What has to be Proved to Use Arizona’s Insanity Defense?


Arizona’s insanity defense is not used often and it can be difficult to sustain. The defense is also known as guilty except insane (GEI). The defendant must show clear and convincing evidence that he or she was suffering from a serious mental defect that meant the defendant could not acknowledge the wrongfulness of the crime.

A mental disease or defect constituting legal insanity is an affirmative defense. The defendant does not claim he or she did not commit the crime. Mental defects or diseases do not include disorders linked to acute voluntary intoxication or from withdrawal from drugs or alcohol.

Using the insanity defense in Arizona
What you need to prove to use Arizona’s insanity defense

A character deficiency, an impulse control disorder or a sexual disorder cannot constitute legal insanity. To use Arizona’s insanity defense you must show a condition is not temporary, or arising out of anger, jealousy, rage, or other impulsiveness.

People who are using the insanity defense must disclose the results of mental examinations, according to a recent ruling by the Arizona Supreme Court. Criminal defendants must hand over to prosecutors any statements related to the charges they may have made during the mental health examination. The court ruled that the “prosecutors can only use the statements to rebut insanity claims, rather than to prove guilt to protect defendants from this possibility of violating their Fifth Amendment rights.”

The court ruled that forcing a defendant to hand over results of their mental health examination would not violate their right not to self-incriminate. Mental health examinations are considered voluntary if they are not ordered by the court.

What Mental Diseases and Disorders can be Used in a GEI Case in Arizona?

A defendant who makes the plea that they are guilty except insane will be evaluated by a licensed professional with knowledge of state statutes and mental illnesses.

An expert who examines the defendant will submit a written report of the evaluation to the court, the defendant’s attorney, and the prosecutor. 

It’s not easy to establish a GEI defense. You should hire a criminal defense lawyer who has considerable experience in these cases, has used the defense before and knows what needs to be proved. Read about Bernard Garcia’s past cases on our website.  Please contact the Garcia Law Firm today at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Mental Health Defenses | Tagged |

Decriminalization of Mental Health Bears Results in One Arizona City


The criminal justice system can be tough on people with mental illnesses. However, some jurisdictions are pursuing the decriminalization of mental health with positive results.

They include Yavapai County in Arizona where Sheriff Scott Mascher is so enthusiastic about his department’s Reach Out program that he wants to tell the world about it.

Decriminalization of mental health offenses proves positive in Yavapai County

He told PoliceOne, the program is making inroads in the problem of people with mental health issues and substance abuse in the criminal justice system.

About five years ago, Mascher was working on a voter issue to extend a jail sales tax. He kept hearing about people with mental illness and substance abuse problems who got caught up in the criminal justice system. Family members would call for help over a mental health crisis and the mentally ill person would end up in the justice system, usually for a minor offense like trespassing or disorderly conduct.

He told PoliceOne, every year more than 11 million people are processed by the prison system. Many of them are low-level, misdemeanors involving no violence. However, the offenses cost local governments about $22 billion annually. The article noted 64 percent of these inmates suffer from mental illness and 68 percent have a substance abuse disorder.

Mascher said the recidivism rate for inmates in Yavapai County is particularly high, rising to 80 percent. People who suffer from mental illnesses are locked up 4 to 8 times longer than people without mental illnesses who are arrested on the same charges. 

Seven times more people who suffer mental health problems end up in jails or prisons than at treatment facilities that can help them. The authorities in Yavapai tackled this problem. They started meeting with their local judiciary, county attorney, schools, mental health providers, legislators, and concerned citizens. They set up a local mental health coalition which proved to be a template for change.

At the Garcia Law Firm, attorney Bernardo Garcia is alarmed about how people with mental illnesses get trapped in jail and prison. We do everything possible to keep your mentally ill family member out of incarceration. Call us at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Arizona Laws, Mental Health | Tagged |

Phoenix Reconsiders Approach of Police to Mental Health as Officer-Involved Shootings Soar


The number of officer-involved shootings of suspects soared in Phoenix last year. Now police are looking at reasons for the spike. The approach of the police department to mental health is being scrutinized.

The Phoenix Police Department has released an independent report on the large number of officer-involved shootings. The number of officer-involved shootings in 2018 was double that of 2017. It rose to among the highest in the country.

The Phoenix New Times reported the detailed report failed to come to a conclusion over the spike in officer-involved shootings.

Police seek to tackle large numbers of officer-involved shootings in Phoenix
The number of officer-involved shootings in Phoenix is soaring

Phoenix recorded 44 police shootings in 2018 — 23 of them fatal. The report identified a significant rise in shootings involving armed suspects and people assaulting cops with deadly weapons.

The report noted the number of assaults on an officer with a deadly weapon almost doubled in 2018, from 42 in 2017 to 87.

