Can Mentally Ill People be Imprisoned for Theft in Arizona?


Theft in Arizona is one of the most common offenses in the state. The fact that the courts deal with thousands of theft charges every year does not mean you will be treated lightly. Mentally ill people can be imprisoned for theft in Arizona.

Under the law of Arizona, theft of property or services valued at $25,000 or more is a class 2 felony.  This offense carries a minimum of three years and a maximum of 12.5 years, as well as a fine of up to $150,000 under § 13-702(D).

Theft of services or property above $4,000 but under $25,000 is charged as a class 3 felony carrying a prison sentence of up to 8.75 years. Theft of property or services over $3,000 but below $4,000 is a class 4 felony that carries a potential prison sentence of up to 3.75 years.

The effect of mental illness on theft in Arizona

Mental illness and theft in Arizona

Theft of services or property over $2,000 but under $3,000 is a Class 5 felony carrying a prison sentence of up to 2.5 years while you can spend up to two years in prison for a Class 6 felony theft of goods or services valued at $1,000 to $1,999.

Stealing a vehicle transmission or an engine is charged as a Class 4 felony irrespective of the value of the engine.

Theft of any property or services valued at less than $1,000 is a class 1 misdemeanor. It carries a potential prison sentence of up to six months in prison.

Mentally ill people often face theft charges. Often they are not aware of the potentially serious consequences of the offense.

It is unfair and counterproductive for people with mental illnesses to face jail time for non-violent crimes like theft.

When a defendant cannot understand the charges he or she is facing and is unable to assist his counsel, competency to stand trial becomes an issue. Any party to the case may file a motion seeking a determination of the competency of the defendant.

Mentally ill people can be imprisoned for theft in Arizona. Our defense attorney aims to keep defendants with mental health issues out of prison. If you or a family member has been accused of theft, please call us at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Theft | Tagged |

How do the Arizona Courts Treat Juvenile Defendants with Mental Illnesses?


Many young people with mental illnesses end up in the Arizona courts. According to the AMA Journal of Ethics, about 70 percent of youth involved with the justice system face at least one mental health issue compared to just 22 percent of youth in the general population.

Juvenile defendants with mental illnesses may be treated differently to other offenders and end up in diversionary programs that keep them out of incarceration.

Juvenile Defendants with Mental Illnesses

How courts deal with Juvenile Defendants with Mental Illnesses

However, when a juvenile offender with a mental health condition appears in a juvenile court, the judge considers a range of issues including mental health evaluations, the young person’s prior history, and psychological testing.

Many non-profits and other groups support diversion programs. Mental Health America states:

“Effective diversion is the essential first step in accessing community-based, integrated services before the juvenile justice system is invoked, and if the aim is treatment more than punishment, as is usually professed in juvenile justice principles.”

Arizona has developed procedures to identify young people with mental health issues in the criminal justice system.

The National Conference of State Legislatures in its report Mental Health Needs of Juvenile Offenders points out Arizona, Colorado, California, and New Hampshire implemented courtroom procedures for attorneys and judges to request mental health screenings for juveniles caught up in delinquency proceedings.

Arizona is one of at least 10 states to address competency in its juvenile delinquency statute. Arizona states a juvenile does not need to have an underlying mental defect, disease, or disability to be found incompetent.

The report points out a failure to address and treat mental health issues at an early age can be devastating for young people later in life.

Children with unaddressed mental health needs may enter a juvenile justice system ill-equipped to help them. Institutions often release them without access to ongoing mental health treatment.

While Arizona has diversion programs, the state lags behind neighbors like California in the provision of mental health courts for juveniles.

The experienced mental health lawyer at the Garcia Law Firm can help ensure a juvenile family member’s needs are met in the criminal justice system. Call us at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Mental Health, Mental Health Defenses | Tagged |

If Someone is SMI, Does that Make Him Incompetent in Arizona?


Serious mental illness (SMI) is a term used people who have certain mental health diagnoses in Arizona. They struggle to keep control of their lives because of the condition.

The fact a defendant is diagnosed with SMI does not automatically mean he will be ruled incompetent in a criminal proceeding. His attorney may have grounds to make the case if his condition is severe enough.

