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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 … Read entire article »

Filed under: Death Penalty

Judge Shopping

Sometimes a judge will reject a plea because he or she feels it is too lenient. In fact, I can think of a few judges who do it frequently, and Arizona’s rules contain more than one provision that can be read to permit a change of judge in that situation. After a change of judge occurs, in most instances the plea will be changed and presented to a new judge. However, some judges are willing to accept the old plea without any changes at all. The judges who require some change to the plea are usually adamant about the fact that using the same plea again constitutes “judge shopping” and isn’t allowed. I’ve yet to figure out whether there is in fact a rule against it … Read entire article »

Filed under: Practice in General, Procedural Rules

Courtroom Manners

In a certain jurisdiction where I regularly find myself practicing, defense attorneys line up to call their cases. Generally, it works out well. If I have a quick matter, like a continuance, the other attorneys let me go first. If I know I’m going to be there for a while, I’ll let other attorneys go ahead. Of course, my primary concern is what my client wants. If my clients want me to call the case as soon as possible, unless there’s a compelling reason not to, that’s exactly what I do. A couple months ago, an attorney showed up (I was the first person in the courtroom, but I was speaking with the bailiff) and went straight to the front. His entire demeanor was … Read entire article »

Filed under: Practice in General, Professionalism

The Right to Counsel, Admin Per Se

If an officer has probable cause to believe you are in actual control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the law provides that you will lose your license for a year if you don’t submit to a chemical test. Personally, I find the whole concept offensive and wholly incompatible with the idea of a free society. However, one thing that makes it even worse is that the judge at your admin per se hearing (license suspension hearing) will only consider whether the officer had reasonable grounds to believe you violated a DUI statute, whether you were arrested, whether you refused or failed to complete an alcohol or drug test, and whether you were informed of the consequences of your refusal or … Read entire article »

Filed under: Arizona Statutes, DUI, MVD Hearings

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 … Read entire article »

Filed under: Juvenile

Politics and the Supreme Court of the United States

The Supreme Court of the United States just decided District of Columbia v. Heller, holding that a District of Columbia prohibition on the possession of usable handguns in the home violated the Second Amendment to the Constitution. Justice Scalia wrote the majority opinion, and Justices Roberts, Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito joined him. Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer were the dissenting Justices. Two weeks ago, the Supreme Court of the United States decided Boumediene v. Bush, where it held that aliens designated as enemy combatants and detained at Guantanamo Bay have the constitutional privilege of habeas corpus. Justice Kennedy delivered the opinion, in which Justices Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer joined. The dissenting Justices were Scalia, Roberts, Thomas, and Alito. My understanding of these two cases is limited … Read entire article »

Filed under: SCOTUS Cases

Wow

I hope this isn’t a rule here as well. Or do I? … Read entire article »

Filed under: Police

Deviations and Personal Circumstances

I often write deviation letters to prosecutors. That is especially important in Maricopa County Superior Court, where deputy county attorneys are forced to follow strict and often ridiculous plea bargaining guidelines. In my experience with deviation letters, I have found that letters citing constitutional issues or exculpatory evidence are far more likely to get a deviation than those citing a client’s mitigating personal circumstances. While I can understand that a prosecutor would rather offer a better bargain than lose a case, it concerns me that prosecutors do not give much weight to a client’s otherwise spotless background, bad health, or personal responsibilities. To me it seems that a strong case for the State involving aberrant behavior and a victimless crime should be just as worthy … Read entire article »

Filed under: Practice in General, Prosecutors

Rules v. Standard Practice

Recently, I amused a judge because I followed the text of a rule of criminal procedure instead of doing what everyone else in the jurisdiction does. He told me I deserved a “gold star,” and I’m not sure how I feel about that. According to the rule, which is very clear, I was responsible for editing a copy of a physicians report within 24 hours of receipt and returning it to the court so it could be made available to the State. Apparently, most attorneys just get the report, redact it at their leisure, and give it to the State a day or so before the hearing. At every step of a case, I tend to look at the governing statue or rule whenever there might be … Read entire article »

Filed under: Practice in General, Procedural Rules, Professionalism

Can you get a DUI in a car that doesn't work?

A case that addressed that question, State v. Larriva, cited out-of-state authority for the proposition that “the inoperability of the vehicle does not preclude a finding of actual physical control,” later concluding “that the operability of the vehicle is only tangentially relevant to the determination of actual physical control.” In Larriva, the defendant was stuck on a curb and couldn’t move his car. However, Larriva was later questioned in State v. Dawley, where the court stated in a footnote that “the facts on which we based our decision in Larriva would support a conviction on a theory of driving as shown by circumstantial evidence, as suggested by the special concurrence in that case, not on a theory of actual physical control.” Dawley was dealing with jury instructions, and … Read entire article »

Filed under: Arizona Cases, DUI

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