Drug Diversion Programs in Arizona Report Success


Drug diversion programs are not new but they are becoming increasingly popular in Arizona and other states. These programs provide mental health and substance abuse help for defendants who may otherwise end up behind bars.

Pima County in Arizona became one of the most recent places in the state to adopt drug diversion programs. A report in Tucson.com noted federal grant money is funding new programs from January 2019.

The report stated nearly $3 million in federal grant money was awarded to the Pima County Attorney’s Office.

drug diversion programs

drug diversion programs in Arizona

Pima County is setting up a misdemeanor problem-solving program to provide low-level offenders with mental health and substance use treatment, as well as other services for those at risk.

Tucson.com reported the country lacked a method of providing services and drug treatment to people arrested on non-drug-related misdemeanor charges.

Although the Attorney’s Office provided programs for people arrested on felony drug charges, there was no equivalent program for repeat misdemeanor offenders suffering from drug addiction and mental health issues.

The Consolidated Misdemeanor Problem-Solving Court program that began in January changed that.

Chief Deputy Pima County Attorney Amelia Cramer explained there are few cases related solely to drug possession in the misdemeanor court but the court deals with a considerable number of crimes linked to homelessness.

The court deals with trespassing, urinating in public and other crimes. Often the perpetrators have mental health and behavioral health issues.

It is often beneficial for low-level defendants to go into drug diversion programs.  Admission to the programs is not automatic. Applicants undergo an initial screening. They must have no previous felony drug-related convictions and no past convictions for violent offenses.

If a defendant completes the program successfully, the Treatment Assessment Screening Centers will recommend that the charges be dismissed.

If a defendant fails to finish the program as intended, TASC will recommend that the trial court reinstate the prosecution.

As well as drug division programs, many jurisdictions in Arizona have mental health courts. At the Garcia Law Firm, we can help channel people into diversion programs. Please call us for a consultation at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Drug Crimes | Tagged |

Arizona U.S. Marshal Killing Highlights Gaps in Mental Health Safety Net


The criminal justice and mental health services in Arizona often fail to help people with psychological problems until it’s too late. Recently, police said they struggled to deal with death threats from a man accused of killing a deputy U.S. marshal.

Ryan Schlesinger is the suspect in the killing of 41-year-old Chase White last November. The official was shot dead while serving a fugitive warrant in Tucson.

Mental health concerns are highlighted by U.S. Marshal killing

U.S. Marshal killing highlights mental health fears

Officers said they struggled to deal with alleged threats and mental health issues related to Schlesinger for more than a year, according to a report in AZCentral.  In late August 2018, officers went to Pima County Justice of the Peace Court to request harassment injunctions against Schlesinger and another man who was frequently seen by the police department’s mental health unit, according to the media report. It’s an unusual move by police officers.

Police said the men had allegedly harassed officers assigned to the mental health unit. At the hearing, before Justice of the Peace Paula Aboud, Sgt. Jason Winsky, who heads up the mental health unit, said his team investigated alleged threats and the mental health status of Schlesinger.

Aboud granted the injunction requested by the cops. It also prevented Schlesinger from possessing firearms.

Officers tried to get an order forcing Schlesinger into mental health treatment after the granting of the injunction but were ultimately unsuccessful. The AZ Central report stated they obtained an arrest warrant against him for stalking one of the two officers whose family members’ home he had visited.

Cops said they were concerned about Schlesinger’s behavior. Winsky testified in August 2017 that officers tried to contact Schlesinger and he barricaded himself in the house.

Sadly, the mental health and criminal justice systems in Arizona often fail to intervene until it is too late. People who have mental health issues may not get a fair trial.

It’s unfair for the criminal justice system to punish someone who lacks full control of his or her mental faculties. In any criminal proceeding, all of the circumstances related to a defendant’s behavior must be considered by the judicial system.

If you or a family member has a mental illness and is facing charges, please contact our Arizona criminal defense lawyers as soon as possible at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Mental Health, Violent Crime | Tagged |

Restoration to Competency Cases Remain Controversial in Arizona


Restoration to Competency, or RTC, is a process in which a judge decides whether a person with mental disabilities is fit to face trial.

The deliberations associated with restoration to competency help the courts make a crucial decision.   When a defendant is deemed competent, he or she can face incarceration and even the death penalty. However, if a judge finds competency cannot be restored, the courts must dismiss the charges. This does not mean the defendant will be released. The defendant may still be committed to an institution via a civil-court process.

