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

18July
2019

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

15July
2019

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

11July
2019

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

9July
2019

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

5July
2019

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

1July
2019

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 |

Will You be Charged with a Federal Drug Crime if You Have Mental Illness in Arizona?

28June
2019

Many drug crimes are dealt with by the federal authorities. When the accused is dealt with in a federal court he or she often faces more severe treatment and longer prison time. If you have a mental illness in Arizona, you can face a federal drug crime.

Drug crimes fall under either state or federal jurisdiction. Although the majority of drug crimes are handled by the state, the feds will prosecute in some circumstances.

mentally ill people may receive a federal drug charge
Mental illness will not derail a federal drug charge

If the offender was arrested as part of a federal investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the FBI, or another federal agency, the offender will be dealt with in the federal courts.

The federal courts handle more serious drug offenses. Given Arizona’s proximity to Mexico, drug trafficking is high on the radar of federal drug prosecutors. People charged with drug possession are often also charged with trafficking or even manufacture. The federal courts get involved in drug offenses that cross state or national lines.

Federal offenses carry strict penalties and minimum sentences. If you are convicted of a first offense of trafficking more than 100 kilos of marijuana you face a minimum sentence of five years in prison.

Drug offenders and other people who suffer from mental disorders face many challenges in federal prisons. The Marshall Project has warned of suicides of people with mental disorders in prisons.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons faced increasing criticism of its treatment of inmates with mental illness five years ago. It published a new policy to help those with mental health problems. However, research by the Marshall Project found rather than expanding its treatment, the bureau lowered the number of prisoners designated for help by more than 35 percent. The department decided some prisoners with long histories of psychiatric problems did not require any routine care at all.

The Marshall Project noted how federal prisons classified just 3 percent of inmates as having a mental illness serious enough to require regular treatment. This compares with more than 30 percent of inmates in some U.S. states.

Nonviolent first-time drug offenders typically avoid prison sentences if they are dealt with by state courts in Arizona. Arizona passed Proposition 200 in 1996. It means judges can no longer send first or second-time nonviolent drug offenders to prison until their third conviction. However, you can be imprisoned for a first meth offense.

Drug crimes and the interplay between the state and federal systems can be confusing. If you suffer from a mental illness, the system may be bewildering. Please contact experienced Phoenix-based attorney Bernardo Garcia as soon as possible for help.

Posted in Uncategorized |

A woman who Sent More than 159,000 Text Messages to a Man is Found Mentally Incompetent

26June
2019

The rapid growth of online technology has been accompanied by a rise in cases of cyberstalking and other electronic threats. A recent case in Arizona highlights how people with mental health issues can incriminate themselves online. It also illustrated how Rule 11 works in Arizona when defendants are mentally incompetent.

A woman from Paradise Valley is fighting charges over stalking and criminal trespassing. She is accused of sending more than 159,000 text messages to a man who she went out on a single date with.

Police claim Jacqueline Ades sent a man more than 159,000 text messages after she met him on a dating site. Investigators said some of the messages sent over a 10-month period were threatening. 

Prosecutors said Ades started threatening her former date after Paradise Valley officers escorted her from the man’s property in July 2017. Texts appeared to threaten mutilation, and cannibalism according to police.

Ades has being held in Maricopa County’s Estrella Jail without bond since May 2018. Her case attracted national media attention.

A report in AZCentral noted how her attorney requested a Rule 11 competency hearing. The request for the hearing in January followed concerns that Ades did not understand the charges and the proceedings against her and was unable to assist in her own defense.

Ades was deemed mentally incompetent at a Rule 11 hearing in March. According to report, she rejected a plea deal that would have released her from jail because she had already served the required time. She insists on pleading not guilty.

Media reports stated two of the three mental-health professionals found the defendant mentally incompetent to stand trial, but restorable. One thought she was mentally competent. The trial was delayed for at least two months.

Ades said in an interview the whole episode was a joke. The New York Post reported she claimed the jury would order her to marry the man she allegedly bombarded with text messages and she was previously abducted by Walt Disney.

Police said they arrested Ades when she took a bath in the man’s home while he was out of the country.

The competency rule or Rule 11 is important. It protects people with mental illnesses who cannot understand the proceedings they are facing and are not able to consult with a lawyer. Defendants with mental illnesses often make a recovery and are able to face charges when they are of sound mind.

At the Garcia Law Firm, our attorney has considerable experience in these cases. Please contact the firm at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Uncategorized |

Can a Lawyer Insist on an Insanity Defense Against a Client’s Wishes?

24June
2019

The question of whether a lawyer can insist on an insanity defense against a client’s wishes was recently examined in a case heard before the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Earlier this year, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled a lawyer cannot insist on an insanity defense against a client’s wishes, even if the defendant shows clear signs of insanity.

