Is Shoplifting a Misdemeanor or a Felony in Arizona?

16January
2019

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?

11January
2019

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

7January
2019

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

3January
2019

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

1January
2019

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 |