Why an SMI may not equate to incompetence in Arizona

Does an SMI mean incompetence in Arizona?

During a criminal proceeding in Arizona, the defense attorney may ask for a Rule 11 evaluation of his client when SMI is an issue. Under Rule 11, known as the competency rule, the defendant has the right to a full mental examination and hearing if reasonable grounds exist for it.

Rule 11 hearings usually take place when a defendant is believed to be mentally incompetent. Substantial evidence of mental incompetence is required by medical professionals.

A hearing takes place when reasonable grounds exist to suggest the defendant is not able to understand the nature of the criminal proceeding against him or to assist in his or her defense.

This is not always synonymous with serious mental illness. Some people who are SMI are capable of understanding the criminal proceedings and can give coherent help and advice to their legal representatives. Some serious mental illnesses involve mood swings and periods of incapacity as well as lucid periods.

Rule 11 was enacted to make sure the defendant has the mental ability to understand what is going on around him. Criminal trials are adversarial and can disadvantage people who are not aware of what’s happening.

Once a motion has been entered under Rule 11, the court will determine whether reasonable grounds exist to examine the defendant for competency. The court requires “sufficient evidence” to determine if reasonable grounds exist for a competency hearing. The court often appoints an expert to conduct a preliminary examination.

The Crisis Response Network characterizes a “serious mental illness” as a condition that leaves sufferers unable to look after themselves. They may attempt suicide or have suicidal thoughts due to the condition. Acts of self-harm are an indicator of SMI. They may resort to drug abuse.

Although some people who are ruled incompetent in Arizona may suffer from these behaviors, being SMI does not necessarily mean you are unable to understand what’s going on in the courtroom.

Competency proceedings are complicated and difficult for family members. If your family member has been arrested and is suffering from a mental health condition, please call our Phoenix defense attorney as soon as possible at (602) 340-1999.




Posted in Mental Health, Mental Health Defenses | Tagged |

Arizona has Some of the Strictest Laws for Methamphetamine Possession in the Country


People caught in possession of methamphetamine in Arizona face extremely tough sentences. The state has some of the strictest laws for meth possession in the nation on its statute books.

Methamphetamine is a highly addictive, manufactured drug. It is also known as meth, chalk, crystal or ice. The drug is a stimulant that affects the central nervous system.

Possession of meth is taken very seriously. The drug was not included in reforms of sentencing for drugs offenses in Arizona in the 1990s.

In 1996, Arizona passed a law known as “Proposition 200.” The law benefitted many first-time drug offenders, convicted of a low-level offense like possession allowing them to receive probation and avoiding jail time.

Arizona has high sentences for Methamphetamine possession

Methamphetamine possession carries a strict sentence

Arizona enacted Proposition 301 in 2006 as part of the war on meth at a time when the drug was making its way across the Mexican border from so-called ‘super labs.’ The law means people charged with possession of methamphetamine face prison even as first time offenders. The ballot directly addressed the Drug Medicalization, Prevention and Control Act of 1996 that allows probation for many people arrested for first and second offense drug possession. It exempted people charged with meth possession allowing them to be sentenced to a jail term for a first offense.

People who are convicted of meth possession can be imprisoned for a first offense.  The drug was not included in the reforms because meth labs were appearing across Arizona and legislators were concerned about the drug. Arizona’s approach to meth is consistent with many other states that take a hard line with users and distributors of this highly addictive drug.

People who are charged with meth offenses may also be linked to associated crimes. It’s not unusual for people who are charged with possession of the drug to be driving under its influence or carrying drug paraphernalia like pipes or firearms.

Meth is classified under Arizona law as a “dangerous drug.” If you are caught in possession of a dangerous drug for personal use, you will be charged with a Class 4 Felony.  A Class 4 felony carries a potential prison term up to 3.75 years.

The courts consider motions for first time drug possession to have their charge reduced to a class 1 misdemeanor carrying a probation term unless the drug involved is methamphetamine, lysergic acid diethylamide, amphetamine or phencyclidine, according to state law.

People convicted of a first offense of possession of meth for sale, equipment or chemicals to make meth, manufacture of the drug or transportation or importation face a minimum of five years in prison, a presumptive sentence of 10 years and a maximum of 15.

