What Are Arizona’s Failure to Stop Laws?

6September
2019

Fleeing the scene of a traffic accident or not stopping for a police officer is a serious offense in Arizona as in other states. Falling foul of Arizona’s failure to stop laws can land you in prison.

Failure to stop is an offense under A.R.S. 28-1595. A driver may be charged with the offense if he or she does not stop after receiving a “visual or audible signal or instruction” from a police officer.

Outlining Arizona's failure to stop laws
Failure to stop in Arizona can land you in jail

When a driver fails to stop, the motorist often ends up involved in a police chase and further charges may follow such as reckless driving.

The law states a driver who refuses to show his or her license to a police officer or an unlicensed driver faces a class 2 misdemeanor.

The evidence is required identity should include the following information:

1 The full name of the driver

2. The driver’s date of birth.

3. The driver’s home address.

4. A brief physical description of the driver, including the driver’s sex, weight, height and eye, and hair color.

5. The driver’s signature.

Drivers who flee a police officer or a highway patrol officer face further problems. This offense is a class 5 felony. The statute is called the “felony flight” law. A motorist who tries to outrun or outmaneuver an officer in an officially marked law enforcement vehicle faces a felony charge.

Some people fail to grasp the consequences of these offenses. You can end up behind bars under Arizona’s failure to stop laws. Under the Arizona criminal sentencing guidelines, a class 2 misdemeanor carries up to of 4 months in jail. A driver who does not stop may also pay up to $750.00 in fines, as well as possible other sanctions.

If you are convicted of a class 5 felony for evading police you will face six months to 2 years in prison terms, fines and court fees. You will also end up with a felony on your record.

There are defenses to this crime. One of the most important ones is where a driver failed to realize he or she was being signaled to stop by a police officer. Of course, if the driver was involved in an accident with injuries or significant property damage, he or she has an obligation to stop and wait for the police.

However, drivers sometimes fail to realize they are being asked to stop by an officer. It may be late at night or they may believe the officer was trying to stop another motorist.

A driver who is accused of felony flight may be unaware he was being pursued. Or the pursuit vehicle might have been unmarked. These are legitimate defenses.

If you have fallen foul of Arizona’s failure to stop laws or been accused of felony flight, please contact our Phoenix criminal defense attorney today.

Posted in Arizona Laws | Tagged |

Serious Crimes Against Children in Arizona

2September
2019

Serious crimes against children carry heavy sentences in Arizona and elsewhere. Not only do prosecutors crack down hard on crimes against young people but juries are unlikely to show much sympathy toward defendants.

People who commit crimes against children often spend long terms in prison. Even when they are released, their reputation is tarnished. They may end up on the sex offender’s register, their family life is often ruined and it can be impossible to land a job.

Serious crimes against children in Arizona
The penalties for serious crimes against children in Arizona

At the Garcia Law Firm, we can represent you if you have been charged with serious crimes against children. Offenses include the following:

1 Child Abuse

A defendant can be charged with child abuse for a wide range of acts under Arizona law. These include:

Physical abuse such as breaking bones, bruises, cuts, and other injuries;

Sexual abuse which includes child pornography, sexual assault, and prostitution;

Abandonment – the failure of a parent to provide adequate support;

Emotional abuse of a child by a caretaker;

Neglect such as locking a child up and failing to provide adequate food and water.

People in a position of responsibility who fail to report child abuse face a class 1 misdemeanor.

According to the Arizona statute ARS § 13.3623, a defendant can be charged with a class 6, 5, 4, 3, or 2 felony conviction, depending on the circumstances related to the alleged child abuse offense.  Class 2 felonies carry up to 12.5 years in prison for a first offense and a fine of up to $150,000.

What is Sexual Exploitation of a Minor?

Sexual exploitation of a minor is a very serious crime in Arizona.

Sexual exploitation of a minor includes filming, recording, duplicating, selling, buying “sexting” or electronically transmitting any visual depiction of a sexual act with a minor. This is a wide offense and people can fall foul of this law without knowing it. In some cases, parents who have taken innocent pictures of their children have been wrongly accused of sexual exploitation. In other cases, people have sent or forwarded images without realizing the material they contained.

