What is the M’Naghten Rule – the Basis of Insanity Defenses?


The M’Naghten Rule is the basis of insanity defenses in the United Kingdom and the United States. It was established by the British House of Lords in the mid-19th Century.

The rule is a test of whether the person accused of a crime was sane when the act was committed and criminally responsible for what happened. The rule is named after Daniel M’Naghten, a man who tried to kill the British Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel. M’Naghten apparently believed that Peel wanted to kill him. He tried to assassinate the Prime Minister but instead shot his private secretary, Edward Drummond dead in 1843.

How the M'Naghten Rule developed in the 19th Century led to the insanity defense
The M’Naghten Rules forms the basis of the insanity defense

Medical experts were brought in for M’Naghten’s murder trial. They testified that he was psychotic. M’Naghten wad found not guilty by reason of insanity. The verdict caused an outcry from the public who had never heard of an insanity defense.

The House of Lords ordered the courts to draw up a strict definition of criminal insanity that could be used in future criminal trials. The result was the M’Naghten Rule. The justices ruled that insanity was a defense only when if the accused had a defect of reason at the time the crime was committed. The defendant should not have known about the nature of his or her actions and been too deranged to realize they were wrong.

The M’Naghten Rule was first applied by the courts in the United States in the 19th Century, just a few years after the British ruling. The Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and Law reported how in 1846, New York State tried William Freeman who was accused of killing several members of the Van Nest family near Auburn, New York. Freeman demonstrated psychotic behavior. He was obsessed with horse theft and false imprisonment. William Seward, his defense lawyer, wanted an insanity verdict and used the M’Naghten Rule argument. Although Freeman was clearly impaired, a jury found him competent to stand trial.

A jury found Freeman guilty of the killings and a judge sentenced him to death. Seward filed a Writ of Error. The New York State Supreme Court reversed Freeman’s conviction and death sentence. The court said the M’Naghten Rule would be the standard in New York.

The M’Naghten rule underpins Arizona’s guilty except insane (GEI) defense. It allows the defendant in a case to show evidence of a serious “mental disease or defect.” Specific conditions can qualify for GEI. The effects of withdrawal from drugs and alcohol, impulse control, or psychosexual disorders do not meet the definition of guilty except insane. This is a hard defense to prove. The defendant must suffer from a condition that’s so serious, he or she was unaware that the criminal act was wrong.

If you or a family member has a mental disorder and is facing charges, our law firm can help you. Attorney Bernardo Garcia has assisted clients in these cases for decades. Please call him at (602) 340-1999.

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

Tips for Helping Your Attorney When a Defendant Has a Mental Illness in Arizona


It’s very important for defendants with a mental illness in Arizona to hire a criminal defense lawyer. Most defendants are unfamiliar with the legal system and need a voice in court. This is especially the case when the accused has a mental disorder. His or her needs are often ignored in the criminal justice system.

Useful information you should disclose to an attorney about a family member with a mental illness
Disclosing medications used by a family member with a mental illness can be useful information for an attorney

Some attorneys like Bernardo Garcia have decades of experience helping clients with psychiatric illnesses. When a defendant has a psychiatric disorder or another health issue it’s important to help an attorney as much as possible to build a watertight defense.

Some tips to help your attorney when a defendant has a mental illness in Arizona include:

1 Disclose all of your medical conditions

Your medical condition may be important in building up a defense. Some people who suffer from mental illnesses don’t want to talk about it. However, you should reveal everything about your condition to your lawyer who is there to help you. He may pick up on something that helps your case.

2 Involve your family

Few things are as stressful as being charged with a crime. This is particularly the case for people with mental illnesses. Family members play a vital supporting role. You should get them involved in the legal process. Family members may be called to give evidence in some cases or provide testimony about the defendant’s mental illness.

3 Make sure you understand the legal process. If you are not clear about the role of your attorney, you may not be competent to stand trial. Family members should check their relative with mental illness understands the charges and the consequences. Your attorney will also do this.

