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Predictability

The folks at the MVD tell me that, if you do your administrative suspension before you are convicted of DUI, you can get a restricted license after thirty days and avoid having to get expensive SR22 insurance. They say you won’t get those benefits if you are convicted first. Speaking with former clients, however, the ones who do the admin per se suspension first do indeed experience what the MVD predicted, but so do the ones who get convicted first. I haven’t called the MVD to argue with them about why they didn’t screw my clients like they said they would. The folks at jail tell me that, if the order of confinement for a day of jail says “one day,” they will hold my clients for a … Read entire article »

Filed under: DUI, Government Rants, jail

All The Power

Adrian keeps telling me: Sometimes I wish we just dealt with those people from Hellraiser instead of some prosecutors; then, at least, my mom could understand why my job is so damn frustrating. I went to court a while back for a felony DUI client. Absurd mandatory minimums and absurder (this can’t be a word, but Google says it is so I’m going with it) plea policies from most prosecutorial agencies make me hate these cases. That combined with the fact the crime isn’t so much something someone might know they’re committing but rather possession of an arbitrary amount of something in their blood as determined by a machine that might not work makes for a killer cocktail of injustice. When the crime is something designed to insure you … Read entire article »

Filed under: DUI, Prosecutors

A Small Step

For any lawyer who practices a lot in federal court, the recent Supreme Court decision in Johnson v. United States is a pretty big deal. It involves the “Armed Career Criminal Act,” a part of 18 U.S.C. § 924 that has an enormous impact at sentencing for certain defendants convicted under the federal prohibited possessor law, 18 U.S.C. § 922(g). What the act does is increase the penalty from a ten-year maximum to a fifteen-year mandatory minimum and a maximum of life in prison for people who have three or more convictions for a “serious drug offense” or a “violent felony.” The issue in Johnson was the definition of “violent felony,” specifically what courts call the “residual clause” of the definition. Although the definition includes some more clearly … Read entire article »

Filed under: SCOTUS Cases

Two Different Systems

The recent opinion from the Supreme Court of the United States in San Francisco v. Sheehan hits awfully close to home for me. Just a few days ago, I dismissed a civil suit against a police officer who created a situation where the only possible outcome was to murder someone he never would have “had” to have murdered in any other situation except for the one he created by violating policy. The doctrine of qualified immunity, the same thing at issue in Sheehan, gave my clients no choice but to let that murderous cop completely dodge any sort of consequences for his actions. I am not writing about my case, though, so I will stick with the facts of Sheehan, which are pretty simple. Ms. Sheehan was a … Read entire article »

Filed under: SCOTUS Cases

Guilt v. Shame

A witness and I each had pretty remarkable breakthroughs at the same time earlier today. We both suddenly understood things we’d never really considered. When she had her revelation, she shook her head in disgust. On the other hand, I just thought yet again about how ridiculous our justice system really is. To say the witness and I have different backgrounds would be an understatement. We’re generations removed, and even if we shared a birth date in the same year, it would hardly even begin to bridge the cultural gap. On top of that, she’s mostly deaf and entirely mute. An ASL interpreter did not work out, and her writing is very difficult to understand. The “interview” today involved a pen and some paper. … Read entire article »

Filed under: Government Rants, Uncategorized

Best Served Really, Really Cold

In 1999, Ramon Nelson was riding his bicycle away from a liquor store when someone hit him in the back of the head with a wooden stick, killing him. He had forty little baggies of crack on him when he died. Although it was dark out at the time, a guy named Maurice Johnnie identified a guy named Lawrence Owens as the murderer, first in a six-person photo lineup and then in an actual lineup. Lawrence Owens was the only person from the first lineup who also appeared in the second. A guy named William Evans said there were two people involved in the murder, but he identified Lawrence Owens as one of them in the same two lineups Maurice Johnnie saw. He said the victim spoke with the … Read entire article »

Filed under: Uncategorized

A DUI Victory! (Mostly…Well A Little, At Least)

In 2012, I discussed the fact there were real problems with the scientific evidence offered by the state in criminal cases and that many courts not only let the questionable evidence come in, but even prevented the defense from bringing up the problems. In 2013, I wrote about the problems with a machine used for blood tests in Scottsdale DUI cases specifically, and about how a superior court judge actually ruled that blood test results in several cases were inadmissible pursuant to Rule 702 of the Arizona Rules of Evidence because the scientific principles and methods weren’t being applied reliably because of their equipment problems. Always the skeptic (and usually right), I was less than optimistic about what the appellate court would do. In 2014, I was (sadly) proven right, and … Read entire article »

Filed under: DUI

One Day Of Jail And A Whole Lotta Pain In The Ass

Quite often, criminal punishments are harsh not because they involve a lot of jail time or heavy fines, but because of the irritating hoops you have to jump through to satisfy them. It’s most common in Phoenix DUI cases, and it reaches its irritating extreme for out of state DUI defendants trying to do their jail sentence someplace else. Come on vacation, leave on probation It’s a common little joke around here, and in my line of work, I see it in action constantly. Whether we’re the destination for the Superbowl, a golf tournament, a biker rally, or a high school spring break field trip, we make sure our cops work around the clock so no vacationer escapes without having to respect our authoritah. The poor guy who lives elsewhere, who … Read entire article »

Filed under: DUI, jail

Ignoring The Will Of The People

You would never in a million years see an opinion like State v. Hancock in anything but a criminal case. In it, the Supreme Court of Arizona spent its valuable time analyzing a provision that said a certain group authorized to do a certain thing cannot be denied “any right or privilege . . . by a court” for doing that thing. One party was a member of that group, and the other party was trying to have a court deny her the thing a court by law cannot deny her. It might seem like the Supreme Court’s conclusion is beyond obvious, and it surely should be. The problem, however, is that the party arguing the law does not mean what it says is the State of Arizona, … Read entire article »

Filed under: Drugs

The Enemy Is All Of Us

You’d probably think that Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery’s moral compass is tried and true. It certainly should be, as he leads one of the nation’s largest public prosecutorial agencies. His office chooses who to charge, what to charge, and what pleas to offer in this gigantic county of ours, and for most of the individuals his deputies prosecute, he might as well be omnipotent. Unfortunately, his ability to distinguish right and wrong, and accordingly the good guys from the bad guys, seems deeply flawed. In a recent debate with my friend (and awesome criminal defense attorney) Marc Victor, he called a US military veteran an “enemy” for smoking marijuana. The New Times described the exchange, which occurred during a question and answer session at the end … Read entire article »

Filed under: Prosecutors

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