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

11January
2019

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

7January
2019

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 FWD.us. 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 |

Arizona is the Second Worst State for Addressing Mental Health Issues

13December
2018

Access to mental health services is patchy across the nation. This is particularly the case in Arizona. A recent survey found Arizona is the second worst state in the nation for addressing mental health issues.

The information was revealed in a study from the nonprofit Mental Health America. Mental Health America analyzed the extent of mental illness in each state and the District of Columbia utilizing statistics on adults and youth with a diagnosed condition, suicidal thoughts, and substance abuse issues.

The Phoenix New Times reported on how the group researched the ease of access to care by looking at the percentage of adults and young people with mental illness who reported not receiving treatment for their conditions, having unmet needs, and not being able to see a doctor due to the expense.

addressing mental health issues in Arizona

Arizona has a poor record for mental health services

Only Oregon ranked lower than Arizona in terms of access to mental health care. The best access was found in Minnesota, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, and South Dakota.

The New Times report noted some improvements in Arizona. Among experts in behavioral health, Arizona’s Medicaid program is seen as a model for the integration of mental health and substance abuse services. Arizona agreed to improve its services for people who don’t qualify for Medicaid and have severe mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia in 2014.

Michael Shafer, president of Mental Health America’s Arizona chapter, told the New Times Arizona’s main failing is in relation to those with less severe and more common conditions such as depression or anxiety.

He said Arizona lacks primary-care physicians who can screen for mental illness and refer patients to specialists before the disease has progressed much too far.

The neglect of people with low-level mental illnesses means they are not getting help. The conditions are becoming more serious before intervention and they may end up in the criminal justice system.

Writing in the Arizona Capitol Times, Scott Cummings, state president of Care1st Health Plan Arizona, warned the suicide rate in Arizona is 60 percent higher than the national average. He said there are many contributing factors like drugs, drugs or access to care.

Cummings called for the state to focus its efforts on integrating screening for mental illnesses into primary and specialty care visits to allow the early identification of those with signs and symptoms of physical and behavioral health conditions to be treated in a holistic way.

The deficiencies in Arizona’s mental health provisions mean many defendants are not getting their needs met before they reach the criminal justice system. An experienced Arizona attorney with a long track record of helping the mentally ill can assist you or a family member after your arrest. Please contact the Garcia Law Firm today for a consultation.

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

How ‘Tough-on-Crime’ Initiatives in Arizona Ignore Mental Health

23November
2018

In 2017, the American Civil Liberties Union brought a lawsuit against the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office and its former leader, Joe Arpaio, who modeled himself as “America’s toughest sheriff.”

The lawsuit claimed tough on crime initiatives followed by the likes of by Arpaio ignored the mental health issues of inmates and even exacerbated them.

The suit referred to the comments of a psychiatrist who observed “dangerously inadequate” conditions across Maricopa County jails. He described mentally ill detainees who were held in solitary confinement.

controversy over tough-on-crime

Tough-on-crime initiatives disregard mental health

People with mental illnesses are more likely to end up incarcerated than the rest of the population. The National Alliance on Mental Illness states over two million people are arrested and booked into jails each year. A survey by the Treatment Advocacy Center found that people suffering from mental illness are nine times more likely to be locked up in cells than hospitalized, and 18 times more likely to end up in the criminal justice system than in a hospital facility.

The opinion section of the Arizona Capitol Times stated tough-on-crime initiatives are doing little to tackle the issues faced by inmates with mental illnesses. It noted many of them are being held before a conviction.

Uncompromising policies like locking up people with mental illnesses alone and depriving them of access to services, only serve to increase their sense of isolation and hopelessness.

In Alabama, the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a lawsuit last year against the Alabama Department of Corrections. The brief claimed the practice of locking up mentally ill inmates in solitary confinement makes their conditions worse. The lawsuit claimed solitary confinement can create mental illness issues in previously healthy prisoners.

It noted the link between tough-on-crime policies and prison suicides.

The Arizona Capitol Times article stated mental illness and substance abuse affects about 60 percent of the jail population in Pima County. As many as 80 percent of jail detainees have not been convicted of a crime and are still awaiting trial.

However, the leadership of Pima County is looking at alternatives to tough-on-crime measures and long periods of incarceration. The county has embarked on a series of collaborations to implement local criminal justice reform, such as setting up of a Crisis Response Center and Behavioral Health Pavilion. These services are intended to provide integrated care to those who suffer behavioral health crises and to help them avoid unnecessary incarceration.

If you or a family member is suffering from a mental illness, a prison cell is one of the worst places you can be. At the Garcia Law Firm, we provide vigorous defense for the mentally ill. Please call us at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Arizona Laws, Law Enforcement, Mental Health | Tagged , |

The Importance of Rule 11 in Arizona

21November
2018

During a trial in Arizona, a defense attorney may ask for a Rule 11 evaluation of his or her client. Under Rule 11, the defendant has the right to a full mental examination and hearing when reasonable grounds exist for it.