4 Disclose all medications

You should make sure your lawyer is aware of any medications you are taking and inform the legal representative of any problems you may face accusing medication in jail. Family members can also inform the lawyer about his client’s medication.

5 List mitigating factors

Mitigation is important in cases where a mentally ill person faces criminal charges. In some cases, the defendant will plead guilty but the lawyer will present mitigating evidence that can reduce an eventual sentence. It’s important to keep people with psychiatric disorders and other mental health issues out of prison if possible.

6 Be ready to talk about alternatives

There are many mental health defenses and alternatives to incarceration like diversion programs. You should be ready to talk candidly with your attorney about what may work best for you.

Attorney Bernardo Garcia has a long track record of helping people with mental illnesses. He also works very closely with their family members. Call him for a consultation as soon as a loved one is arrested on Phoenix or elsewhere at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Mental Health | Tagged |

Arizona Court Rules Police Need a Warrant to Use GPS Tracking Evidence


The communications revolution of the 21st Century has transformed crime investigations. It’s much easier to track people than in previous years because of global positioning systems (GPS). However, the question of whether police need a warrant to obtain this information has occupied many hours in courtrooms.

The Arizona Supreme Court deliberated on this issue in a 2018 case. The case of State v. Jean considered the Fourth Amendment rights of Emilio Jean, a passenger in a truck who was charged with money laundering and transportation of marijuana. Police placed tracking devices on the vehicle and gained evidence through GPS.

Arizona court rules police need a warrant to use tracking evidence
Police need a warrant to use tracking evidence, Arizona court rules

The court concluded Jean was subjected to a warrantless search that violated his reasonable expectation of privacy and thus his Fourth Amendment rights. Although the court highlighted a “good faith exception” in the case because the officer did not think his actions were unlawful, the justices concluded passengers who are traveling in a private vehicle with its owner should have a “reasonable expectation of privacy.” This is violated by continually tracking the vehicle through a hidden GPS device.

The case is important because it sets limits on what police can legitimately do without a warrant. It follows cases in which the courts ruled police needed a warrant to obtain the evidence on a suspect’s smartphone.

Also in 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an important ruling that placed limits on the ability of investigators to obtain cellphone data that highlighted the previous location of criminal suspects in what was greeted as a major victory for digital privacy advocates.

A report in Reuters noted the court made a 5-4 ruling. The justices said police generally require a court-approved warrant to obtain data. The decision was important because it created a higher legal hurdle than under previous federal law.

Before the ruling, police routinely obtained data from wireless carriers from cellphone towers. The Supreme Court said this was an unreasonable search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The highest court in the land ruled in favor of Timothy Carpenter. He appealed his conviction for a string of armed robberies at Radio Shack and T-Mobile stores in Ohio and Michigan. The police used cellphone location data that showed he was close to the crime scenes at the time of the robberies.

Chief Justice John Roberts said the ruling did not affect other privacy issues such as whether police need warrants to get real-time cellphone location information to track suspects.

Police can use GPS to track someone in Arizona with a search warrant for probable cause or the permission of the owner. However, if GPS is used unlawfully a defense attorney can move to strike out the evidence.

Many defendants, particularly those with mental illnesses, are unaware of their rights. Phoenix-based attorney Bernardo Garcia can help you after an arrest. Please call him today at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Law Enforcement | Tagged |

Can Dementia Trigger Incompetency to Stand Trial in Arizona?


The recent case of an Arizona man with Alzheimer’s who said he robbed a credit union because he could not afford to live on his social security check, raises questions of whether dementia can trigger incompetency to stand trial in Arizona.

A report in Tucson.com noted Robert Francis Krebs told FBI agents that he didn’t even put on a disguise during the robbery in 2018 because he wanted to get caught and to go back to prison.

Dementia and incompetency to stand trial in Arizona
Dementia can leave a defendant incompetent to stand trial

A court hearing in June considered whether Krebs, 82, was mentally fit to stand trial.

