Is Shoplifting a Misdemeanor or a Felony in Arizona?


Many people who are charged with shoplifting don’t take the offense seriously. They assume they will get a slap on the wrists and a fine. However, shoplifting in Arizona can be charged as a felony in certain circumstances.

It’s vital to take the offense seriously and to hire an experienced Phoenix criminal defense lawyer if you have been charged with shoplifting.

Whether shoplifting is charged as a misdemeanor or a felony depends on factors such as the value of the goods that were stolen.

shoplifting in Arizona may be serious

Shoplifting in Arizona can be a felony

A shoplifting charge can be brought under a number of scenarios in Arizona. Under Arizona Revised Statutes § 13-1805 you can be charged with shoplifting if:

A person who is shopping knowingly obtains goods from the store with the intent to deprive the establishment of its merchandise by:

  1. Taking the goods away from the establishment without paying the purchase price; or
  2. Charging a purchase price of the merchandise to a fictitious individual or any person without their authority; or
  3. Paying less than the purchase price by a trick such as changing or altering marking, price tags or labels.
  4. Transferring the goods from one container to another; or
  5. Concealing merchandise.

Although most shoplifting offenses will be charged as misdemeanors if the value of the items stolen is under $1,000, this crime can be a felony in the following circumstances:

The value of the items stolen was $1,000 or more, but less than $2,000. The offense will be charged as a Class 6 felony.

  • Merchandise valued at more than $2,000 was stolen – the offense is charged as a Class 5 felony;
  • Shoplifting was part of a continuous criminal episode;
  • Shoplifting was committed to promote gang activity;
  • You used a device or an instrument to shoplift property – this can be charged as a Class 4 felony.
  • You had two similar convictions for theft offenses within five years of the alleged offense.

A “continuing criminal episode” is defined as the theft of property or goods valued at $1,500 or more in three separate incidences within 90 days.

If you are charged with felony shoplifting you could be locked up in jail for almost four years.

In some jurisdictions, shoplifters are eligible for diversion programs. These programs can allow you to attend classes and have your charges dismissed if you successfully complete the programs. These programs are only available for first-time offenders.

It’s important not to dismiss a shoplifting crime as unimportant. A conviction can hamper your life and even result in jail time. Please contact our experienced Arizona criminal defense lawyer today to talk about your options if you have been charged with shoplifting.

Posted in Theft | Tagged |

When Can you Fall Foul of Arizona’s Gun Control Laws?


Arizona has some of the most liberal gun laws in the United States. However, its reputation for having few rules can land some people in trouble with the law. There are restrictions and many people fall foul of Arizona’s gun control laws.

Under Arizona law, any person 21 years or older, who is not a prohibited possessor, is able to carry a weapon openly or concealed without the need for a license.

In this respect, Arizona is different from many other states that require a concealed carry permit.

To obtain a concealed-weapons permit, you must be 21 or older, and a legal U.S. resident. You must have no felony convictions or mental illness.

What are gun control laws in Arizona?

Gun control laws in Arizona

Arizona’s gun control laws state the holder of a firearm must complete a firearms safety course. The state does not set out minimum requirements for the course and hands-on training with a gun is not necessary.

Arizona’s Gun Control Laws and Mental Health

Under federal law, certain people are prevented from buying or possessing firearms. They include felons, people with a domestic abuse conviction and certain people with a history of mental illness. The provisions relating to firearms and mental health can be confusing.

You are prohibited from buying or possessing a gun in the following circumstances:

  • You have been found to be a danger to yourself or others, you are acutely or persistently disabled or gravely disabled as set out in a court order, and your right to possess a firearm has not been restored;
  • You have been found incompetent, and not subsequently found to be competent.
  • You have been found guilty except insane.

Gun Control Laws and Convicted Felons

Arizona prevents you possessing a firearm if you:

  • Have been convicted of a felony or adjudicated delinquent for a felony and your civil right to possess or carry a firearm is not restored;
  • You are serving a term in a prison or any other correctional or detention facility;
  • You are on probation for a domestic violence offense or a felony offense, or community supervision, parole, work furlough, home arrest or release on any other condition.
  • You are an undocumented alien or a nonimmigrant alien lacking documentation in Arizona.