A Rule 11 hearing may be held when a defendant is suspected of being mentally incompetent. This hearing is granted when there is substantial evidence of mental incompetence. Doctors will determine the mental competency of the defendant at the hearing.

A hearing under Rule 11 of the Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure may be held when reasonable grounds exist to suggest the defendant is not able to understand the nature of a criminal proceeding against him and to assist in his or her defense.

A Rule 11 hearing in Arizona

The process during a Rule 11 hearing

The rule is meant to establish whether the defendant has sufficient mental ability to understand what is going on. Criminal trials are adversarial by their nature. It’s a format the criminal justice system has followed for centuries. However, this format is a difficult one for people who can’t comprehend the proceedings.

What Happens in a Rule 11 Hearing?

Typically, the process involves two doctors who examine the accused to assess his or her level of comprehension. Typical questions may be:

  1. What is your level of understanding of the proceedings?
  2. What is the role of a jury in a criminal case?
  3. Are you aware of the nature of a plea bargain?
  4. Are you fully aware of the charges against you?

The definition of incompetency under Arizona law is identical with that adopted by the U.S. Supreme Court for the federal courts.

A defendant cannot be tried by a court, convicted of a crime, sentenced or punished for a public offense as a result of a mental defect, illness, or disability, when the defendant is unable to understand the proceedings against him or her or to provide assistance in his or her own defense. A mental illness, defect or disability is defined as a neurological or psychiatric disorder demonstrated by evidence of behavior or emotions caused by an injury or disease and developmental disabilities as set out in A.R.S. § 36-551.

The presence of a mental defect, illness, or disability alone is insufficient grounds for finding a defendant incompetent to stand trial. The deliberations hinge on the narrow question of whether the defendant is aware of the proceedings and is able to advise his attorney.

If both doctors agree a defendant is competent, he or she typically will return to the court and have to face the charges. If the doctors are split, the defendant will usually have to see a third doctor.

When two doctors believe the defendant is not competent to stand trial under Rule 11, the state must determine whether or not it wants to dismiss the charges. A defendant may be sent to a mental health hospital and detained if he is deemed a threat to himself or the community. A defendant not deemed to be a threat may be released.

In some cases, the doctors may decide the defendant is not competent at the time of the trial but could become competent at a later date through treatment or medication.

Under the restoration process, the doctors typically follow a six-month plan. At the end of that time, if they have determined that you are restored, you will go back to the court to answer the charges.

Bernardo Garcia is a veteran Arizona criminal law attorney who offers free consultations in Maricopa County.  If you or a loved one has been arrested for a crime, contact us today for a free consultation.

Posted in Arizona Laws, Rule 11 | Tagged , |

I Have Been Charged with a Felony, Can a Mental Illness Attorney Help?

19November
2018

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Whether you have been charged with a felony or a misdemeanor, the attorneys at Garcia Law will defend the mentally ill no matter the circumstances. Our staff has experience with all types of cases for the mentally ill such as DUIs, drug offenses, homicides, robberies and more. So, what can you do if you are mentally ill and have been charged with a felony?

The first step after being charged with a felony is to meet with a trusted and skilled attorney. A felony is a serious crime, whether it’s violent or non-violent. If you have been charged with a felony, you could face one to 25 years in prison. In fact, you most likely will serve at least one year of imprisonment. It depends on the crime, severity of the conviction and previous offenses. For example, a class 1 felony conviction can result in a 25 year sentence.

However, if you have a mental illness and are charged with a felony, don’t let that stop you from a fair court process. Legally accused of a serious crime can come with serious consequences. If you have a mental illness, you could bring your case to the mental health courts. Keep in mind that some mental health courts are restricted to misdemeanors. This is why legal representation from Garcia Law is beneficial. We will pay close attention to your case, finding ways to receive treatment instead of punishment, or a combination of both.

Why Garcia Law?

The attorneys at Garcia Law understand the legal system and the mentally ill. Your rights must be protected in the court system, especially if you have a mental illness.  Garcia Law has experience with those suffering from mental disorders such as bi-polar, schizophrenia, mood disorders, psychotic disorders and personality disorders. We understand that you are not in full control of your mental health and will seek justice no matter what.

 

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

Am I Eligible for Mental Health Court?

26September
2018

If you have a mental illness and are facing charges, dealing with the legal system can be an overwhelming experience. Fortunately, there are certain circumstances where a person with a mental illness can qualify for mental health court, making the process much easier.

What are mental health courts?

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Mental health courts are specialty courts that combine judicial supervision along with community treatment and support for those with a mental illness. The purpose of these courts is to help reduce criminal activity and improve the quality of life of the participants. Mental health courts have seen success by reducing incarceration, preventing more crimes from being committed, and offering help and support.

Who qualifies for mental health courts?