Can a lawyer insist on an insanity defense?
A lawyer cannot insist on an insanity defense even when the alternative may keep a defendant in jail, court rules

The case involved an Arizona man who said he stabbed his cellmate numerous times because demons drove him to it. The justices granted Jonathan Read a new trial after ruling his lawyer wrongly pressed an insanity defense against his wishes.

Arizona has a guilty except insane defense. On occasions, our attorney will recommend a defendant uses this defense. However, it’s important to secure the consent of the accused.  The decision of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals illustrates why.

The panel said Read’s lawyer violated his Sixth Amendment rights by entering the insanity plea on his behalf in stabbing of Read’s cellmate at the Federal Correctional Institute in Phoenix in 2014.

Read was indicted in 2015 on a count of assault resulting in serious bodily injury and another count of assault with a dangerous weapon with intent to do bodily harm. He stabbed his cellmate 13 times with a knife on May 31, 2014.

Read said he wanted to represent himself. The judge in his case appointed a lawyer to represent him. The judge said Read’s actions were “decidedly bizarre.” He said Read’s arguments in defense to the charges against him were “nonsensical.”

The 9th Circuit panel ruled that the trial judge made his decision without the benefit of a 2018 Supreme Court case. That case established while attorneys are responsible for the legal strategy in a case, they must still comply with the defendant’s wishes.

Circuit Judge Michael Daly Hawkins wrote that the trial judge faced a difficult dilemma.

He said he had to decide whether to allow a mentally ill defendant to eschew a plausible defense of insanity in favor of one “based in delusion” that had no chance of success.  

While Read’s defense of demonic possession would have been ineffective, the circuit court ruled it was what he wanted.

The Circuit Court decision was backed by University of Arizona law professor Barbara E. Bergman. She said the appeals court did the correct thing.  She said the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution gives the right to the effective “assistance of counsel.”

However, even in cases in which the defendant suffers from a mental illness, the attorney is still an assistant. The final decision rests with the defendant.

 Read said he had no memory of the attack on his cellmate. Court record said they had no disagreements before the attack.

Read was initially ruled incompetent to stand trial. He was later found competent after another evaluation. When his attorney confirmed he would pursue an insanity plea, Read underwent another evaluation.

In three evaluations, doctors found Read had a schizotypical personality and a “cannabis-use disorder.”

If you or a family member with a mental disorder is accused of a crime, you should consult our Arizona criminal defense lawyer. Bernardo Garcia can discuss the insanity defense and your options. Please contact us as soon as possible.

Posted in Mental Health Defenses | Tagged |

Arizona Locks Up More Mentally Ill People than it Hospitalizes

20June
2019

Arizona’s safety net for mentally ill people is a flimsy one. The state locks up more people than it hospitalizes and services for people with disorders are under fire.

An AZBigMedia report looked at how the state can improve its mental health services. In 2016, Mental Health America’s annual State of Mental Health Report placed Arizona at the foot of a table for mental health services. The report noted the high incidence of mental illness in the state and low access to mental healthcare.

Arizona locks up mentally ill people
Arizona locks up people with mental illnesses

Mental Health America noted factors like soaring poverty, low high school graduation rates, and elevated levels of toxic chemical release. Poor access to mental healthcare services elevates these issues.

Experts say Arizona needs more mental health professionals to address the lack of resources.

The Treatment Advocacy Center said Arizona failed to provide the number of beds needed to provide adequate treatment for people with mental illness.

AzBigMedia reported 50 beds per 100,000 people is the national standard. In 2016, there were just 4.4 beds per 100,000 people, ranking Arizona 48th nationally in terms of beds per capita.

The article noted a link between states with better access to mental health care and less violent crime, less unemployment, lower rates of child malnutrition and better high school graduation rates.

In contrast, Arizona locks up more people with mental illness than it hospitalizes. The article alluded to a 9.3-1 chance of being incarcerated versus being hospitalized if a person is mentally ill, according to the Treatment Advocacy Center.

When experts discuss the dramatic problems Arizona faces in dealing with its mental health crisis, a theme that reoccurs throughout the conversation is the increasing need for mental healthcare specialists.

Mental Health America’s report highlighted a particular issue with young people who suffer from mental health problems.

Arizona ranked 32nd in the nation for mental healthcare for adults and 47th for mental healthcare for young people. The report noted a lack of specialists able to treat infants, children and young adults.

Young people’s access to mental healthcare was significantly worse than that of adults according to the report.

The finding is alarming because more young people are coming up through the criminal justice system. People with untreated and undiagnosed mental health problems are more likely to end up breaking the law.

While many studies disprove an automatic link between mental health and crime, people who suffer from conditions like schizophrenia and bipolar disorders are more likely to offend if these conditions go untreated. If you or a family member is facing Arizona criminal court proceedings and suffer from mental illness, place contact the Garcia Law Firm at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Mental Health | Tagged |