» Entries tagged with "supreme court"

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

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

How It Really Works

Rule 9.1 of the Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure seems pretty simple. It covers a defendant’s waiver of the right to be present in court and provides as follows: [A] defendant may waive the right to be present at any proceeding by voluntarily absenting himself or herself from it. The court may infer that an absence is voluntary if the defendant had personal notice of the time of the proceeding, the right to be present at it, and a warning that the proceeding would go forward in his or her absence should he or she fail to appear. Reading it like a reasonable person capable of understanding the English language and with even the slightest faculty when it comes to basic logic, the rule pretty obviously allows a court to infer … Read entire article »

Filed under: Arizona Cases

He Was Screwed No Matter What

In a recent Supreme Court of Arizona case, State v. Duran, the defendant tried to plead guilty but the trial court rejected his plea. The trial court then royally messed up by saying the prosecutor could use statements Duran made in connection with his change of plea if he testified inconsistently with them at trial. It’s important here to keep in mind the fact the trial court was wrong. Duran’s statements never, ever should have been used against him. The trial court made a mistake, and as a result, the defendant was confronted with the dilemma of testifying and bearing the disastrous brunt of the court’s mistake or not testifying and probably making the best of a really bad situation. A conviction would pretty much be guaranteed … Read entire article »

Filed under: Arizona Cases, Courts

Going Back to Square One

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor thinks “that being a lawyer is one of the best jobs in the whole wide world.” After first seeing a snippet about the interview where she said that, this is what I took from her reasoning: Because every lawyer, no matter whom they represent, is trying to help someone … lawyering is the height of service — and being involved in this profession is a gift. Any lawyer who is unhappy should go back to square one and start again. I was impressed. This is a person who holds a spot on the highest court in the land? A member of that esteemed panel of men and women who are typically unconcerned with the little guy while they make law from the shiniest ivory … Read entire article »

Filed under: SCOTUS Cases

Ex Post Facto Registration

I’ve written before about sex offender registration, which is required in Arizona for a variety of offenses. For many defendants, having to register is one of most unpalatable consequences of a conviction. It’s embarrassing. It forces them to remain in contact with the same evil government that rode roughshod over their rights to get a conviction in the first place. They end up living their lives being tracked like animals released into the wild, trying to move on but with a class four felony perpetually hanging over their heads. Strangely, people who accept a plea knowing they face registration may be the lucky ones. Many defendants with old Arizona convictions and people moving here from other states have ended up having to register even though they … Read entire article »

Filed under: Arizona Constitution, Sex Crimes, US Constitution

An Unintended Consequence of S.B. 1070?

Paul B. Kennedy at The Defense Rests put up a post on Tuesday about how the Supreme Court of the United States struck down portions of Arizona’s anti-immigrant statute while letting others stand. He concluded, “[t]he Court’s decision on Monday will open the door for the police in Arizona to profile motorists based on skin color and appearance.” As the article he cited explains, the Supreme Court unanimously upheld the statute’s requirement that police officers check the immigration status of people they stop. That provision, which the article calls the law’s “most controversial aspect,” is found in A.R.S. 11-1051 and provides as follows in relevant part: For any lawful stop, detention or arrest made by a law enforcement official . . . where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is … Read entire article »

Filed under: Arizona Statutes, SCOTUS Cases

Andrew Thomas’s Disbarment

I watched former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas and his hench-person Lisa Aubuchon get disbarred yesterday. Underling Rachel Alexander received a suspension of six months and one day. You can watch Arizona’s Presiding Disciplinary Judge William O’Neil read the panel’s findings here. The ruling is extensive, but these concluding words seemed particularly important to me: We, like the public, began uninformed. We are now fully informed. We are fully decided in our opinion. The evidence is overwhelming against Respondents. We hope the openness in which these proceedings were held will help restore the public’s faith in our legal institutions and deter attorneys from similar misbehavior. The purpose of attorney discipline is to maintain the integrity of the profession in the eyes of … Read entire article »

Filed under: Ethics

Making Bad Law

I recently had an interesting talk with a prosecutor. I litigated a case against him a little while back, and I thought it had decent facts for a motion to suppress. The officer’s report clearly stated that he had completed the traffic stop, issued a warning, and told the occupants they were free to go before re-initiating contact and asking them, “hey, do you mind if I take a look in the car?” There’s an Arizona court of appeals case from last year called State v. Sweeney. In it, the court held that, after a traffic stop has concluded, an officer must have reasonable cause to initiate a second detention of a suspect. Based on the totality of the circumstances, the officer in my case didn’t have … Read entire article »

Filed under: Arizona Cases, Prosecutors, Search and Seizure

Unauthorized Practice

So there’s this lawyer named Rachel Rodgers. In June, Scott Greenfield called her out on a few things here. Earlier this week, she wrote something entitled “Ethics Should Not Be Used as a Weapon Against Young Lawyers.” Brian Tannebaum quickly took her to task. I normally stay out of these things, but this is close to home. You see, Ms. Rodgers lists a Phoenix, Arizona address on her website. She offers services that look like legal services. Ms. Rodgers is not a licensed Arizona attorney. I checked. She never explicitly claims to be licensed in Arizona, but she also never offers any kind of disclaimer clearly explaining that she isn’t licensed here. That wouldn’t matter anyway, as I’ll explain in a second. … Read entire article »

Filed under: Ethics

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