Firearms are banned in certain places in Arizona. They are:

  • At correctional facilities
  • At a liquor retailer when a sign prohibiting weapons is posted;
  • On grounds of any school
  • At polling places on election day
  • At hydroelectric or nuclear-generating stations.
  • Any event open to the public if the operator makes a reasonable request for you to hand over or remove a weapon from the premises. A sign qualifies as a request. Cities and counties are required to offer on-site storage for guns if a request is made.
  • Facilities where firearms are banned by federal law.

Firearms Banned Under Arizona Gun Control Laws

Although Arizona has permissive gun control laws, some firearms are banned. The state outlaws automatic weapons and rifles with a barrel less than 16 inches or a shotgun with a barrel less than 18 inches.

Modified rifles and shotguns with an overall length of 26 inches are banned along with guns made or adapted to reduce the sounds of the firearm. Arizona bans firearms capable of shooting one or more shots automatically without the need to manually reload the gun.

As in other states, a wide range of other weapons is banned in Arizona, including bombs, mines, grenades, and improvised explosive devices.

There is a wide range of potential sentences for firearms violations in Arizona. If you possess a weapon when you are prohibited from carrying a firearm, you may face a class 4 felony, carrying 2.5 years to 3 years in prison.

When people fall foul of Arizona’s gun control laws, they are often unaware they are doing anything wrong. At the Garcia Law Firm, we have helped people with mental health issues who are charged with firearms offenses. This is a complicated area of the law. Please call us today at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Arizona Laws, Law Enforcement | Tagged |

Disproportionate Sentencing Along Racial Lines is Revealed in Arizona Report


If you think you’ll receive the same sentencing in the criminal justice system wherever you live and whatever the color of your skin, think again. A new report reveals sentencing often takes place along racial lines in Arizona.

The report was highlighted in November by AZCentral.  It sheds light on sentencing disparities between urban and rural communities in the state and suggests disproportionate sentencing of black people and Hispanics in areas like drug offenses.

The “Cost to Communities” report was released by The organization is a bipartisan nonprofit founded by tech and business leaders.

Sentencing Along Racial Lines

A report reveals sentencing along racial lines

Alarmingly, the report suggests people of color and their communities are hit hardest by the Arizona criminal justice system. The report points to disproportionate sentencing.

The report states the problems in Arizona mirrors a nationwide issue. The report noted communities of color are more likely to be incarcerated and to spend longer periods behind bars.

The disparities are not attributable to differences in offense rates, the report notes. The report states:

“Nationally, criminologists have studied this question for decades, and the most recent study found that a large portion — 45 percent — of racial disparities in imprisonment are not the result of racial disparities in arrest rates. Instead, at numerous points within the criminal justice system, from prosecution to conviction, researchers have identified instances of biased policies, practices, and decision-making.”

The racial disparity is most evident in relation to drug crimes, according to the report.  Drug use is similar across the races, but communities of color are imprisoned at significantly higher rates.

The report notes Arizona’s population comprises about 31 percent of Hispanic people, Hispanics account for 32 percent of arrests for marijuana possession. However, almost 60 percent of the people admitted to prison for marijuana possession are from a Hispanic background.

Hispanic people are also disproportionately sentenced for marijuana distribution. They comprise 42 percent of arrests for the crime and 81.5 percent of those who are jailed for possession, the report states.

While black people use marijuana at a roughly an equal rate to white people, African Americans are being jailed disproportionately in Arizona, according to the report. While Arizona has considerably more white people than black people, the numbers of people jailed from the two groups in Arizona are approximately equal.

The Cost to Communities report also found Arizona’s rural counties are sending more people to jail than its urban areas. The average length of prison sentences fluctuated across the state, ranging from 32.9 months in La Paz to 57.4 months in Maricopa, the report states.

If you have been arrested for a drug offense or another crime in Arizona, you should not assume the criminal justice system will deal with you fairly. An experienced attorney will fight for your rights. Call our Phoenix criminal defense lawyer today for a consultation at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Arizona Laws | Tagged |

The Rights of Mentally Ill People in Arizona’s Justice System


Mentally ill people sometimes feel they have no rights in Arizona’s criminal justice system. This is not the case.