His attorneys told a judge Krebs reported having symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. A neuropsychologist concluded he was not competent to stand trial for robbery because he was suffering from dementia.

Two other mental health experts disagreed with the assessment. Tucson.com reported one of them said Krebs exaggerated his degenerative condition to avoid prosecution. The report noted a judge faces deciding if Krebs should be assessed to find out if his condition improves. If he cannot be restored to competency the robbery charge might be dismissed.

Krebs has previously served 30 years in prison for a bank robbery committed in Florida in the 1980s.

Prosecutors in the case argue Krebs is competent to stand trial. They urged a judge to find him competent, saying he told FBI agents he carried out the Tucson robbery because he was not able to live on $800 a month in Social Security benefits.

Competency to stand trial depends on whether a defendant is able to understand the proceedings being brought and give effective advice to his attorney. Conditions like Alzheimer’s and dementia can trigger incompetency to stand trial in Arizona.

You can find out more about the competency rule, also known as Rule 11 on our website. As soon as a defendant has been charged with an offense in Arizona, any party to the case can file a motion with the court seeking a competency determination on the defendant. This includes the court itself.

The court will consider all evidence and seek expert input on the competency of the defendant. If you or a family member fails to grasp what is going on during a legal proceeding, you should not be convicted or sentenced to a crime. Please call Garcia Law PLC for more advice and help at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Mental Health Defenses, Rule 11 | Tagged |

Arizona Governor Vetoes Prison Reform Bill for First Time Offenders


Arizona has one of the most controversial sentencing policies in the nation. First-time offenders can receive multiple sentences for “repetitive offenses” that occurred within minutes of each other.

The law led to a groundswell for change and across the aisle support for a bill. However, in June, Governor Doug Ducey vetoed Senate Bill 1334, a measure that would have reformed the sentencing for time offenders in Arizona under the repeat offender law.

Arizona Governor vetoes a prison refom bill
A prison reform bill was vetoed by Arizona Governor Doug Ducey

The bill attracted strong bipartisan support passing the Arizona House with 49 in favor and no opposition reported News Channel 13.

It was also received favorably in the Senate where it passed 27 in favor to three against.

Ducey said he vetoed the bill because it had  “unintended consequences.” He did not elaborate.

Joe Watson, who spent a decade in prison as a first-time offender, supported the reform. His case highlights the harshness of Arizona’s approach to first-time offenders.

Watson said he faced a potential 214 years in prison as a first-time offender. In Arizona, charges can be stacked for first-time offenders.

He received a sentence of 12 years because he argued his case before a judge instead of settling for a plea deal that would have left him spending at least a quarter of a century incarcerated.

Watson served 10 years even though nobody was harmed and no weapon was used in his offense. He claimed Arizona’s approach to first-time offenders means many people with mental health and drug addiction problems end up incarcerated. He said:

“Like me, the overwhelming majority of people incarcerated committed their offenses because of addiction,” he said. “That’s what we have to treat, behavioral issues, mental health issues.”

He said Arizona doesn’t have a program inside the prison walls to deal with those issues and so the numbers rise along with the price tag.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, the state has the fourth-highest incarceration rate in the country. Almost 42,000 people languish in our prisons.

At the Garcia Law Firm, our attorney Bernardo Garcia is committed to fighting for the rights of defendants who suffer from mental illnesses. We are well aware of the harsh treatment of first-time offenders and will do everything in our power to keep you out of prison. Please contact us today for a consultation.

Posted in Arizona Laws |

Sleep Deprivation in College Kids Fuels Mental Health Episodes


College students often lose out on sleep. They habitually work late cramming for examinations, or party and lead hectic lives. A new study points out sleep deprivation can have an adverse effect on mental health.

At the Garcia Law Firm, our attorney helps people when they get into trouble with the law. He often helps people with mental health disorders. We know how hectic lifestyles and lack of sleep can fuel mental health problems and result in criminality.

