Brown & Little, P.L.C. » Blog

Got That?

In Arizona state courts, plea agreements are generally simple. Although a few paragraphs tend to confuse most defendants and require a little bit of explaining, they’ll at least set forth a definite number of years in prison, or maybe a range. Or they’ll say probation and maybe specify a specific jail term. Exactly what the defendant is facing is fairly clear. As I’ve started to do more federal work, however, I’ve noticed that things aren’t always that way in federal court. I wrote before about how silly it is to pretend at the change of plea hearing that the defendant wasn’t coerced when we all know that mandatory minimums cause coercion in nearly every case. That isn’t quite as common in federal cases, but there’s a different … Read entire article »

Filed under: Uncategorized

Government Thugs

I spent last weekend at Too Broke for Sturgis, a motorcycle rally put on by ABATE of Arizona. ABATE is a non-profit motorcycle rights organization that does some really good stuff, and its members are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met. Pretty much all of the bikers who attend the rally each year are great people. ABATE rents the whole venue and provides both hired and volunteer security. They limit access and strictly enforce a no underage drinking policy. There are no alcohol sales in the event at all. ABATE charges admission, so I had to pay to get in. So did everyone else. Well, almost everyone. Like at most biker events, there were police everywhere. Sheriff’s deputies mostly stayed on the … Read entire article »

Filed under: Bikers' Rights, Government Rants

Another Shameful Win For The Drug Warriors

I gave a client a ride to court yesterday morning. He’d flown into the Phoenix airport from the other side of the country and didn’t have transportation. It would’ve been a record-breaking cab fare for him, so I offered and he accepted. We probably don’t have an awful lot in common, and his English is about as good as my Spanish. He’s an incredibly nice guy, though. He fielded one teary phone call after another from one family member after another during the drive. I tried not to eavesdrop, but there was one thing I couldn’t help but catch: Daddy’s going to work. I don’t know how long I’ll be gone. It might be a long time. Be a good boy. Be good … Read entire article »

Filed under: Drugs

Real Monsters

I represent an octogenarian cancer patient who is who is likely to die as a direct result of the actions of the State of Arizona. She isn’t on death row or anything like that. She isn’t even a defendant. She isn’t just a witness either, though she may end up one if the state has its way and gets to do what’s likely to kill her. That’s what I’m trying to stop. She’s actually an alleged victim. She’s one of a few victims in a single case, and she’s the only victim of a misdemeanor offense. The other counts are felonies with different named victims. She doesn’t want the case to proceed. She doesn’t want to participate. She can’t participate. Her doctor has said she is in … Read entire article »

Filed under: Victim's Rights

A Nice Thought, At Least

When a judge begins a dissent by calling something agents did “a profoundly disturbing use of government power that directly imperils some of our most fundamental constitutional values,” I expect it is going to be a good read. I also assume the case probably arose in Arizona, where most people seem to think fundamental constitutional values should be limited to an appreciation of the sacred right to have law enforcement make sure nobody but them breaks any laws. With the recent Ninth Circuit case of United States v. Black, I was right on both counts. The description of what happened from the dissent in Black is pretty much as spot-on as the analysis. As it explains, the government went to a “bad” part of town to find “bad” people to … Read entire article »

Filed under: Courts, Drugs

If That’s What He Says, What Does He Think?

Imagine a case where a guy gets popped on drug charges and the cops say they’ll not submit anything for charges if he catches a bigger fish for them. The guy holds up his end of the bargain, but the cops screw up the sting. The cops then go ahead and submit everything to charge him. A prosecutor later needs the guy to testify against the bigger fish when the cops finally catch him. The guy and his former lawyers both claim she promised him no jail or even a dismissal if he did what she asked. Again, the guy follows through, this time securing a conviction. The prosecutor makes him an offer to jail anyway, denying she made any promises and pointing out nothing is … Read entire article »

Filed under: Judges

Lenity?

Imagine that you are appearing in front of an Arizona Superior Court judge for your sentencing and are scared to death. Your trial had all sorts of obvious errors, but you were convicted of a felony DUI charge anyway. You are being sent to prison, and you want to appeal. The judge tells you that your notice of appeal must be filed “within 20 days after the entry of judgment and sentence.” If you are like the hundreds or maybe even thousands of people I have represented at sentencing hearings in cases of all sorts, you would probably just be doing everything you could to avoid fainting. Your life is ruined. You probably failed to hear a single thing the judge said. Your reasonable lawyer might … Read entire article »

Filed under: Arizona Cases

Are They Idiots Or Are They Liars?

I wouldn’t be writing about Mesa twice in row if I didn’t think it was all noteworthy. This time, though, I’m a little less cynical. I refuse to believe the judges at Mesa City Court are anywhere near as simple-minded and unfair as some of the prosecutors there claim. To give you some background, if you are charged with misdemeanor DUI in Arizona and your BAC is between 0.08 and 0.15, the mandatory minimum jail sentence is one day with nine days suspended. If your BAC is between 0.15 and 0.20, it’s nine days with twenty-one days suspended. Any misdemeanor DUI in Arizona could theoretically result in 180 days in jail, but I’ve never seen it happen, heard about it happening, or even realistically considered that any prosecutor could … Read entire article »

Filed under: Courts, DUI, Prosecutors

Move Along, No Preferential Treatment Here

Last Thursday, we faxed a motion to continue trial to Mesa Municipal Court at 10:02 a.m. We sent the state a copy too, of course, though we’d also told the assigned prosecutor what we were going to do the day before. The court called us at 2:25 p.m. and left a message about getting our position on the state’s motion to continue trial. That’s right, the state’s motion. Not ours. The motion the state didn’t bother faxing us until 3:45 p.m. I called the court back sometime shortly before 5:00 p.m. and spoke with a very pleasant lady. She wanted to know my position on the state’s motion. I told her we didn’t oppose it and had in fact filed our own motion. She asked … Read entire article »

Filed under: Courts

Sucks Not Eating That Cake, Huh?

I covered a pretty amazing hearing recently. It wasn’t amazing because of anything I did. It was amazing because it perfectly showcased the disastrous impact of mandatory sentencing rules and a culture of punishment and cruelty not just on defendants, but on victims. The client was accused of taking money from a family trust. He was left out of it, but his cousins weren’t. He allegedly drained the trust using forged checks. At his first sentencing, the victims said how they weren’t going to get to go to college. He took their college fund, apparently, and now they had to take out student loans. At least one of them wanted to punish him with a long prison sentence. All of them wanted him to repay … Read entire article »

Filed under: Courts, Prosecutors, Victim's Rights

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