Defendants charged with these offenses on a second occasion face a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison, a presumptive sentence of 15 years, and a maximum sentence of 20 years.

Arizona’s criminal justice system can be unforgiving for drug offenses. Often people who suffer from mental illnesses are also drug dependent.

You should take methamphetamine possession charges seriously in Arizona. Call our experienced criminal defense team as soon as possible at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Drug Crimes | Tagged |

Why Defendants Pleading Insanity Must Disclose Examination Results in Arizona


Defendants who plead insanity in Arizona face numerous obstacles. Some of the issues they face infringe on the Fifth Amendment rights of the accused. A recent court ruling found defendants pleading insanity must disclose examination results in Arizona.

The ruling by the Arizona Supreme Court in 2017 found defendants who voluntarily seek mental health examinations after filing an insanity defense must provide the results of the examination to the prosecution in their case.

The ruling raised concerns that the defendants’ rights against self-incrimination could be violated.

Examination results must be revealed in an  Arizona insanity ase

A defendant claiming insanity in Arizona must disclose examination results

Since the ruling, defendants in criminal cases have had to give prosecutors any statements relating to the charges made during the mental health examination.

The justices said forcing a defendant in a criminal case to provide results of a mental health examination would not be self-incriminating. They said the fact the insanity defense was used meant they would have waived their protection against self-incrimination.

The court ruled prosecutors can only use the evidence from examinations to refute insanity claims rather than to prove guilt in these cases.

Voluntary mental health examinations are distinct from those ordered by the court.

The 2017 case concerned Josh Rasmussen who was indicted for armed robbery and felony murder. His lawyer consulted with several mental health experts about a possible insanity defense. The defense listed insanity, or guilty except insane, as a defense in the case.

Rasmussen retained a psychologist to support his insanity defense. The state and Rasmussen agreed to an examination by a joint expert. Reports were prepared by both experts. A legal dispute ensured when the state requested copies of both reports compiled by experts. Rasmussen’s lawyers produced copies but redacted Rasmussen’s statements.

The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution says no defendant will be compelled to be a witness against himself. The amendment states:

“No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

At the Garcia Law Firm, we vigorously defend the rights of mentally ill people in the criminal justice system. We will answer your questions about mental health examination results in Arizona Call us for a consultation at (602) 340-1999.


Posted in Mental Health Defenses | Tagged |

Can a Mentally Ill Person be Charged with the Death Penalty?


The question of whether a mentally ill person can be charged with the death penalty has been debated at length by the U.S. Supreme Court.

It’s a difficult question because there is a lack of consensus about the definition of mental illness. The issue is also becoming moot in Arizona where a prisoner has not been executed for over four years, even though more than 100 people languish on Death Row.

The Death Penalty Information Center points out mental illness can be described in a variety of ways. The website notes the definition in the American Heritage Dictionary of mental illness as a range of conditions “characterized by impairment of an individual’s normal cognitive, emotional, or behavioral functioning, and caused by social, psychological, biochemical, genetic, or other factors, such as infection or head trauma.”

Can mentally ill people receive the death penalty

The death penalty and mental illness

The U.S. Supreme Court has considered the case of mentally ill defendants using the narrower definition of “intellectual disability” which impacts intellectual functioning such as problem-solving, learning, and judgment as well as adaptive functioning impacting independent living, and norms like communication. The condition was previously referred to as “mental retardation.”

In the 2002 case of Atkins v. Virginia, the U.S. Supreme Court concluded the execution of people with mental retardation is “cruel and unusual punishments” in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

The case established protection for people with intellectual disabilities. The justices cited disabilities in areas of reasoning, judgment, and impulse control.

The court said people with intellectual disabilities “do not act with the level of moral culpability that characterizes the most serious adult criminal conduct.” The justices said people with an intellectual disability were not able to comprehend the death penalty.

The Atkins decision offered less protection than mental health advocates hoped. Prosecutors argued defendants were not intellectually disabled and their real issue was mental illness manifesting as a personality disorder.