If you have been diagnosed with a mental illness, you have rights. People with disabilities, including psychiatric disabilities, are afforded legal rights to protect them from discrimination, abuse, and neglect in the criminal justice system.

You do not lose your rights, even if you are ordered a course of treatment by the courts.

When a mental illness interferes with a defendant’s right to a fair trial, a Rule 11 hearing may be held. The US Supreme Court set out the test for competency to stand trial in Dusky v. United States, 362 U.S. 402 (1960).

what are the rights of mentally ill people

The rights of mentally ill people

To be found competent to stand trial, the defendant must be able to consult with his lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding and to have a rational and factual understanding of the proceedings against him.

The defendant must be able to assist his lawyer in his defense and understand both the charges and potential consequences of a criminal trial.

People who are receiving mental health treatment have a right to participate in all phases of their treatment, including individual support planning meetings.

They have a right to refuse or consent to treatment unless an emergency court order has been made. People suffering from mental illness have a right to be spared unnecessary seclusion and restraint, or sexual and physical assault.

People with mental illness also have the right to appeal a court-ordered involuntary commitment and to request a judicial review of court-ordered treatment every 60 days.  They have the right to legal advice from an attorney.

If you or a relative is being held in a residential or an inpatient facility, you should not be denied the right to communicate or to send and receive mail and to receive visitors.

Mentally ill people have a right to have their medical and mental health information kept confidential by healthcare providers, with some exceptions. Records may be disclosed to people closely involved in your care; to people if you signed a valid release of information document; to lawyers working on your behalf, and following a court order.

Treatment and evaluation can be ordered by a court in Arizona when:

  • The individual is a danger to themselves
  • He or she is judged to be a danger to others
  • The individual is gravely disabled
  • He or she is persistently and acutely disabled.

In a criminal court or another proceeding in Arizona, you will not always be made aware of your rights if you are suffering from a mental illness. You should not rely on the authorities. Contact a Phoenix criminal defense lawyer who specializes in the rights of the mentally ill. Call us today at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Mental Health, Mental Health Defenses | Tagged |

Arson is a Complicated Crime in Arizona


Arson is a complicated crime that is taken very seriously by prosecutors in Arizona. Often people who are charged with starting fires in the state are diagnosed with mental illnesses.

Deliberately setting fire to property constitutes arson under Arizona law. A defendant commits arson of a structure or property when he or she knowingly and unlawfully damages a structure or property by causing a fire or explosion.

Arson of a structure is a class 4 felony in Arizona when the property has a value of more than $1,000. Arson of a property is a class 5 felony if the property was valued at more than $100 but under $1,000. If the property is valued at $100 or less, the offense is a 1 misdemeanor.

Arson in Arizona is complicated

Arson in Arizona can land you in prison

When the arson is committed against an occupied property, the penalty is more severe. A charge of arson of an occupied structure is brought when a person sets fire to an occupied structure by “knowingly and unlawfully damaging an occupied structure by knowingly causing a fire or explosion.” The arson of an occupied structure is charged as a class 2 felony.

It makes sense for Arizona to have harsher penalties for arsonists who place people in danger which is why setting fire to an abandoned building is treated less severely than burning a building where people are sleeping.

People who start fires in Arizona can also be charged with reckless burning. The offense is less serious than arson but can still land an offender in prison.

A reckless burning charge may be brought against people who did not intend to start a fire but whose reckless actions were to blame.

A fire in Arizona was recently in the news when a baby gender reveal party went wrong, causing a wildfire that burned nearly 47,000 acres and caused over $8 million in damage.

A video shot in April 2017, showed a makeshift target with the words “Boy” and “Girl” written on it. It was placed in the desert near Green Valley, Arizona, south of Tucson.

Explosives were ignited giving off a blue cloud for a boy. Unfortunately, the gender reveal stunt started a massive wildfire.

An off-duty US Border Patrol agent pleaded guilty this fall to a misdemeanor violation of US Forest Service regulations. He was sentenced to five years’ probation.

