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Arizona Sentencing Laws Meet My Least Favorite Word: Policy

It’s no big secret to regular readers of this blog that Matt does the heavy lifting around here. Frankly, he does 99.999% of the lifting. I was finally, again, inspired to write out of deep frustration. I often feel as an Arizona criminal defense attorney that I operate in a separate world from attorneys in other states because of Arizona’s especially draconian sentencing requirements. Arizona legislators seem to take pride in steppin’ it up a few notches every couple of years to save our citizens the embarrassment of getting lambasted by Texans laughin’ at our sissy laws. 45 days for a first time DUI if the blood is high enough? We got that. 10 year minimum for possession of a single photo deemed … Read entire article »

Filed under: Clients, Government Rants, Practice in General

Jail: US v. Mexico

I recently met with a potential client who is a Mexican citizen. He doesn’t reside in the United States and is absolutely terrified of doing any time in jail in Arizona. That isn’t exactly an unusual feeling for a person to have, but this guy should be capable of holding his own in a tough situation. He is familiar with our country. I don’t want to say what he does for a living, not because it is illegal, but because I don’t want to impact his career in case someone starts snooping into his life. Suffice it to say, this guy shouldn’t really be worried about a few days in the county jailhouse. It got me thinking. Do people in Mexico fear our jails like … Read entire article »

Filed under: jail

The Motorcycle That Could Not Be

I recently finished working on a pro bono forfeiture case. The short story is that a guy puts a new engine and forks on a 1970s Harley Davidson in California in 1991. He registers it in California, and they give it a new VIN because the new motor serial number doesn’t match the frame. This is a common practice for motorcycles. My client enters the picture in 1992 or 1993, when he buys the motorcycle. He registers it in California and operates it for years with no issues. He moves to Massachusetts and registers it with no problem. In 2004, he moves to Arizona to be closer to his children and grandchildren. When he takes the bike to the Arizona MVD in 2007 (he didn’t ride … Read entire article »

Filed under: Arizona Statutes, Bikers' Rights

Wonder Dog

This story is absolutely unbelievable. At least a judge finally put an end to it, but how many years have people convicted by such blatantly false evidence had to serve? If these people were convicted by overwhelmingly obvious sham evidence, why weren’t all of the jury verdicts overturned? I’m assuming it was the bulk of the State’s evidence in each of the cases, which I think it is a fair assumption. Tracking over water? Picking up a scent six months later? The officer should be in jail, and the prosecutors should be poster children for why absolute immunity is a bad idea. I don’t know all of the details, and I know I’m making the above statements without investigating the cases and writing in anger. … Read entire article »

Filed under: Uncategorized

Double Jeopardy Is Okay…If You Are a Native American

If you are Native American and commit a criminal offense on an Indian reservation, it can be a crime in both the Indian community and the federal system. As a result of the United States Supreme Court’s decisions on the matter, the Indian Civil Rights Act, and subsequent legislation, Indians can go to jail (technically, there are no prisons on Indian reservations) and federal prison for the same crime. They can also be fined twice for the same criminal act. The Supreme Court’s rationale is based on their interpretation of the source of Indian governments’ powers and how they interact with the U.S. Constitution. The Supreme Court was also understandably concerned that an Indian could quickly plead out in an Indian jurisdiction to avoid federal prosecution. This often leads … Read entire article »

Filed under: Indian Law, SCOTUS Cases

Another Fumble by Congress, An Awesome Act of Defiance by Malcolm Smith

The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 bans items for children that contain a certain amount of lead. It’s a seemingly great idea to protect kids, but unsurprisingly, the way Congress wrote it causes ridiculous effects. The Act makes it illegal to sell ATVs and motorcycles to children under 12 because the children might eat the battery terminals, the frame, or tear apart the brakes and lick enough lead to kill or harm them. I’m not sure why kids are incapable of eating Mom’s car battery, which in almost all cases would be easier to get to than a bike or ATV battery, but no one asked me. Lead, while obviously a poor meal, is instrumental as an alloy in the manufacturing of certain materials. … Read entire article »

Filed under: Bikers' Rights, Government Rants, Legislation

Is Gilbert The New Castle Rock?

I recently had a change of plea for a DUI in Gilbert where I started to feel like I was in a Stephen King novel. Gilbert has several policies that seem extreme even in Maricopa County. Matt has previously pointed out Gilbert’s policy for vehicles impound in a previous post, so I’ll concentrate on two other aspects that irk me. First, the plea deal stipulates to five years of probation. In my opinion that is simply absurd. Why in the world does a first time offender need a probation period of 60 months? The judge was gracious enough to modify the terms so probation terminates upon completion of certain alcohol classes. An individual unlucky enough to get stuck with the full five years might be … Read entire article »

Filed under: Government Rants, Practice in General

Super-nosed Cops

I recently had a case where a police officer claimed he was able to smell a very small amount of unburnt marijuana. The amount was the same weight as a level teaspoon of salt, yet the officer pulled over the truck and performed a search of the vehicle without the client’s permission based solely on the odor of unburnt marijuana. The marijuana was located in the back of a closed camper inside two sealed plastic baggies inside a nylon gym bag filled with clothes. I have absolutely no doubt that the officer couldn’t have possibly smelled that marijuana. However, as a defense attorney few tools exist for me to challenge the claim on a scientific basis. I’ve only located one case where a court took … Read entire article »

Filed under: Police, Search and Seizure

Death Penalty

I often get questions from family and friends about cases in the media, especially death penalty cases. I don’t want to discuss the merits of whether or not we should have a death penalty; instead, I want to focus on process itself. People almost universally get upset over the cost and time of such cases. No doubt it is frustrating to hear about someone who committed a heinous crime and received expensive legal representation for free, and I certainly think that the system could be streamlined. I’ve heard numerous times that “we all know he (or she) is guilty, why can’t we just execute them immediately” or “why do we have to pay for their defense.” While the complete answer to the question would … Read entire article »

Filed under: Death Penalty

Is a parent responsible for the damage caused by their children?

Yes. In Arizona, pursuant to A.R.S. § 12-661 (2008) a judge can make the parents or legal guardians of a juvenile responsible for up to $10,000.00 for each “malicious or willful” tort caused by the juvenile. Prosecutors almost always require that plea bargains stipulate that the juvenile will be jointly and severally responsible for any damages caused by the juvenile and his or her co-defendants. In my experience, this can often place the attorney for the juvenile between a rock and a hard place. For example, I’ve had several criminal damage cases were the juvenile has a very poor chance of winning a trial (numerous co-defendants and other witnesses willing to testify to the juvenile’s guilt) but I’ve been able to arrange a plea bargain that will either … Read entire article »

Filed under: Juvenile

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