States continued to execute people with mental illnesses. The Death Penalty Information Center noted Arizona executed Robert Moorman in 2012. His attorneys argued he was mentally disabled and was sexually abused into his adulthood. Prosecutors argued Moorman’s mental capacity when he committed murder was slightly above the legal threshold for mental impairment. Moorman killed and dismembered his adoptive mother.

Notwithstanding the rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court, mentally ill people are sentenced to death across the United States.

However, the use of the death penalty has stalled in Arizona, raising questions whether it will be used again.

According to a recent report on ABC15, the cost of executions and a shortage of drugs means it’s questionable whether the death penalty will be resumed in the state.

The news report noted a discussion on the death penalty last year. Assistant Federal Public Defender Dale Baich said the state of the death penalty in Arizona is “broken.”

The discussion was raised in an Arizona courtroom during the trial of a defendant accused of the sexual assault and killing of 8-year-old Isabella Grogan-Canella.

Although prosecutors initially wanted the death penalty during the trial of Justin James Rector, the request was withdrawn. They concluded there was no reasonable likelihood of Rector being executed give the “current state of affairs surrounding persons sentenced to death.” Rector received two mental health evaluations.

Like many other states, Arizona has lacked the drugs to perform execution by lethal injection.

The last time a death row prisoner was executed was in 2014 when Joseph Wood was put to death at the Florence State Prison.

Wood was injected with lethal injection drugs but took almost two hours to die. The execution shocked the nation.

By the time Wood finally succumbed after nearly two hours, he had been injected with 750mg each of hydromorphone and midazolam –15 times the amounts stipulated in Arizona’s execution protocol.

Baich said the lack of drugs was one reason why no executions have been carried out for four years. Another is the soaring cost of the death penalty.

In Arizona, county prosecutors hold the power over whether to seek the death penalty. Many are no longer using it.

Maricopa County Prosecutor Bill Montgomery said in 2018 the county had its lowest level of pending capital cases in two decades. Death penalty cases are down in also down in Pima County.

The ABC research found prosecutors are withdrawing notices to seek capital punishment because of the problems in the system as in the Rector case.

The pattern in Arizona reflects the rest of the nation. Death sentences peaked in the 1990s and have fallen steadily ever since. Some states like Maryland abolished capital punishment entirely. Other use it less frequently.  The Death Penalty Information Center noted historic lows in the use of the death penalty in many states in 2018.

At the Garcia Law Firm, we represent mentally ill defendants who have been charged with serious crimes like murders as well as lesser offenses. Please call us today if you or a family member has been charged with a crime at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Arizona Laws, Mental Health Defenses | Tagged |

Can a Mental Health Attorney Help Me In Family Court?


If you have been involved in a criminal case, you might need help from a mental health attorney. This is especially true during cases that are held at Mental Health Court. But what about Family Court? Yes, a mental health attorney can offer legal advice and representation on cases in Family Court.

What is a Mental Health Attorney?

A mental health attorney is an attorney that specializes in mental health law and represents those with a wide range of mental illnesses to provide them with a fair case and punishment.

What is Family Court?

Family Court is defined as a court that decides on certain matters in relation to family law. This can include divorce and custody battles as well we issues within the family such as abuse.

Circumstances where a Mental Health Attorney is Beneficial

Divorce is a difficult thing to go through and it can be even more difficult if you suffer from a mental illness. One issue that comes up during a divorce is who gets what when it comes to finances. If you are going through a divorce, but have a mental illness in which you are unable to work, you may receive spousal maintenance. A mental health attorney will be needed to prove to Family Court that you do suffer from a mental illness where you are unable to provide financially for yourself.

A child custody battle is also a very difficult process that can be even more difficult for those with a mental illness. You will need the help of a mental illness attorney to prove that you are capable of taking care of your children. Of course, mental illness can impact a parent’s ability to raise their children, which could be used against you during a custody battle. A mental health attorney will provide a strong case with character testimony and doctor notes to prove that you are self-sufficient and able to provide for your children.