In other cases, arson and reckless burning charges have been brought against homeless people who started fires that damaged property and people suffering from mental illnesses.

If you or a family member has been charged with arson, you should hire an experienced Arizona criminal defense lawyer who can get to the root of a defendant’s motives. Call an arson criminal defense attorney at the Garcia Law Firm today at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Arson | Tagged |

Mental Health Courts Will Play a Key Role in Arizona Criminal Justice Reforms


Mental health courts are playing an increasingly important role in Arizona’s criminal justice system. However, the state’s prison population continues to rise making the case for the use of alternatives to incarceration.

More than 100 stakeholders in the state are pressing for alternatives, reported

From April to October 2018, Arizona Town Hall hosted 17 forums. Community members and employees of the local criminal justice system were invited to talk about the kinds of changes needed to reverse the rising prison population.  The report noted the number of people incarcerated in Arizona rose by 60 percent since 2000.

Understanding mental health courts in Arizona

Mental health courts in Arizona

That’s significantly above a national rise of 6 percent over the same period, according to reports compiled by the lobbying group

The report notes Arizona has the fourth-highest imprisonment rate in the nation and spends $1.1 billion on its prison system every year. It considers how Arizona can provide better services for mentally ill people who get into trouble with the law.

A final report considered the setting of goals for Arizona’s criminal justice system, the impacts mental illness and substance abuse, and the criminal charging process.

The report emphasized the need for a holistic approach to the issues facing Arizona’s criminal justice system.

The provision of better funding and access to addiction and mental health treatment were among the key demands in the report. It recommended adding a behavioral or mental health response option to 911 calls, better case management for people who returned to their communities after spending time in jail, and better transition and re-entry programs for defendants.

Arizona Justice System is Committed to Mental Health Courts

In a recent policy document, the Committee on Mental Health and the Justice System vowed to consider the following measures to develop mental health courts including:

  • Overseeing the creation of a model guide to help judges develop protocols to work with people with mental and behavioral healthcare needs and the criminal justice system.
  • Set up a summit to share the guide with judges, mental health professionals, court professionals, and justice system stakeholders across Arizona.
  • Review standards at Arizona mental health court standards to gauge how performance measures to include additional data and to examine data analytics. The committee will look at mental health courts in other jurisdictions and evaluate how they work.
  • Review laws and rules and how they can be improved for defendants with mental illnesses.
  • Oversee the implementation of recommendations of the Fair Justice Task Force on mental health courts as approved by the Arizona Judicial Council.
  • Identify ways to educate the public on the process of mental health courts and how they help defendants with mental illnesses.

Mental health courts in Arizona play a key role in keeping people with psychological and mental issues out of jail. See our blog to find out if you may be eligible.

If you believe the criminal justice system is failing to help your loved one’s specific needs please call our Arizona criminal defense lawyers at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Mental Health, Mental Health Defenses | Tagged |

Violent Crime Rises in Arizona as Overall Crime Falls


Crime has been falling in Arizona for at least six years, but violent crime in the state spiked last year, according to a new federal report.

Figures from the FBI’s annual Uniform Crime Report for 2017, which was released in September, revealed an overall drop of 1.4 percent in the state but a 7.9 percent rise in the violent crime rate.

Under the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting program, violent crime is made up of four offenses: murder and non-negligent manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. Violent crimes are defined as offenses that involve force or threat of force.

Concern as violent crime rises in Arizona

Violent crime rises in Arizona

According to the FBI report, the violent crime rate across the U.S. fell slightly by 0.9 percent in 2017. The decease followed a rise in previous years. The property crime rate in the United States fell by 3.6 percent.

Violent crimes rose by 9.5 percent last year in Arizona. The city of Phoenix accounted for much of the increase. In Phoenix, police recorded 1,800 more violent crimes in 2017 than in the previous year.

Phoenix police noted part of the rise in violent crime was linked to a change in the way figures are recorded. From 2014, definition changes have been made to aggravated assaults and rapes.