Sleep deprivation and mental health
Sleep deprivation impacts mental health

Colleges, whether in Phoenix or elsewhere, can be stressful places. There’s a lot of pressure on students to perform well academically and many are away from home for the first time. Insomnia fuels their problems.

A number of recent studies point to the detrimental effect of a lack of sleep in college students including mental illnesses. Sleep deprivation, according to Harvard Health, affects your psychological state and your mental health. It’s a vicious cycle because people who suffer from mental health problems are more likely to struggle with sleep disorders.

America as a whole suffers from sleep deprivation. Many people have stressful jobs and we work long hours. People with psychiatric disorders are more likely to feel tired and down. Harvard Health stated as many as 50 to 80 percent of people with mental illnesses suffer from sleeping disorders. Insomnia is particularly common in people with depression, bipolar disorders, anxiety, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

While sleep disorders are typically viewed as symptoms rather than the cause of psychological problems, studies suggest a lack of sleep may cause psychological problems. College students are a high-risk group.

Why Sleep Deprivation May Impact Mental Health

The research is important. It indicates treating an underlying sleeping disorder may help alleviate the symptoms of a mental health problem.

Every 90 minutes, a normal sleeper experiences “quiet” or deep sleep. The muscles relax, the body temperature falls, the heart rate drops, and breathing slows down. The deeper phase of sleep causes physiological changes that boost immune system functioning.

REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, is the other category of sleep when people dream. It entails an increase in body temperature, blood temperature, and other indicators. Studies suggest REM sleep improves learning and memory and is beneficial for emotional health.

Although scientists are still working on the methodology, they have found disruption to sleep causes havoc in the brain, impairs emotions, and stops people from thinking rationally. Insomnia can exacerbate mental disorders.

When people with mental illnesses end up in the Arizona courts, they often have chaotic lives and little sleep. Our attorney at the Garcia Lw Firm will talk to you and your family members about these issues. Underlying stresses that cause lack of sleep may be important in the courtroom when arguments are made for a lesser sentence, known as sentencing mitigation.

Please contact the Garcia Law Firm today if you or a family member with a mental illness has been arrested.

Posted in Mental Health |

Health Rankings Point to an Increase in Adults Experiencing Mental Health Distress in Arizona


Suffering from a mental health disorder is a major challenge in Arizona. Not only are the courts often unsympathetic to people with mental illness but the state has a serious lack of providers.

According to America’s Health Rankings, Arizona ranks 47th in the nation in terms of access to mental healthcare for its population.

more adults experience mental health distress in Arizona
Arizona sees an increase in people with mental health challenges

The Healthcare provider BlueCross BlueShield of Arizona points out the level of providers remains low even though the number of adults who suffer from frequent mental distress in Arizona jumped by 5 percent from 2017 to 2018.

Blue Cross Blue Shield is addressing the issue through its Mobilize AZ initiative. It provided $560,000 in funding to the Arizona Department of Health Services’ (ADHS) State Loan Repayment Program (SLRP). 

The SLRP is intended to help enlist and keep healthcare officials, including mental health specialists in rural areas that lack qualified mental health professionals.

The program repays the educational loans of healthcare providers on condition they remain in areas that suffer from a shortage of medical professionals.

America’s Health Ranking findings are in line with previous research that highlighted Arizona’s dismal levels of mental healthcare provision.

In 2015, Mental Health America found Arizona was the second-worst state in the country for addressing mental health issues. The Phoenix New Times analyzed the frequency of mental illness in every state and the District of Columbia.

The nonprofit looked at adult and children. It considered the numbers of people with diagnosed mental health conditions, serious thoughts of suicide, and substance-abuse issues.

It assessed the number of adults and children who suffer from mental illnesses but were not receiving treatment and had no access to a doctor or a medical health professional.

The study revealed a huge unmet need in Arizona. Only Oregon had poorer levels of access to mental health services.

In 2014, Arizona stepped up its levels of help for people with acute problems such as severe depression and schizophrenia.