What is Restoration to competency in Arizona

Restoration to competency in Arizona

A report in Arizona Republic  described how the restoration process is limited in certain places like Maricopa County.

A study of a year’s results suggested rather than finding if a defendant is fit to stand trial, RTC appears to be a way of advancing mentally ill people through the court process.

The report found many of the defendants subjected to the restoration to competency process were previously arrested on minor crimes or drug possession charges. In some cases, minor issues like traffic stops ended up in altercations with police officers leading to enhanced charges.

Mental health professionals evaluated the defendants before they were ruled incompetent by a judge and referred to the RTC program. They were then assessed and declared restored again by mental-health professionals.

The report pointed out the judges often agreed with the mental health professionals. The defendants wound up in jail or prison.

The report noted serious issues when defendants were charged with violent crimes like murders. They ended up in legal battles that can last for years, delaying justice for both defendants and victims.

Restoration to competency is traced to the Dusky decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1960. Dusky, a schizophrenic, was charged with kidnapping and rape. Despite his condition, a court found him competent to stand trial and was convicted. He argued his conviction should be reversed on the grounds that he was not competent to stand trial.

The justices allowed Dusky a retrial. They stated a defendant must be able to consult with his lawyer rationally and have an understanding of the proceedings he is subjected to. The justices ruled a brief mental status exam was not sufficient.

A report in AZCentral cited issues with restoration to competency in Maricopa County.

It described the case of Rodney Aviles who beat his 7-year-old niece and mother to death in Phoenix in 1999. The courts sent Aviles to Arizona State Hospital after he was ruled incompetent to stand trial. Doctors decided that he was no longer a threat to himself and or other people and told the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office that he would be released.

Aviles’ family were worried about his welfare but they did not want him to be released. The report stated they learned about the pending release from an Arizona Republic reporter. The county attorney moved to re-indict Aviles for murder. Before he was eventually committed to the state hospital, he was found incompetent and restored and re-indicted two more times, according to the report.

The Republic investigation found many areas of concern about the process and suggested some clinicians work too closely with prosecutors to get accused people with mental health issues to stand trial.

At the Garcia Law Firm, we specialize in representing mentally ill defendants. The last thing you want is to be bounced around the system for years. Please contact us at (602) 340-1999.


Posted in Mental Health, Mental Health Defenses | Tagged |

Outlining Arizona’s Unlawful Flight Laws


Failing to stop after being requested to by a police officer or fleeing from police form part of Arizona’s unlawful flight laws.

These offenses vary in seriousness. You can be charged with a Class 5 felony in certain circumstances.

Failure to stop for a police officer or another law enforcement vehicle constitutes a crime under A.R.S. 28-1595. The statute says a driver who knowingly fails or refuses to stop after receiving a “visual or audible signal or instruction” by a police officer or other traffic enforcement official faces a class 2 misdemeanor.

unlawful flight laws

Arizona’s unlawful flight laws

The driver must give an officer the following information on request:

  1. His or her full name.
  2. The driver’s date of birth.
  3. The driver’s residential address.
  4. A brief physical description including sex, weight, eye and hair color, and height.
  5. The driver’s signature.

Drivers who attempt to flee from police officers face being charged with a class 5 felony under Arizona’s unlawful flight laws. A felony charge may be brought if the driver seeks to outrun or outmaneuver any law enforcement vehicle with official markings.

A prosecutor must prove you intended to flee the stop rather than making a mistake or not realizing you were asked to pull over. The state needs to show a driver knew a law enforcement officer signaled them to pull over, and then failed to do so.

The prosecution must prove that the driver willfully attempted to escape police to prove unlawful flight took place. The state must also provide evidence that the vehicle driven by police was officially marked.

What is the Definition of Unlawful Flight in Arizona?

Under Arizona statute 28-622.01, a driver commits unlawful flight when he or she “willfully flees or attempts to elude a pursuing official law enforcement vehicle” properly marked as a law enforcement vehicle.

Drivers are not required to stop immediately if it’s dangerous to do so. They can wait to pull into a safe place for a highway patrol or police officer. If it’s dangerous to stop on the highway, they have a right to drive to a safe place to stop.