Dr. Justin Nix, one of the researchers who worked on the report, said the rise in assaults on officers was significant. It’s not clear if it fueled officer-involved shootings. Although Phoenix police could have responded to an increase in assaults on them with a deadly weapon, the total number of assaults on police officers declined from 991 in 2017 to 951 in 2018. The violent crime rate also slightly during that time period.

Nine key recommendations made by Police Chief Jeri Williams could impact how officers respond to incidents.

The most fundamental change would require the police department to record every time a police officer points a gun at someone. The National Police Foundation maintains police departments that implemented this change ended up with lower rates of police shootings.

The recommendations may result in changes to how Phoenix police deal with people who suffer from mental health issues.

The Phoenix New Times reported city Mayor Kate Gallego said the city will set up a task force focused on the police approach to mental health, as well as the key recommendations outlined in the report.

Williams supports more partnerships between officers and the mental health providers whose job it is to respond to people who face a mental health crisis.

A report on KJZZ noted how Detective Sabrina Taylor works for Phoenix Police as the Crisis Intervention Team training coordinator. Her team brings every stakeholder to the table — from police and behavioral health professionals to advocates, to address the problem.

Attorney Bernardo Garcia has represented mentally ill defendants for decades. You can contact him at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Violent Crime | Tagged |

How Family Caregivers can Help if Your Loved One is in Trouble with the Law


Family caregivers play an important role if your loved one is in trouble with the law in Arizona and elsewhere.

How family caregivers can help after he arrest of a loved one in Arizona
Family caregivers can help a loved one after arrest

No matter who you are or what your mental state, an arrest is a traumatic experience. It’s considerably worse for people with mental health issues. An arrest can trigger a mental health crisis. The defendant might not have medication and no idea how to react to an arrest.

How Family Caregivers Can Help After an Arrest in Arizona

Family caregivers can be invaluable if a loved one is in trouble with the law. The National Alliance on Mental Illness points out family members should act fast after the arrest of a relative with a mental illness.

Police will not always tell you where a family member is being held. You can use an online jail locator to track down a loved one.

If you know which jail your loved one is being held in, you should make sure he or she has their proper medication. Sudden withdrawal from medication can exacerbate mental health problems and trigger a crisis.

If your family member has not informed the jail staff about his or her condition, the caregiver should contact his doctor or psychiatrist as soon as possible.

You may have to contact a doctor in writing. Some medical professionals are concerned about sharing information with jail staff. Caregivers should stress the urgency of the situation. Make the request succinct. Stress the following:

  • The diagnosis of your loved one
  • What type of medication he or she takes
  • The caregiver’s contact information
  • Information relating to your family member’s doctor.

A caregiver should aim to visit a loved one who is in trouble with the law as soon as possible. If the family member appears at a bail hearing, it’s important to attend and provide funds for the defendant to make bail if possible.

The caregiver can also arrange for the mentally ill family member to receive legal representation.

Be persistent in tracking down an attorney and look for a lawyer with a long track record in defending people with mental illnesses.

Going to court and giving as much background as possible about your loved one to an attorney can help secure his or her release. Ask the attorney about pre-trial release or jail diversion programs that could be beneficial.

It’s also important for the caregiver to make sure a family member is not being mistreated in jail. Inform the attorney of any mistreatment and consider contacting organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

Family caregivers play a vital role after a family member gets into trouble with the law in Arizona. Working with an attorney can be extremely helpful. Please contact our Phoenix-based criminal defense lawyer today.

Posted in Mental Health |

Autism and How Can It Affect Your Competency to Stand Trial


Autism is one of the fastest-growing developmental disorders in the United States. Some studies suggest diagnosis rates are rising by over 10 percent a year.

How autism can affect your trial

Autism spectrum disorders can be very severe. People with autism may struggle to understand basic concepts and to communicate. It can be difficult to gain employment with autism. These considerable obstacles to living a normal life means autistic people are more likely to become involved in the criminal justice system.

There’s plenty of evidence that the Arizona courts have not adapted to the increase in autism spectrum cases. 

Social and communication difficulties can have a bearing on a defendant’s competency to stand trial. Autism spectrum disorder covers a wide range of intellectual abilities but many people with autism struggle to comprehend and effectively communicate with court officials and their own attorney.

Rule 11 of the Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure deals with the competency of a defendant to stand trial.

In order for a defendant to be found competent to stand trial, he or she must be able to consult with a lawyer with a rational degree of understanding and have a rational and factual understanding of the legal proceedings.

Although the courts deal with many instances of defendants on the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) as there is no uniform standard on how this relates to the ability of the defendant to understand court proceedings.

Studies suggest a limited number of medical professionals are able to judge the ability of someone with autism to be competent to stand trial.

Courts in Arizona and elsewhere do find people with autism incompetent to stand trial but these cases are rare.