If the images feature children under the age of 14, the offense is classified as a dangerous crime against children. Each offense that is classified as a dangerous crime against children carries a minimum of 10 years in prison, a presumptive sentence of 17 years and a maximum sentence of 24 years in prison. People convicted of sexual exploitation of a minor in Arizona may spend more time behind bars than people convicted of murder.

Sex Trafficking Against Children in Arizona

Sex trafficking against children in Arizona is treated very seriously. According to the Office of the Attorney General, a first conviction for sex trafficking against children carries a sentence of 10.5 to 13.5 years. The average age for entry into the sex trafficking trade in the state is 14. Sex trafficking often crosses state and international borders and can be dealt with by the federal courts, carrying an even higher sentence.

Crimes against children are grave matters. When people with mental illnesses are charged with this crime, they often struggle to defend themselves. An experienced AZ criminal defense lawyer can help. Please call the Garcia Law Firm at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Arizona Laws, Sex Crimes | Tagged |

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

29August
2019

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 |

Arizona Governor Vetoes Prison Reform Bill for First Time Offenders

16August
2019

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 |

Factors that Influence Drug Offense Sentencing in Arizona

2August
2019

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 |

Decriminalization of Mental Health Bears Results in One Arizona City

25July
2019

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

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

Decriminalization of mental health offenses proves positive in Yavapai County

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Arizona Laws, Mental Health | Tagged |

Celebrating Our Client’s Success

21May
2019

One of the most satisfying experiences a defense attorney can have is seeing a client receive the care he needs and put his case behind him without spending time in prison. Today I celebrate the success of D.B., a client of mine who has recently successfully completed probation.

D.B. came to me with several charges including one class 3 felony. He had 3 prior felony convictions and an untreated, severe mental illness. He had been suffering a mental health crisis at the time, which caused him to commit the offense for which he was charged. D.B. was clearly in need of care, but his criminal history was working against him.

A person convicted of a felony who has two or more prior felony convictions will be sentenced under category three of A.R.S. § 13-703(J)—Arizona’s sentencing scheme for repeat offenders. A class 3 felony under category 3 carries a range of 7.5 to 25 years in prison, with a presumptive term of 11.25 years. It looked like J.B. was going to prison for a long time for things that happened while he was suffering a psychotic episode brought on by his untreated mental illness.

I have seen many cases like D.B.’s, and it is always a challenge to make the prosecution understand the difficulties that are unique to defendants with mental illness. I am glad to report that after some hard work, D.B. was extended a plea that allowed him to serve 3 years on probation rather than going to prison. As a term of his probation, D.B. was required to submit mental health evaluations and treatment. If he had gone to prison, his mental health would likely have worsened, and he would not be the contributing member of society he is today.

I am proud to stand with D.B. today as he completes his probation. Probation with mental health terms has not only kept D.B. out of prison, it has changed his life for the better. His mental health has improved by leaps and bounds and he never set foot in prison for this case. Although it takes a lawyer who is familiar with mental health cases to create such opportunities for people like D.B., it takes incredible effort from the defendant to turn things around and succeed like he did.

It has been my pleasure to help many others like D.B. obtain fair and positive legal results helping prosecutors and judges understand the unique challenges they face. If you or someone you know is facing criminal charges related to mental illness, please contact me today.

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

Guilty Except Insane Plea

3May
2019

On January 29, 2017, an ambulance containing four people was pulling in to the Phoenix Baptist Hospital in Phoenix when L.S. pulled up alongside the ambulance and fired a handgun into the patient compartment and drove away. Luckily, no one was injured.

About 2 hours later police were called to a Circle K in Phoenix where L.S. had fired a gun in to the air while others in the vicinity looked on. Although L.S. resisted and fought police, they were able to disarm and detain L.S. without and serious injury to L.S., police, or others.

