Bad manners aside, sitting at the dinner table and yelling “bring me some pie!” at your significant other while pounding your fists is probably not a criminal offense. Should you happen to have a knife in one hand while you pound your fists, however, you may be in big trouble.
Significant others don’t like angry demands for pie, I’m told, and as a criminal defense lawyer, I’ve met quite a few people whose significant others love calling the police for the most trivial things. The story the 911 operator hears will invariably be embellished, and in my example, the angry companion would probably claim you somehow threatened her with the knife. She would say how scared she was. When officers arrive and haul you off to jail, she might feel a little regret, but someone has to go jail when the police are called, and better you than her, right?
Strangely, despite your refusal to cooperate or perhaps to speak altogether, the arresting officer would hear a confession. Maybe the police asked you if you had a knife. “Well yes, but…” Maybe they wanted to know if you were slamming your hands down on the table. “Well yes, but…” Officers see a propensity for violence, not a love of pie and some chauvinism that might need a little toning down.
In Arizona, you commit disorderly conduct if, with the intent to disturb the peace or quiet of a person, you recklessly handle a dangerous instrument. Is a knife being pounded on a table readily capable of causing death or serious physical injury? Ut-oh. That’s makes it a dangerous instrument and turns the offense into a class 6 felony, but it also makes it a dangerous offense. You’re looking at a mandatory prison sentence of 1.5 to 3 years regardless of your prior history.
With that kind of risk, you probably don’t want to go to trial. Even if your significant other decides to tell the truth and explain you were just demanding pastry and that, in retrospect, it was more funny than scary, the state will impeach her with what she said before. The jury will hear the 911 call, and the state may trot out an expert about how domestic violence victims experience denial and change their stories after reconciliation.
More importantly, the jury will hear about your “confession,” which the officer undoubtedly failed to record. Funny how that always happens. Regardless, in your own words, the ladies and gentlemen of the jury will hear that you had a knife and slammed your fists on the table. Feel like risking 1.5 to 3 years convincing them you didn’t intend to disturb the victim’s peace by recklessly handling a knife?
The fail-safe should be prosecutorial discretion, but that’s mostly a chimera ’round these parts. They’ll probably offer you a plea to a felony. If you’re lucky, you’ll avoid any time in the pokey aside from your initial stay and any pretrial detention you suffered while unable to bond out. The prosecutor thinks you’re dangerous. In fact, the prosecutor probably thinks you’re more incurable, knife-wielding, DV-zombie than human, someone far beyond hope and wholly unsuitable for human relationships.
The prosecutor will want you to take classes for anger management, substance abuse, and mental health. You’ll have to forfeit the knife too, even though it’s part of a set you inherited from your great auntie and it’s worth quite a lot to you as well as your supposed victim. Finally, you won’t be able to have any victim contact without your probation officer’s permission. Who cares if you’ve lived and worked together for decades, still love each other, both agree nothing criminal actually happened, and you have no place else to go? Hopefully your probation officer, but you never know for sure.
We need reasonable laws. We need to eradicate mandatory minimums. More than anything, we need more prosecutors who aren’t brainwashed justice-despising little robots marching in lockstep with the brainwashed public’s ignorant demands for blood. Sadly, I doubt we’ll be getting any of that anytime soon, so my advice for now is to very politely ask for pie.
Filed under: Arizona Statutes, Prosecutors · Tags: anger management, assault, class 6, counseling, dangerous instrument, dangerous offense, deadly weapon, disorderly conduct, domestic violence, DV, felony, knife, probation