These cases occasionally receive media coverage. In 2016 in Miami, Florida, Tony Rodriguez, an autistic man with an IQ of just 73 was released from jail after he was found incompetent to stand trial.

Rodriguez was accused of downloading child porn. A federal judge found the Miami man was “incompetent” to assist in his own defense, the Miami Herald reported.

Talk to a Phoenix Defense Lawyer if Your Family Member with Autism was Arrested

At the Garcia Law Firm, our attorney Bernardo Garcia has helped hundreds of people with mental illnesses and developmental disorders like autism. Often the criminal justice system can fail to recognize the unique needs of people with autism unless a criminal defense lawyer makes a case on their behalf. Please call the firm as soon as possible at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Mental Health Defenses |

People with Developmental Delays May Lose Out in the Criminal Justice System


Developmental delays or developmental disabilities can be caused by a range of conditions. The courts are a blunt instrument when it comes to dealing with people with these disorders. People with developmental delays may lose out in the criminal justice system.

Developmental delays are first diagnosed in childhood. A child may struggle to speak or understand what’s going on.

According to Healthline, developmental delays can be caused by conditions including intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, Down Syndrome, autism spectrum disorders, and muscular dystrophy.

Developmental delays in the Arizona criminal justice system
Developmental delays can cause issues in the criminal justice system

Developmental delays can affect vision, language and speech, movement, social and emotional skills, and cognitive skills.

When a delay causes all of these disorders, the condition is called a global development delay.

Developmental delays can last into adulthood and mean people who suffer from them lose out in the justice system. Juries can be less sympathetic to people with developmental delays unless their conditions are properly highlighted by a criminal defense lawyer who is familiar with the challenges a defendant faces.

According to a Bureau of Justice Statistics report, 30 percent of all prisoners report having a cognitive disability. About 3 in 10 state and federal prisoners and 4 out of 10 local jail inmates report suffering from at least one disability.

The figure is considerably higher than among the general public where under 5 percent of people report a developmental difficulty.

The figure was reached by researchers asking inmates if a mental, physical, or emotional difficulty caused problems with concentration, remembering, or decision-making.

Research by the mental health non-profit The Arc found people who suffer from developmental or intellectual disabilities are more likely to be involved with the criminal justice system both as victims and perpetrators. They are 4 to 10 times more likely to become victims of crime when compared to those without disabilities.

The report noted many people who suffer from developmental delays suffered childhood trauma. Research from the mid-80s to the 1990s indicated the types of offenses committed range from property crimes like theft and shoplifting to sexual assault and homicides. Studies show people who suffer sexual abuse as children have a higher chance of becoming abusers.

The Arc suggested people with developmental difficulties are more likely to be enlisted by criminals to take part in crimes. They often do not realize the gravity of what they are doing. People with developmental delays are more likely to admit to crimes they did not commit or be manipulated by law enforcement officers.

At the Garcia Law Firm PLC, we have represented people with developmental delays and other mental health issues for decades. Please call our experienced criminal defense lawyer today at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Mental Health, Mental Health Defenses, Uncategorized | Tagged |

Arizona has Strict Porn and Child Molestation Laws


Arizona has some of the strictest porn and child molestation laws in the nation. Both offenses are felonies. People who are convicted of offenses against minors often spend decades in prison with no prospect of release.

Arizona child pornography laws are set out under a very broad statute. Child pornography, also known as sexual exploitation of a minor or child exploitation, includes a wide spectrum of activities. Arizona law prohibits “recording, filming, photographing, developing, or duplicating any visual depiction in which a minor is engaged in exploitative exhibition or other sexual conduct.”

Porn and molestation laws in Arizona
Arizona has tough porn and molestation laws

The state’s law also targets “distributing, transporting, exhibiting, receiving, selling, purchasing, electronically transmitting, possessing or exchanging any visual depiction in which a minor is engaged in exploitative exhibition or other sexual conduct.”

Child pornography offenses are a Class 2 felony under state law.  A conviction for possessing an image or a sex act carries 10 years in prison for each offense. In other words, a defendant will receive 10 years for each single pornographic image. If you downloaded 10 images, you could receive 100 years in prison.

In one case, a man received 200 years in prison for sexual exploitation of a minor, including possession of images of children under the age of 15 engaged in sexual conduct. When the minor is under 15, the sentencing range is 10 to 24 years in prison, without any possibility of probation, early release or parole.

A report on Reuters noted how Morton Berger was convicted on 20 separate counts. The trial judge gave him the required minimum sentence of 200 years in prison, comprising 10 years for each count. The judge rejected the prosecutor’s request for a 340-year sentence. Berger’s appeal of the sentence to the U.S. Supreme Court proved unsuccessful.