In some cases, drivers may fail to notice a police officer is trying to pull them over. This is a legitimate defense to the felony although it can be hard to prove.

Given that a class 5 felony can land you in prison for two years facing fines of up to $150,000, you should hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer to fight these charges. Please call the Garcia Law Firm at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Arizona Laws, DUI | Tagged |

Is Shoplifting a Misdemeanor or a Felony in Arizona?


Many people who are charged with shoplifting don’t take the offense seriously. They assume they will get a slap on the wrists and a fine. However, shoplifting in Arizona can be charged as a felony in certain circumstances.

It’s vital to take the offense seriously and to hire an experienced Phoenix criminal defense lawyer if you have been charged with shoplifting.

Whether shoplifting is charged as a misdemeanor or a felony depends on factors such as the value of the goods that were stolen.

shoplifting in Arizona may be serious

Shoplifting in Arizona can be a felony

A shoplifting charge can be brought under a number of scenarios in Arizona. Under Arizona Revised Statutes § 13-1805 you can be charged with shoplifting if:

A person who is shopping knowingly obtains goods from the store with the intent to deprive the establishment of its merchandise by:

  1. Taking the goods away from the establishment without paying the purchase price; or
  2. Charging a purchase price of the merchandise to a fictitious individual or any person without their authority; or
  3. Paying less than the purchase price by a trick such as changing or altering marking, price tags or labels.
  4. Transferring the goods from one container to another; or
  5. Concealing merchandise.

Although most shoplifting offenses will be charged as misdemeanors if the value of the items stolen is under $1,000, this crime can be a felony in the following circumstances:

The value of the items stolen was $1,000 or more, but less than $2,000. The offense will be charged as a Class 6 felony.

  • Merchandise valued at more than $2,000 was stolen – the offense is charged as a Class 5 felony;
  • Shoplifting was part of a continuous criminal episode;
  • Shoplifting was committed to promote gang activity;
  • You used a device or an instrument to shoplift property – this can be charged as a Class 4 felony.
  • You had two similar convictions for theft offenses within five years of the alleged offense.

A “continuing criminal episode” is defined as the theft of property or goods valued at $1,500 or more in three separate incidences within 90 days.

If you are charged with felony shoplifting you could be locked up in jail for almost four years.

In some jurisdictions, shoplifters are eligible for diversion programs. These programs can allow you to attend classes and have your charges dismissed if you successfully complete the programs. These programs are only available for first-time offenders.

It’s important not to dismiss a shoplifting crime as unimportant. A conviction can hamper your life and even result in jail time. Please contact our experienced Arizona criminal defense lawyer today to talk about your options if you have been charged with shoplifting.

Posted in Theft | Tagged |

When Can you Fall Foul of Arizona’s Gun Control Laws?


Arizona has some of the most liberal gun laws in the United States. However, its reputation for having few rules can land some people in trouble with the law. There are restrictions and many people fall foul of Arizona’s gun control laws.

Under Arizona law, any person 21 years or older, who is not a prohibited possessor, is able to carry a weapon openly or concealed without the need for a license.

In this respect, Arizona is different from many other states that require a concealed carry permit.

To obtain a concealed-weapons permit, you must be 21 or older, and a legal U.S. resident. You must have no felony convictions or mental illness.

What are gun control laws in Arizona?

Gun control laws in Arizona

Arizona’s gun control laws state the holder of a firearm must complete a firearms safety course. The state does not set out minimum requirements for the course and hands-on training with a gun is not necessary.

Arizona’s Gun Control Laws and Mental Health

Under federal law, certain people are prevented from buying or possessing firearms. They include felons, people with a domestic abuse conviction and certain people with a history of mental illness. The provisions relating to firearms and mental health can be confusing.

You are prohibited from buying or possessing a gun in the following circumstances:

  • You have been found to be a danger to yourself or others, you are acutely or persistently disabled or gravely disabled as set out in a court order, and your right to possess a firearm has not been restored;
  • You have been found incompetent, and not subsequently found to be competent.
  • You have been found guilty except insane.

Gun Control Laws and Convicted Felons

Arizona prevents you possessing a firearm if you:

  • Have been convicted of a felony or adjudicated delinquent for a felony and your civil right to possess or carry a firearm is not restored;
  • You are serving a term in a prison or any other correctional or detention facility;
  • You are on probation for a domestic violence offense or a felony offense, or community supervision, parole, work furlough, home arrest or release on any other condition.
  • You are an undocumented alien or a nonimmigrant alien lacking documentation in Arizona.

