pulled Over;” Don’t drink and drive; and “They’ll see you before you see them”. The efforts involve increased police presence, DUI Task Forces; media outreach; national and local advertisements geared at raising public awareness. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) launched a new anti-impairment driving campaign to support high visibility enforcement (HVE) of police officers nationwide. The campaign is intended to help reduce drunk driving, and raise awareness about the hazards of driving impaired due to alcohol or drugs. The efforts focus combining resources: • Community outreach programs and education; • DUI Task Force administration guides and materials; • Heightened Presence of Police for basic traffic safety; • Paid media communications, advertisements and marketing; • Social media and internet campaigns to communicate the messages Every state has their own laws regarding the legal limit or level of impairment that will result in criminal charges. It is important that you be familiar with the laws in your state, or any state that you plan to visit or reside. Blood Alcohol Content (BAC): Legal Limits Arizona All states in the country comply with at least 0.08% as the legal limit. Other states have more strict legal limits for example 0.05%. Under Arizona law A.R.S. § 28-1381 A (2) a person may be arrested for DUI if their BAC is 0.08% or greater while driving or in actual physical control of any vehicle. In Arizona, a motorist may also be charged with DUI, even if the BAC is below 0.08% down to 0%. This is called being “impaired to the slightest degree” under the influence of alcohol or drugs A.R.S. § 28-1381 A (1). The penalties for DUI convictions are some of the harshest in the country. A first time Misdemeanor DUI, non-extreme BAC (below 0.15.%) conviction carries jail terms; 90 day suspension of driver’s license; Ignition Interlock Device on vehicle; mandatory drug or alcohol counseling; probation; fines and fees. DUI Attorney for defense of charges in Chandler AZ If you face any type of DWI or drunk driving charges, you should always consult a criminal defense attorney to discuss your matter, and defense options. It is never a good idea to go to court alone or try to go without legal representation. If retained, your lawyer will provide legal representation throughout the criminal justice process; make sure you are treated fairly; defend your charges; and look for mitigating factors that will help you avoid a conviction or harsh penalties. If you “Like” this article please let us know with a +1! Feel Free to subscribe and “Share • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – Driving Safety • National Impaired Driving Enforcement Crackdown • Arizoan Legislature – Arizona Revised Statutes Continue reading

On July 29, 2012 Arizona’s Governor Jan Brewer denied the request to halt implementation of the Medical Marijuana Law voted in by Arizonans in November 2010.
Governor Brewer stated in a letter to the Yavapai County Attorney, that she is “duty-bound” from such halt because “the voters approved it”. Approximately 29,500 people have received their Medical Marijuana cards.
The letter signed by Arizona County Attorneys in 13 Counties, including Maricopa County, requested an immediate halt due to the following concerns:

• Arizona Medical Marijuana laws are preempted by the federal Controlled Substances Act (“CSA”);
• Imminent threats of seizures and closures of dispensaries in Arizona by the U.S. Attorney exist;
• State employees involved or who participate in conduct that is in violation of Federal offenses is compelling enough to take immediate action to halt of ADHS licensing.

Despite the fact that Governor Brewer did not support the passage of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA), she feels strongly she has a duty to support its’ existence which was voted into law by the people of Arizona. She stands on firm ground with her decision, and will move forward with implementation until and unless she is notified by the higher Court that State employees will be prosecuted by administration of the law within their duties.

Arizona Laws

As it stands now Medical Marijuana laws allow for, among other things the following provisions:

• No limit exists as to the amount an approved and licensed dispensary may grow;
• Qualified Patients with valid Medical Marijuana cards may purchase 2.5 ounces every two week.

Arizona Drug DUI and Marijuana DUI Laws

All medical marijuana users should understand that although they are qualified users, with valid cards, that do not prevent them from being arrested for Drug DUI.
Under A.R.S § 13-3401, any person “driving impaired to the slightest degree” due to the influence of alcohol, drugs, or Marijuana, they may still be charged with a DUI. The other fact to keep in mind is that Marijuana stays in the blood stream much longer than alcohol. So even in small amounts, it may show positive on DUI blood or chemical testing days or even weeks after it was smoked or ingested.

Consequences of DUI with Drugs or Marijuana DUI

If you are arrested in Arizona for a Drug DUI, or Marijuana DUI you should consult a criminal defense attorney to discuss your matter and defense options. Penalties for Marijuana DUI Convictions are as severe as those for Alcohol related DUI charges. They carry mandatory jail sentencing; suspension of driver’s license; probation; alcohol/drug education, counseling and screening; fines, fees, and assessment costs. You should retain proper legal representation for your charges. They will make sure your rights are protected; that you are treated fairly; and work to get the best resolution in your case. Favorable outcomes may include dismissal of charges, reduction of sentencing; avoidance of jail or other harsh penalties.

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