Child molestation in Arizona is also a class 2 felony. A defendant commits molestation of a child if he or she intentionally or knowingly engages in or causing a person to engage in sexual contact, except sexual contact with the female breast, with a child who is under 15 years of age.

On a first offense of child molestation, a defendant faces a minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum of 24 years with a presumptive prison sentence of 17 years.

The minimum sentence for a second offense is 21 years, with a maximum of 35 years.

Arizona’s strict porn and child molestation laws mean you will be facing the prospect of a long prison sentence if you are convicted of these crimes. There are defenses. If a lawyer can show the defendant did not know what he or she was doing, this is a defense to the crime. Please contact our experienced Phoenix criminal defense attorney today for more information.

Posted in Uncategorized |

Schizophrenic said “Voices in his Head” Caused Him to Kill His Wife


On occasions, we hear of sad cases in which a schizophrenic defendant says voices in his or her head led to a violent act.

Although this is a relatively rare occurrence, many schizophrenics say they experience these inner voices.

Earlier this year, a 72-year-old man from Scottsdale in Arizona claimed voices in his head told him to kill his wife with a hammer. Jozef Miller took medication for his condition but said he continued to experience these symptoms. He is charged with capital murder.

A TV report on 12 News stated Jozef Miller, told investigators his wife was sitting down to a meal when he hit her over the head with a hammer. He changed his clothes and went to a casino without telling anyone what happened.

The news report started Miller then tried take his own life by carbon monoxide poisoning. He said the voices that told him to kill told him to stay alive so he could pray for his wife. Police say Miller showed no remorse. They said he told investigators he did her a favor, although he hoped she was in a better place. Miller called 911 after the alleged killing.

The 12 News report noted Miller admitted attempting to kill his wife last year. Police said he struck her with a blunt object during a massage. He was arrested but later released pending a hearing in Scottsdale City Court, according to documents.

Schizophrenia is a chronic brain disorder. It affects less than one percent of the U.S. population, according to the American Psychiatric Association.

Symptoms of the disease include hallucinations, problems with focus and thoughts, delusions, and a lack of motivation. Some studies suggest as many as three quarters of schizophrenics will hear voices at some time. The more acute symptoms can be successfully treated.

Without treatment, the consequences of this acute disease for the sufferer and society can be high. A report in Schizophrenia.com noted schizophrenics who don’t receive proper treatment often end up homeless or incarcerated. However, their crimes are usually misdemeanors rather than crimes of violence.

If you or a family member with schizophrenia has been charged with a crime, please contact our Phoenix-based defense lawyer as soon as possible.

Posted in Uncategorized |

ACLU Warns of Lack of Medical Care and Deaths in Arizona Prisons


Deaths in Arizona prisons occur far too often. The large population that suffers from mental illness is most vulnerable.

In 2018, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) published an account of “horrifying” stories from Arizona prisons.

The ACLU highlighted a lack of adequate medical care and poor resources for people with mental illness. The report illustrates the importance of alternative sentences to incarceration for the mentally ill.

ACLU is concerned about the lack of medical care in Arizona prisons
ACLU warns of lack of medical care in prisons

The report detailed how a 43-year-old died from a staph infection at an Arizona facility. A 36-year-old inmate died due to delays in diagnosis and inadequate emergency care for an aortic dissection. Three men succumbed to complications from metastatic cancer. The cancers spread due to a lack of medical treatment.

The picture of poor medical care and deaths in Arizona prisons is just as depressing for people who suffer from mental health problems.

The ACLU warned the lack of help for mentally ill people in Arizona prisons is disastrous.

In the spring of 2017, prisons recorded four suicides in a three week period, an “astonishing rate of self-harm” in the state prison system.

The ACLU claimed the deaths were in breach of a legal settlement reached more than four years ago in the case of Parsons v Ryan. A settlement reached in the case was meant to provide new healthcare and mental health safety standards for inmates.

That settlement required the Arizona Department of Corrections to revise the rules for prisoners with serious mental disorders in solitary confinement. Instead of spending all but six hours a week locked in their cells, prisoners should be given a minimum of 19 hours a week outside the cell. The time must include mental health treatment and other programs. 

The ACL said the Arizona Department of Corrections failed to meet its requirements. It said inmates in prisons are suffering and dying because of the state’s inherent failures. Delayed health care and help for inmates with mental illnesses is often a death sentence.

Last June a federal court found Arizona prison officials to be in contempt of court for their continued failure to provide basic health care to inmates. The ACL noted U.S. Magistrate Judge David K. Duncan fined ADC more than $1.4 million for repeated violations of the settlement agreement. 

The lack of access to medical care and deaths in Arizona prisons is clearly a major concern. People with mental health problems are suffering and dying in Arizona prisons.

If your mentally ill family member is facing criminal proceedings in Phoenix or elsewhere in Arizona please call our attorney at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Mental Health |