Garcia Law

Garcia Law offers over 25 years of experience in a wide range of legal issues from felonies to misdemeanors. The legal team at Garcia Law always takes the time to listen to your concerns and fight for your constitutional rights. The goal is for every mentally ill client to receive fair punishment and treatment. Just because you have a mental illness, doesn’t mean you should be silenced. Garcia Law has experience with those suffering from mental disorders such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, mood disorders, psychotic disorders and personality disorders. We understand that you are not in full control of your mental facilities and that there are always certain circumstances surrounding odd behavior, where a fair punishment is needed.

Posted in Mental Health, Mental Health Defenses |

How Sentences can be Reduced for Mentally Ill Defendants in Arizona


Criminal defense attorneys put a lot of work into arguing the innocence of their clients. However, some defendants plead guilty. Others are convicted, notwithstanding the best efforts of their lawyers. In Arizona, the law gives lawyers the opportunity to argue for lesser sentences for their clients. Sentences may be reduced for mentally ill defendants in Arizona.

After a defendant has been found guilty, he or she is afforded an opportunity to show the judge and jury reasons why he or she deserves a more lenient sentence. The arguments are made by the defendant’s lawyer.

Reducing sentences for mentally ill defendants

Mentally ill defendants may have sentences reduced

So-called mitigating evidence is presented to the court during the sentencing phase of the trial. The courts are restricted to sentencing term lengths mandated by law. This means a judge or a jury must follow sentencing guidelines established by the Arizona Legislature.

The sentences that courts give depend on the nature of the crime, Felonies carry higher sentences than misdemeanors. The degree of felony or misdemeanor is a factor as well as the defendant’s prior criminal history.

The court gathers this pertinent information to find a “presumptive sentence. This is the sentence that’s required by law.

The presumptive sentence is a starting point for prison time associated with the offense or the level of fine.

The court works within a range that includes a mitigated sentence, a minimum sentence, a presumptive sentence, a maximum sentence, and an aggravated sentence.

What Factors Can Lead to Mitigating Circumstances in Arizona Sentencing?

Under A.R.S. 13-701 mentally ill defendants and others may receive a lesser sentence when the following circumstances are taken into consideration. The court also considers aggravating circumstances.

Any sentence imposed by the court must be supported and justified by the aggravating and mitigating circumstances. It’s vital to present as much mitigating evidence as possible, including:

  1. The defendant’s age.
  2. The capacity of the accused to appreciate the wrongfulness of his or her conduct;
  3. Duress on the behalf of the defendant, although not duress that would constitute a defense to prosecution.
  4. If the defendant only had a minor role in the crime, albeit not insignificant enough to be a defense to prosecution.
  5. Any factor relevant to the defendant’s character or background or to the nature or circumstances of the offense that the court finds to be mitigating.

Typically, defense lawyers have standardized packets for the defendant to complete to give to the court during sentencing. We will make sure to present as complete a picture as possible of the defendant and to highlight any factors that can lead to mitigation. These may include evidence of mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorders or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Hire Bernardo Garcia to represent you in your case. Find out more about sentencing mitigation in Arizona on our website or call (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Mental Health | Tagged |

Why Arizona’s Insanity Defense is One of the Toughest to Prove in the Nation


Arizona’s insanity defense is one of the toughest to prove in the United States. The harshness of the defense provoked legal challenges in past years. Opponents claimed it failed to meet basic standards of fairness.

The obstacles associated with the defense were challenged in 2006 in the case of Clark v. Arizona. The case reached the U.S. Supreme Court.

Eric Clark shot a police officer dead during a traffic stop. Clark was a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic. He believed aliens took over his town, according to expert witnesses.

Challenges in Arizona's insanity defense

Arizona’s insanity defense is tough to prove

Clark wanted to use this evidence to prove that he was insane. His attorneys claimed he could not form the criminal intent that prosecutors required to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

The trial judge ruled Clark could not use the expert testimony. He said the law did not permit the defendant to show he could not form the necessary criminal intent. The court found Clark failed to prove the insanity defense known as the Guilty Except Insane (GEI) defense in Arizona. Clark was convicted to 25 years to life in prison.

The U.S. Supreme Court considered the question of whether a defendant has a Fourteenth Amendment due process right, aside from his insanity plea, to present expert evidence to counter to prosecution’s evidence of Clark’s criminal intent.