The uptick in violent crime in cities like Phoenix was expected by some academics. Michael S. Scott, a clinical professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Arizona State University, told AZCentral the types of offenses recorded in the annual report can vary greatly among towns and cities. Reporting practices within individual agencies that share information with the FBI also vary. He said:

“We’ve seen years in which murder was down significantly in some major cities and up in others. Local conditions (social, environmental, economic) largely dictate crime levels rather than national factors.”

Experts warn against comparing different cities where there may be variations in how crimes are compiled. Scott told AZCentral, the data should not be used to compare cities because there are many other factors that lead to variations from place to place. While the public is concerned about violent offenses, the report leaves out crimes like drug offenses.

Violent crimes such as homicides are among the most serious offenses you can be charged with. Homicides such as first-degree murder carry a life sentence in prison and prosecutors may seek the death penalty. Other homicides such as manslaughter, second-degree murder, and negligent homicide carry significant prison sentences. You should seek the help of an experienced Arizona homicide defense lawyer as soon as possible. Call the Garcia Law Firm at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Violent Crime | Tagged |

How Effective are Prison Diversion Programs for Mentally Ill Defendants in Arizona?


Many U.S. states have programs to divert people with mental illnesses away from the criminal justice system. However, a large number of states are failing to provide prison diversion programs and other initiatives.

According to a report by the Treatment Advocacy Center, access to alternatives to incarceration are limited for mentally ill defendants in Arizona. Just 21 percent of the population was found to be served by a mental health court.

Arizona fared better for crisis intervention teams. The study found 84 percent of the population had access to a CIT.

Prison diversion programs for mentally ill people

Prison diversion programs for mentally ill people are patchy

Police in the City of Memphis in Tennessee pioneered the crisis intervention team model in 1988. It involves a police department intensively training groups of officers on the nature of various forms of mental illness.

The Treatment Advocacy Center report stated:

“Having officers with knowledge of mental illness respond to sensitive incidents sharply reduces the risks of injury and death,”

The report’s authors awarded Arizona a B- rating. It was the 16th best state in the country for participation in jail diversion programs for mentally ill people.

Since the report was published, more mental health courts have been set up in Arizona.

A specialized court was set up in Pinal County in 2017 to give defendants with mental problems an alternative path to prison and keep them out of the criminal justice system. The court is a therapeutic, post-sentence facility for defendants placed on supervised probation.

The alternative paths for mentally ill defendants in Arizona can be beneficial. Few environments are worse for people with mental disorders than prisons. Although the programs can be demanding, they often have a more positive impact on defendants than incarceration.

In 2018, the Treatment Advocacy Center published An Analysis of U.S. Psychiatric Treatment Laws. It looked at legislation for involuntary treatment for psychiatric illness in each state. Arizona scored a B in the survey.

The study found seven states – Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee – still use an outdated standard requiring that harm to self or others needs to be imminent for a person to qualify for inpatient commitment.

If a mentally ill family member has been charged with a crime, you may be facing a traumatic ordeal. Our Phoenix criminal defense attorney specializes in representing people with mental illnesses. Please call us today at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Mental Health | Tagged |

When Can You be Imprisoned for Theft in Arizona?


Theft offenses are classified as property crimes. Although property crimes cause less alarm in communities than crimes of violence, a theft offense may be charged as a felony in Arizona. You can be imprisoned for a theft offense.

The basic definition of a theft crime the intentional taking of personal property belonging to another party without consent or a legal right to do so.

If you pick up another person’s briefcase believing it’s yours, you have not committed an offense because you lacked intent.

Jailed for theft in Arizona

When you can be imprisoned for theft in Arizona

Arizona has crimes of misdemeanor theft and felony theft on its statute books. The seriousness of the offense is linked to the value of the property stolen.

Under Arizona’s statutes, theft charges are brought as misdemeanors unless the value of the property stolen exceeds $1,000.

There are some exceptions to the rule, namely the theft of a firearm and an animal. Theft of a means of transportation is charged as a Class 3 felony.

Charges for the theft of an animal or gun are brought as a felony, even if the dollar value is less than $1,000.