Firearms are banned in certain places in Arizona. They are:

  • At correctional facilities
  • At a liquor retailer when a sign prohibiting weapons is posted;
  • On grounds of any school
  • At polling places on election day
  • At hydroelectric or nuclear-generating stations.
  • Any event open to the public if the operator makes a reasonable request for you to hand over or remove a weapon from the premises. A sign qualifies as a request. Cities and counties are required to offer on-site storage for guns if a request is made.
  • Facilities where firearms are banned by federal law.

Firearms Banned Under Arizona Gun Control Laws

Although Arizona has permissive gun control laws, some firearms are banned. The state outlaws automatic weapons and rifles with a barrel less than 16 inches or a shotgun with a barrel less than 18 inches.

Modified rifles and shotguns with an overall length of 26 inches are banned along with guns made or adapted to reduce the sounds of the firearm. Arizona bans firearms capable of shooting one or more shots automatically without the need to manually reload the gun.

As in other states, a wide range of other weapons is banned in Arizona, including bombs, mines, grenades, and improvised explosive devices.

There is a wide range of potential sentences for firearms violations in Arizona. If you possess a weapon when you are prohibited from carrying a firearm, you may face a class 4 felony, carrying 2.5 years to 3 years in prison.

When people fall foul of Arizona’s gun control laws, they are often unaware they are doing anything wrong. At the Garcia Law Firm, we have helped people with mental health issues who are charged with firearms offenses. This is a complicated area of the law. Please call us today at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Arizona Laws, Law Enforcement | Tagged |

Disproportionate Sentencing Along Racial Lines is Revealed in Arizona Report


If you think you’ll receive the same sentencing in the criminal justice system wherever you live and whatever the color of your skin, think again. A new report reveals sentencing often takes place along racial lines in Arizona.

The report was highlighted in November by AZCentral.  It sheds light on sentencing disparities between urban and rural communities in the state and suggests disproportionate sentencing of black people and Hispanics in areas like drug offenses.

The “Cost to Communities” report was released by FWD.us. The organization is a bipartisan nonprofit founded by tech and business leaders.

Sentencing Along Racial Lines

A report reveals sentencing along racial lines

Alarmingly, the report suggests people of color and their communities are hit hardest by the Arizona criminal justice system. The report points to disproportionate sentencing.

The report states the problems in Arizona mirrors a nationwide issue. The report noted communities of color are more likely to be incarcerated and to spend longer periods behind bars.

The disparities are not attributable to differences in offense rates, the report notes. The report states:

“Nationally, criminologists have studied this question for decades, and the most recent study found that a large portion — 45 percent — of racial disparities in imprisonment are not the result of racial disparities in arrest rates. Instead, at numerous points within the criminal justice system, from prosecution to conviction, researchers have identified instances of biased policies, practices, and decision-making.”

The racial disparity is most evident in relation to drug crimes, according to the report.  Drug use is similar across the races, but communities of color are imprisoned at significantly higher rates.

The report notes Arizona’s population comprises about 31 percent of Hispanic people, Hispanics account for 32 percent of arrests for marijuana possession. However, almost 60 percent of the people admitted to prison for marijuana possession are from a Hispanic background.

Hispanic people are also disproportionately sentenced for marijuana distribution. They comprise 42 percent of arrests for the crime and 81.5 percent of those who are jailed for possession, the report states.

While black people use marijuana at a roughly an equal rate to white people, African Americans are being jailed disproportionately in Arizona, according to the report. While Arizona has considerably more white people than black people, the numbers of people jailed from the two groups in Arizona are approximately equal.

The Cost to Communities report also found Arizona’s rural counties are sending more people to jail than its urban areas. The average length of prison sentences fluctuated across the state, ranging from 32.9 months in La Paz to 57.4 months in Maricopa, the report states.

If you have been arrested for a drug offense or another crime in Arizona, you should not assume the criminal justice system will deal with you fairly. An experienced attorney will fight for your rights. Call our Phoenix criminal defense lawyer today for a consultation at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Arizona Laws | Tagged |

The Rights of Mentally Ill People in Arizona’s Justice System


Mentally ill people sometimes feel they have no rights in Arizona’s criminal justice system. This is not the case.