The New York Times pointed out the nation’s highest court never ruled that the Constitution requires a state to permit an explicit insanity defense. The insanity defense was abolished by four states – Utah, Kansas, Idaho, and Montana.

However, these states still permitted a defendant to present evidence of his or her diminished mental capacity by using experts to challenge evidence of criminal intent.

Arizona bars the use of this evidence. Defendants who rely on insanity defenses can request a Guilty Except Insane verdict. However, the defendant must demonstrate insanity under a statutory rule that’s narrower than that of most states.

The insanity defense dates back to England in the 16th Century. It was codified in the 19th century with the development of the M’Naghten Rule.

The court in the case decided a “disease of the mind” caused the accused to fail to realize the difference between right and wrong. There are other legal tests such as Durham Rule that found a defendant who is “not guilty by reason of insanity” cannot be convicted of crimes committed as a result of certain mental conditions because willful intent is required. The rule is only used in New Hampshire.

It is difficult but not impossible to bring the Guilty Except Insane defense in Arizona. You should hire a Phoenix-area attorney who is experienced in these cases. Please call us today at (602) 340-1999.


Posted in Arizona Laws, Mental Health, Mental Health Defenses | Tagged |

What are Telltale Signs of Mental Health Symptoms in Defendants?


Mental illnesses are not always obvious to outsiders. On occasions, offenders are not aware they are suffering from a mental health disorder. Family members are often oblivious and the criminal justice system fails to recognize the signs.

At the Garcia Law Firm, we have a long record in helping people with mental illnesses after their arrest. We are familiar with the symptoms these disorders and will vigorously defend the rights of those who do not have full control of their mental faculties in the Arizona courts.

It’s not always easy to recognize the signs of mental illness. The American Psychiatric Association points out small changes or a feeling that something is not right can be indicators of mental illness.

Understanding Mental health symptoms in defendants

Mental health symptoms in defendants are often complex

The association points to the following telltale signs of mental health symptoms in defendants that can point to a more serious issue.

If you or a family member identify any of the following signs, you should contact an experienced mental health professional.

Changes in mood. Dramatic mood swings, lows, and highs, shifts in emotions or sudden and acute feelings of depression can be signs of mental illness.

Changes in appetite and sleep. Sudden changes in appetite or the onset of insomnia or other sleeping problems can point to underlying mental health issues.

Decreases in performance. Sudden drops in functioning whether performance at work, at school or on the sports field can be indicators of the onset of mental health problems.

Withdrawal. Mental health problems can be associated with a withdrawal from social events and activities or an unwillingness to engage with other people.

Increased sensitivity. The onset of a mental health disorder often causes increased sensitivity to sounds, smells, sight, or touch. People with a mental health condition may seek to avoid over-stimulation.

Loss of interest. Apathy is a common symptom of psychological problems.

Cognitive problems. Issues with memory, concentration or logical thought are often associated with mental health disorders.

Fear and nervousness. People with mental illness often feel nervous and anxious and fear everyday situations.

Feeling disconnected. A sense of unreality or being unconnected with what is going on around you is associated with many conditions.

Illogical thoughts. People who suffer from mental illnesses may not think logically. They have exaggerated feelings about their own abilities. People who have been arrested may not be able to appreciate the full seriousness of their predicament.

Unusual behavior. Mental disorders can cause odd and unusual behavior if they are not properly treated. Juries may be unsympathetic to this kind of behavior if they are not aware of a defendant’s condition.

Many symptoms of a mental disorder begin at an early age. About 50 percent of mental disorders become apparent by the age of 14, according to the American Psychiatric Association. The warning signs are apparent to three-quarters of sufferers by the age of 24.

Some people suffer mental disorders later in life after a traumatic brain injury.

It’s vital that your condition is diagnosed if you are dealt with in the criminal justice system. If you suspect your loved one has a mental health disorder, call us today. Our attorney is well versed in recognizing mental health symptoms in defendants. While you should contact a qualified medical professional as soon as possible if you recognize warning signs, call us at (602) 340-1999 to defend your mentally ill family member in the Arizona justice system.

Posted in Mental Health Defenses, Rule 11 | Tagged |