If you have been charged with felony theft, there are six different categories. They are:

Class 6 Felony Thefts

If the value of the stolen  property or services was at least $1,000, but under $2,000, the offense will be charged as a class 6 felony carrying a potential prison sentence of 4 months to two years and a fine up to $150,000.

Class 5 Felony Thefts

Class 5 felony theft entail the larceny of goods or services valued from $2,000 to $3,000. This level of felony theft is punishable by a prison term of at least 6 months up to a maximum of 2.5 years, and a potential fine of up to $150,000.

Class 4 Felony Thefts

Stealing property or services valued from $3,000 to $4,000 in Arizona is classified as a Class 4 felony theft. This also applies to the larceny of a vehicle engine or a transmission.

Shoplifting may be a Class 4 felony under Arizona law when the defendant has two or more previous convictions that involved shoplifting, burglary, robbery, or theft within the previous five years. A class 4 felony theft carries a prison sentence ranging from one year to 3.75 years, and a fine of up to $150,000.

Class 3 Felony Thefts

Theft may be charged as a Class 3 felony when the value of the goods or services stolen is at least $4,000 but no greater than $25,000. The potential prison sentence rises markedly if a theft is a Class 3 felony. A conviction can lead to a prison term of two to 8.75 years and a fine of no greater than $150,000.

Class 2 Felony Thefts

When goods or services with a value over $25,000 are taken, the crime is charged as a Class 2 felony. Under Arizona law, this carries a potential prison sentence ranging from a minimum of three years to a maximum of 12.5 years, as well as a fine of up to $150,000.

A theft offense can be a serious matter in Arizona when it’s charged as a felony. The state also has civil penalties for theft which involve compensation being paid to victims.

If you or a family member has been accused of a theft crime, you should call an experienced Arizona theft defense attorney as soon as possible. Often people with a history of mental illness are wrongly accused of theft. Contact us at (602) 340-1999.


Posted in Theft | Tagged |

Arizona is Accused of Dragging its Heels in Improving Mental Health Care for Inmates


The standard of mental health care for inmates in Arizona remains a matter of serious concern and an argument for alternatives. Recently, a judge accused the state over the standard of its mental health care for inmates.

In November, a judge examining a legal settlement related to the standard of health care in Arizona prisons warned an agreement the state reached four years ago faces being thrown out.

An Associated Press report noted U.S. District Judge Roslyn Silver issued an order that the state was ill-advised in defending its noncompliance with mental healthcare standards for inmates.

mental health care for inmates in Arizona is under fire

Judge questions mental health care for inmates in Arizona

The judge raised the prospect of throwing out a four-year agreement and resuming litigation over the standard of inmate care in Arizona.

The judge made her comments following evidence the state has failed to make a range of improvements it was meant to implement after a 2014 lawsuit brought by prisoners.

Under the terms of the agreement, Arizona was supposed to ensure newly prescribed medications are provided to inmates within two days. Medical providers in prisons were  ordered to tell inmates about the results of diagnostic studies and pathology reports within five days of receiving the records.

The lawsuit claimed Arizona’s 10 state-run facilities failed to meet fundamental requirements for providing adequate medical and mental health care to inmates. Some prisoners complained that serious diseases like cancer went undetected. The court heard allegations some prisoners were instructed to pray to be cured.

Five months before Judge Silver’s comments, U.S. Magistrate Judge David Duncan found Arizona Corrections Director Charles Ryan in contempt of civil court. He fined Arizona $1.4 million for failing to make the bulk of the improvements to prisoner care promised when the class-action lawsuit was settled in 2014, reported AP. According to reports. Arizona paid the fine and was reimbursed by a private company that provides health care in state prisons.

Judge Silver said the court was not inclined to allow non-compliance with the provisions of the lawsuit.

As a criminal defense lawyer who represents the mentally ill, I believe everyone deserves a fair trial in the Arizona court system. In Arizona, both the criminal justice and the prison systems often fail those with mental illnesses.

The rights of all people who come before the criminal justice system must be protected. Our law firm considers the alternatives to incarceration for people who are at a disadvantage compared to others. Please contact us today for a free consultation if you or a family member has been charged with a crime.

Posted in Mental Health | Tagged |