However, the state was found to be failing people with moderate mental illness and failing to intervene before it became acute and they lost their jobs, families, or ended up in trouble with the law.

The study found not enough primary-care physicians are screening patients for mental illness until the disease has progressed and caused serious problems.

At the Garcia Law Firm, we have a long track record of representing mentally ill people in the courts. We know the challenges mentally ill people and their families face and the lack of support networks. Please call attorney Bernardo Garcia today at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Mental Health | Tagged |

Is there a Link Between Shoplifting and Mental Illness?


Most of us have heard of stories of celebrities who were arrested for shoplifting. These are rich people who don’t steal because they can’t afford food for their kids. However, some studies point to a link between mental illness and larceny from stores.

Experts point to a possible link between shoplifting and mental illness
Is there a link between shoplifting and mental illness?

A report in Psychology Today referred to research carried out by Pathways Institute for Impulse Control about kleptomania and compulsive stealing behaviors.

The report said people steal for a wide range of reasons, ranging from poverty to criminality.  However, research on dopamine levels found people can become addicted to stealing in a similar way to alcohol, gambling, and drugs.

Psychological disorders like bipolar disorder, severe depression, anxiety, and kleptomania may be linked to shoplifting. People with impulse disorders often have co-occurring mood disorders and other cluster problem behaviors and addictions, Psychology Today noted.

Although police and courts are often less than sympathetic to underlying mental health issues linked to a shoplifting charge, in some cases, there are clear links between stealing and mental illness.

The Mayo Clinic classifies kleptomania as a mental disorder and an impulse control issue. Sufferers experience an inability to resist urges to steal items that they usually do not need and are of little value. The clinic defines kleptomania as a “rare but serious mental health disorder that can cause much emotional pain to you and your loved ones if not treated.”

Shoplifting can be a misdemeanor or a felony offense in Arizona. The seriousness of the offense depends on the value of the goods or services that are stolen. When the value of an item stolen is over $1,000, the offense is charged as a felony.

In certain jurisdictions in Arizona, people who commit shoplifting can go into diversionary programs. These are often helpful for people with mental disorders and illnesses. Incarceration can have a very detrimental effect on people who suffer from mental illnesses. The environment of a jail or a prison can exacerbate their symptoms.

If you or a family member with a mental illness has been charged with shoplifting, please call our Phoenix criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Theft | Tagged |

Report is Critical of Police Transportation of People with Mental Illnesses


Police departments are heavily involved in the transportation of people with mental illnesses. It’s a role that is stretching police departments and is not helpful for mental illness sufferers, according to a recent report.

A report by the Treatment Advocacy Center found as much as 10 percent of police budgets is spent on the transportation of people with mental illnesses. The Virginia-based nonprofit claimed the role police play in transporting mental ill people strains police budgets. It leaves many officers feeling uncomfortable and is little help to the mentally ill.

Report is critical of police transportation of the mentally ill
Report criticizes transportation of people with mental illnesses

The report pointed out members of law enforcement do not serve as treatment providers for any other illness. However, they have become “road runners,” in responding to mental health emergencies and traveling long distances to shuttle people suffering from mental illness from one facility to another.

The report was published in conjunction with the National Sheriffs’ Association and the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police. It was funded by the Achelis and Bodman Foundation. Key findings included the following:

  • An average of 10 percent of law enforcement agencies’ total budgets was spent responding to mental illness emergencies and transporting the mentally ill in 2017.
  • The time spent transporting people with mental illness by police in 2017 amounted to 165,295 hours, or more than 18 years.
  • Police took people five times further to a secure facility after a mental health crisis than when prisoners are taken to a jail or prison. 
  • About $918 million was spent by law enforcement on transporting people with severe mental illnesses.
  • The transportation of people with mental illnesses made up more than 20 percent of police time.
  • Law enforcement officers waited much longer — an average of about 2.5 hours longer — when dropping a patient off at a medical facility than if transporting someone to jail.
  • Some officers waited for 72 hours or more until a bed became available.