L.S.’s actions were the product of a prolonged psychotic episode caused by a serious undiagnosed and untreated mental illness. He was experiencing hallucinations and did not understand the dangerousness of his actions. L.S. was charged with a total of 14 felonies and could have spent as much as 70 years or more in prison.

Today, with the help of Bernardo Garcia, L.S. entered a plea of Guilty Except Insane in the Maricopa County Superior court. Guilty Except Insane pleas are notoriously difficult to litigate in Arizona and only rarely see completion. Today, rather than 70 years or more in the Arizona Department of Corrections, L.S. will spend no time in prison and instead spend some time at the Arizona State Hospital. There he will receive the highest quality and most comprehensive care, eventually culminating in his full reintegration to society.

Today’s victory is the result of countless hours of hard work and Mr. Garcia’s unique expertise in the area of criminal defense for those with mental illness. Mr. Garcia has unparalleled experience with Guilty Except Insane pleas in the State of Arizona, with successful cases in four Arizona counties (Maricopa, Pinal, Yavapai and Yuma).

Mental illness is often misunderstood in the criminal justice system, and it takes a unique set of skills to provide the best representation for our society’s most vulnerable people. Bernardo Garcia has over 25 years of experience as an attorney and unmatched skill as counsel for defendants who suffer from mental illnesses.

Posted in Arizona, Arizona Laws, Mental Health |

Mental Health and Reoffending Issues Are Dealt with in Arizona County Jail Program

29April
2019

Many jails contain house numbers of inmates who suffer from mental illnesses. Jail administrators in Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office were surprised to learn more than half of inmates in detention had been diagnosed with mental health problems.

The revelation in 2015 sparked action by the sheriff’s office.

The Verde Valley’s JournalAZ.com reported on how jail authorities set up a program to tackle reoffending and issues such as mental health problems and substance abuse.

Four years ago, the authorities found of 492 inmates in county detention that year, 52 percent were diagnosed with a psychosis. They were receiving prescribed medication for their conditions.  A massive 70 percent struggled with substance abuse. Many inmates were jailed for minor crimes, often not involving violence.

Reoffending tackled in new jail program

Arizona jail program tackles reoffending

YCSO Chief Deputy David Rhodes, who oversees jail operations, was blunt in his assessment. He told JournalAZ.com.

“It was a systemic failure and it still is. All over the state and all over the nation, mentally ill people spend longer times in jail than people without mental illness.”

They also find it more difficult to get out of jail.

He felt the jail was failing inmates and the community. Many of the defendants who entered the jail re-offended soon after they were released, returning to the county jail. Some even stepped up their offending.

A subtle change began that year. The county jail began screening people for potential mental health issues as soon as they entered the jail. They began a program to help inmates avoid re-offending after they leave. All too often people who are incarcerated are stranded with little support in the community. They end up homeless and habitually re-offend.

The anti-recidivism program was dubbed the Reach Out program. It has grown as it received grants from many sources, including the Northern Arizona Regional Behavioral Health Authority Institute, the Federal Bureau of Justice Administration, and the state of Arizona. In March 2018, the jail started recording more accurate statistics on inmates to evaluate the effectiveness of the program. Last July, it hired a social worker who was previously the Justice Liaison at Health Choice Integrated Care.

The program aims to support former inmates with mental illnesses when they return to the community.  The jail checks up on them with the service providers they partnered with after 30 days and then again after 90 days to see if they made progress. Other agencies get involved in the partnership.

Although the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office program is in its infancy, its supporters are optimistic. They believe it’s the first of its kind in the country.

It’s not unusual for jails and prisons in Arizona to contain a large number of people who suffer from mental illnesses. Facilities often fail to provide adequate help.

In places like Maricopa County, mentally ill inmates are often held in solitary confinement.

Attorney Bernardo Garcia focuses his practice on people with mental illnesses who are charged with crimes. Call him today at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Arizona Laws, Mental Health | Tagged |

Can a Mentally Ill Person be Charged with the Death Penalty?

13March
2019

The question of whether a mentally ill person can be charged with the death penalty has been debated at length by the U.S. Supreme Court.