Defendants can only be referred to mental health courts by defense attorneys, judges, service providers, jail staff, or family members. To be considered to participate in mental health court, a defendant must agree to plead guilty. Each program varies by state, but most mental health courts will accept defendants that suffer from a severe mental illness such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Offenses accepted in the courts can range from misdemeanors to felony charges. However, DUIs, sexual offenses, and violent crimes resulting in injury are usually excluded automatically.

Mental health court approval

All defendants are screened early on, either at the jail or by a court staff. Each mental health court is a little different when it comes to what offenses are accepted, all depending on their jurisdiction. All mental illnesses must be diagnosed by a doctor after a comprehensive assessment following the screening process. The defendant must fully agree to comply with all of the mental health courts terms and conditions.

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

New Regulations Added for Sober Living Homes in Phoenix

18July
2018

The valley of the sun has seen a recent spike in sober living homes. However, the increased number of homes are causing some issues with surprised neighbors, forcing them to take action.

Currently, there is no way to tell or know for sure if a sober living or recovery home is in your neighborhood or plans to come to your area. This is because there is no database that keeps track of these homes. Furthermore, this means that there is also no one regulating these home.

Photo by Sarah Jane on Pexels

Why a spike in sober living and recovery homes? It is reported that heroin and other drugs are becoming easier to find and are now cheaper. Many people need treatment after they become addicted and these homes are a source for it,  but since some group homes are not regulated, the sober living residents get taken advantage of. Often times, these homes will take the money of the residents, but not make them adhere to any rules. So in the end, they are actually not getting the help they need to get on the road to recovery.

Since no one is really in charge of overseeing or managing these homes, neighbors in these areas have been looking for ways to change that. A group of residents came together and was able to get the Phoenix City Council to pass new regulations on sober living and recovery homes. These regulations include a $1,500 licensing fee for homes and spacing rules, meaning that these homes cannot be too close to each other, occupying the same area. There is no official list of homes, so enforcing these new regulations could be a challenge. However, the Arizona Recovery Housing Association has stepped up and is trying to regulate a handful of sober living and recovery homes.

 

Source: ABC 15

Posted in Arizona, Arizona Laws, Probation | Tagged , , |

Is Working Affecting Your Mental Health for a Compensation Claim?

18June
2018

We all know jobs can be stressful. The daily pressures can lead to physical issues and even psychological issues. Especially when an employer happens to conduct atrocious behavior. You may even be able to have a workman’s compensation claim for the mental illness caused by your employer and workplace.

Who is eligible?

Photo by Tim Gouw from Pexels

All employees have the right to file a legal claim or workman’s compensation claim if they think they received an injury while at work. Most employers usually have workman’s compensation coverage or some type of state funded coverage. If you have any serious injuries from an incident at work, you should file a workman’s compensation claim immediately. If you have been showing signs or symptoms of depression, anxiety or any other mental illness, you still may be able to file a workman’s compensation claim as well. Sometimes the signs are subtle, but it still leaves a big impact on the mental and physical health of the employee.

Providing evidence

When filing a claim, you must be able to provide sufficient evidence including documentation from a licensed psychologist. All of your evidence must be clear and convincing. It can be difficult to prove that your mental illness was a direct result caused by your employer or workplace. It still can be done though. Document any events to help prove your case and always keep track of dates, times, any witnesses and other important details.

You might have a case if…

If you feel you have been impacted so much by the behavior of your employer or the environment of your workplace that it has caused a mental illness, you might have a case. You should speak with an employment or mental health attorney to know your rights. Common causes could include belittling, intimidation, yelling during work or aggravating conditions in the workplace that could include timers, monitoring and excessive control.

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

Benefits of Using a Criminal Defense Lawyer Specializing in Mental Health

18March
2018

If you are involved in a legal case which includes issues surrounding mental health, it is important to use a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer who specializes in the area to represent you. Not only will these attorneys be more compassionate and understanding of your situation, they are also specialists in the field and have more detailed knowledge about mental illness than the typical criminal defense attorney. Keep reading to learn more. 

photo by Kat Smith

A More Compassionate Understanding 

Legal battles centered around victims of mental illness can cause a wide range of emotions for those involved, and this may include close friends and family members. Having an educated lawyer who is experienced in the field will help ensure clients that their attorney has experience helping other people who have found themselves in similar situations. A lawyer who is actively compassionate towards your case, and mental illness in general, will most likely be better equipped to handle and sympathize with your individual situation.

Experts in the Field

When isn’t it a good idea to hire an expert in the field? You wouldn’t hire a foot surgeon to perform open-heart surgery, so why would you hire a random attorney to represent your mental health case? Hiring an attorney who specializes in mental health will help you in your case because they will be the most informed about the issues and will have access to up-to-date information.

When mental health issues are involved, there may be more complicated paperwork to fill out and give to the courtroom. If an attorney is not aware of specific laws surrounding mental health in the state, they may be missing out on giving their clients a better final verdict. Attorneys who are already familiar with all of these laws may be able to save time while giving you more informed information regarding your legal rights in the case.

Photo by Kat Smith

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