The survey was based on the responses of more than 3,000 officers from 355 sheriffs or police departments in 2017. The problem is exacerbated by the gradual reduction in state hospital beds available to patients suffering from mental health issues.

The survey stated institutions failed to admit the patients in about half of the instances. Researchers said:

“Officers spend significant amounts of time and resources serving in a role for which they neither planned nor trained. They are forced to make decisions about where to take someone in crisis, wrestle with how long it will take to get there, and worry about the opportunity cost of leaving their regular duties, all the while knowing the person in crisis may not even receive the treatment he or she needs.”

The results of this survey are particularly worrying because people with mental illnesses are more likely to come to harm in police custody.

A survey by the Treatment Advocacy Center found people with untreated mental illness are 16 times more likely to be killed during a police encounter than other civilians who are stopped or encountered by law enforcement.

People with untreated mental illnesses comprise about 1 in 50 U.S. adults. However, people with severe untreated mental illnesses like schizophrenia are involved in at least 1 in 4 incidents and as many as half of all fatal police shootings, the center study reports.

People with untreated mental illnesses are more likely to be arrested and their chances of being bailed are lower than the rest of the population, even when they are picked up for minor issues.

At the Garcia Law Firm, our attorney has helped people with mental illness to negotiate the criminal justice system for decades. Please call Bernardo Garcia at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Mental Health | Tagged |

Factors that Influence Drug Offense Sentencing in Arizona


Drug offense sentencing in Arizona can be very complicated. Arizona is known for having harsh drug laws. However, two people who face a similar set of circumstances can receive different outcomes based on the evidence an attorney presents to the court. Many factors influence drug offense sentencing in Arizona.

Factors influencing drug sentencing in Arizona
What factor influence drug sentencing in Arizona?

These factors include the following.

  • Were the drugs intended for personal use or sale?
  • How much of the drug was involved?
  • Was the convicted person a repeat offender?
  • What type of drug was involved in the offense?

Sentencing factors in Arizona are contained in the federal and state statutes. The United States Sentencing Commission Guidelines give directions on drug sentencing under federal law. Arizona sentencing guidelines are contained under the Arizona Criminal Code Sentencing Provisions, and A.R.S. 13 Chapters 7, 8, and 9.

The statutory guidelines provide a sentencing range. These include minimum and maximum sentences. The guidelines for methamphetamine offenses, for example, in Arizona are tough. People convicted on a first offense of selling meth, the equipment, or the chemicals to make meth, face a minimum sentence of five years in prison, a presumptive sentence of 10 years, and a maximum sentence of 15 years.

Non-statutory factors may influence drug offense sentencing in Arizona within these ranges. They include the defendant’s character, history, and the circumstances surrounding the offense. The court will consider factors like violence or threats in a drug offense, a prior criminal record, and the nature of the harm to victims. Mental and physical health and substance abuse can be taken into consideration in drug sentencing in Arizona.

The quantity of drugs is particularly important in narcotics offenses in Arizona. The state has so-called “threshold amounts.”

The “threshold amount” is defined as the particular quantity of drugs over a certain amount which attracts a mandatory prison sentence. These sentences apply to both repeat offenders and first-time drug offenders; irrespective of whether they have a prior criminal record.

The threshold amounts are related to the amount of the drug and the degree of danger. Deadly drugs like heroin have much smaller threshold amounts than marijuana.

The threshold amounts relevant to drug sentencing in Arizona include the following:

  1. Heroin – 1 gram;
  2. Cocaine – 9 grams;
  3. Methamphetamine (Meth) – 9 grams;
  4. Amphetamine – 9 grams;
  5. Marijuana – 2 pounds;

At the Garcia Law Firm, our attorney is well aware of the link between mental illness and drug dependency. These factors are important in mitigation. Many people who are arrested for drug offenses are addicted to these substances. Please contact us today over drug crimes.

Posted in Arizona Laws, Drug Crimes | Tagged |