It’s a difficult question because there is a lack of consensus about the definition of mental illness. The issue is also becoming moot in Arizona where a prisoner has not been executed for over four years, even though more than 100 people languish on Death Row.

The Death Penalty Information Center points out mental illness can be described in a variety of ways. The website notes the definition in the American Heritage Dictionary of mental illness as a range of conditions “characterized by impairment of an individual’s normal cognitive, emotional, or behavioral functioning, and caused by social, psychological, biochemical, genetic, or other factors, such as infection or head trauma.”

Can mentally ill people receive the death penalty

The death penalty and mental illness

The U.S. Supreme Court has considered the case of mentally ill defendants using the narrower definition of “intellectual disability” which impacts intellectual functioning such as problem-solving, learning, and judgment as well as adaptive functioning impacting independent living, and norms like communication. The condition was previously referred to as “mental retardation.”

In the 2002 case of Atkins v. Virginia, the U.S. Supreme Court concluded the execution of people with mental retardation is “cruel and unusual punishments” in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

The case established protection for people with intellectual disabilities. The justices cited disabilities in areas of reasoning, judgment, and impulse control.

The court said people with intellectual disabilities “do not act with the level of moral culpability that characterizes the most serious adult criminal conduct.” The justices said people with an intellectual disability were not able to comprehend the death penalty.

The Atkins decision offered less protection than mental health advocates hoped. Prosecutors argued defendants were not intellectually disabled and their real issue was mental illness manifesting as a personality disorder.

States continued to execute people with mental illnesses. The Death Penalty Information Center noted Arizona executed Robert Moorman in 2012. His attorneys argued he was mentally disabled and was sexually abused into his adulthood. Prosecutors argued Moorman’s mental capacity when he committed murder was slightly above the legal threshold for mental impairment. Moorman killed and dismembered his adoptive mother.

Notwithstanding the rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court, mentally ill people are sentenced to death across the United States.

However, the use of the death penalty has stalled in Arizona, raising questions whether it will be used again.

According to a recent report on ABC15, the cost of executions and a shortage of drugs means it’s questionable whether the death penalty will be resumed in the state.

The news report noted a discussion on the death penalty last year. Assistant Federal Public Defender Dale Baich said the state of the death penalty in Arizona is “broken.”

The discussion was raised in an Arizona courtroom during the trial of a defendant accused of the sexual assault and killing of 8-year-old Isabella Grogan-Canella.

Although prosecutors initially wanted the death penalty during the trial of Justin James Rector, the request was withdrawn. They concluded there was no reasonable likelihood of Rector being executed give the “current state of affairs surrounding persons sentenced to death.” Rector received two mental health evaluations.

Like many other states, Arizona has lacked the drugs to perform execution by lethal injection.

The last time a death row prisoner was executed was in 2014 when Joseph Wood was put to death at the Florence State Prison.

Wood was injected with lethal injection drugs but took almost two hours to die. The execution shocked the nation.

By the time Wood finally succumbed after nearly two hours, he had been injected with 750mg each of hydromorphone and midazolam –15 times the amounts stipulated in Arizona’s execution protocol.

Baich said the lack of drugs was one reason why no executions have been carried out for four years. Another is the soaring cost of the death penalty.

In Arizona, county prosecutors hold the power over whether to seek the death penalty. Many are no longer using it.

Maricopa County Prosecutor Bill Montgomery said in 2018 the county had its lowest level of pending capital cases in two decades. Death penalty cases are down in also down in Pima County.

The ABC research found prosecutors are withdrawing notices to seek capital punishment because of the problems in the system as in the Rector case.

The pattern in Arizona reflects the rest of the nation. Death sentences peaked in the 1990s and have fallen steadily ever since. Some states like Maryland abolished capital punishment entirely. Other use it less frequently.  The Death Penalty Information Center noted historic lows in the use of the death penalty in many states in 2018.

At the Garcia Law Firm, we represent mentally ill defendants who have been charged with serious crimes like murders as well as lesser offenses. Please call us today if you or a family member has been charged with a crime at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Arizona Laws, Mental Health Defenses | Tagged |