If you have been diagnosed with a mental illness, you have rights. People with disabilities, including psychiatric disabilities, are afforded legal rights to protect them from discrimination, abuse, and neglect in the criminal justice system.

You do not lose your rights, even if you are ordered a course of treatment by the courts.

When a mental illness interferes with a defendant’s right to a fair trial, a Rule 11 hearing may be held. The US Supreme Court set out the test for competency to stand trial in Dusky v. United States, 362 U.S. 402 (1960).

what are the rights of mentally ill people

The rights of mentally ill people

To be found competent to stand trial, the defendant must be able to consult with his lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding and to have a rational and factual understanding of the proceedings against him.

The defendant must be able to assist his lawyer in his defense and understand both the charges and potential consequences of a criminal trial.

People who are receiving mental health treatment have a right to participate in all phases of their treatment, including individual support planning meetings.

They have a right to refuse or consent to treatment unless an emergency court order has been made. People suffering from mental illness have a right to be spared unnecessary seclusion and restraint, or sexual and physical assault.

People with mental illness also have the right to appeal a court-ordered involuntary commitment and to request a judicial review of court-ordered treatment every 60 days.  They have the right to legal advice from an attorney.

If you or a relative is being held in a residential or an inpatient facility, you should not be denied the right to communicate or to send and receive mail and to receive visitors.

Mentally ill people have a right to have their medical and mental health information kept confidential by healthcare providers, with some exceptions. Records may be disclosed to people closely involved in your care; to people if you signed a valid release of information document; to lawyers working on your behalf, and following a court order.

Treatment and evaluation can be ordered by a court in Arizona when:

  • The individual is a danger to themselves
  • He or she is judged to be a danger to others
  • The individual is gravely disabled
  • He or she is persistently and acutely disabled.

In a criminal court or another proceeding in Arizona, you will not always be made aware of your rights if you are suffering from a mental illness. You should not rely on the authorities. Contact a Phoenix criminal defense lawyer who specializes in the rights of the mentally ill. Call us today at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Mental Health, Mental Health Defenses | Tagged |

Arson is a Complicated Crime in Arizona


Arson is a complicated crime that is taken very seriously by prosecutors in Arizona. Often people who are charged with starting fires in the state are diagnosed with mental illnesses.

Deliberately setting fire to property constitutes arson under Arizona law. A defendant commits arson of a structure or property when he or she knowingly and unlawfully damages a structure or property by causing a fire or explosion.

Arson of a structure is a class 4 felony in Arizona when the property has a value of more than $1,000. Arson of a property is a class 5 felony if the property was valued at more than $100 but under $1,000. If the property is valued at $100 or less, the offense is a 1 misdemeanor.

Arson in Arizona is complicated

Arson in Arizona can land you in prison

When the arson is committed against an occupied property, the penalty is more severe. A charge of arson of an occupied structure is brought when a person sets fire to an occupied structure by “knowingly and unlawfully damaging an occupied structure by knowingly causing a fire or explosion.” The arson of an occupied structure is charged as a class 2 felony.

It makes sense for Arizona to have harsher penalties for arsonists who place people in danger which is why setting fire to an abandoned building is treated less severely than burning a building where people are sleeping.

People who start fires in Arizona can also be charged with reckless burning. The offense is less serious than arson but can still land an offender in prison.

A reckless burning charge may be brought against people who did not intend to start a fire but whose reckless actions were to blame.

A fire in Arizona was recently in the news when a baby gender reveal party went wrong, causing a wildfire that burned nearly 47,000 acres and caused over $8 million in damage.

A video shot in April 2017, showed a makeshift target with the words “Boy” and “Girl” written on it. It was placed in the desert near Green Valley, Arizona, south of Tucson.

Explosives were ignited giving off a blue cloud for a boy. Unfortunately, the gender reveal stunt started a massive wildfire.

An off-duty US Border Patrol agent pleaded guilty this fall to a misdemeanor violation of US Forest Service regulations. He was sentenced to five years’ probation.

In other cases, arson and reckless burning charges have been brought against homeless people who started fires that damaged property and people suffering from mental illnesses.

If you or a family member has been charged with arson, you should hire an experienced Arizona criminal defense lawyer who can get to the root of a defendant’s motives. Call an arson criminal defense attorney at the Garcia Law Firm today at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Arson | Tagged |