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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Law Enforcement | Tagged |

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 |

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


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 , |

Tent City to Become Rehab Center


Since the infamous Tent City was recently shut down, Sheriff Paul Penzone announced that an air-conditioned space previously apart of the jail will be turned into a facility to help treat those suffering from substance abuse and addiction. Transforming Tent City into a rehabilitation center is apart of an ongoing effort to help keep repeat offenders out of the prison system and will help them live normal, productive lives.

The rehabilitation center will have space for classrooms and places to sleep. Sheriff Paul Penzone recently spoke about the new facility and said, “we want to ensure that [chronic offenders] have an opportunity to be productive, to not return here to this jail. I hope that all those in our community recognize the investment that we are making to become a more holistic Sheriff’s Office.” Penzone hopes to reduce the rate of recidivism and come up with solutions that will get to the root of the problems many repeat offenders face such as drug addiction and mental illness.

There are also plans for a proposal that would include an employment center for inmates, as well as a community corrections center. Both of these announcements quickly followed the retirement of Tent City. Not only will the changes being made help repeat offenders in the long run, it will also reduce spending by almost $5 million each year. Penzone also hopes that the investments being made will decrease crime rates in Arizona.

The rehabilitation inmate program is seven weeks long and will help inmates to identify early trauma and patterns of behavior. These services will benefit many people who most likely do not have the resources to visit specialists on their own. Once the program is over, the inmates will be given resources to help make sure they have opportunities to succeed when they are out in the real world.

Photo by Лечение Наркомании

Posted in Arizona, Drug Crimes, Law Enforcement, Mental Health, Violent Crime | Tagged , , , , |

Can Amnesia be a Legal Defense


Amnesia is the loss of memory caused by psychological and physical trauma. While in order to be responsible for a crime the person must remember committing it, not remembering the crime is rarely the same as not committing the crime. So how can amnesia be used as a legal defense?

Legal defenses under amnesia

Amnesia is not considered the same as having a mental illness while committing a crime. The defendant’s mental state is what is important when trying to use amnesia as a defense. If the defendant lost their memory after they committed the crime, it has no effect on the defendant while they were committing the crime. Amnesia is not typically a sound defense, but it may be if the amnesia made the defendant experience conditions stated in the insanity defense.

Standing trial with amnesia as a legal defense

using amnesia as legal defenseAmnesia can be a factor when courts are deciding whether the defendant is competent enough to stand trial. Courts consider the following when determining whether the defendant is competent enough to stand trial:

  • whether the defendant is able to discuss the defense of the case
  • whether the amnesia is temporary or permanent
  • whether the crime can be reconstructed without the defendant’s testimony
  • whether the government’s files can help in preparing the case
  • the strength of government’s case.

The judge or jury can take these factors into consideration when deciding the penalty of the crime, but amnesia is typically not used to determine whether the defendant is innocent or guilty.

Using amnesia to plea insanity

Defendants must tell prosecutors before the trial if they plan to use insanity as a defense. Psychiatrists will examine the defendant prior to the trail and then will testify during the trial whether they believe the defendant was “insane” while committing the crime.

Photo by Nathan Laurell

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

Police Shoot and Kill Man Throwing Rocks at Police Station


On December 28th 2015, police shot and killed Lonnie Nelson at the Phoenix Police Department. Nelson was seen throwing “bricks or rocks” at Phoenix Police Department property including a patrol car and the station itself. Nelson was shot when he threw a brick at the officer confronting him. The projectile missed hitting the officer directly, but bounced off a tree and grazed his hand. The officer shot and killed Nelson who was otherwise unarmed at the time of the shooting.

According to Nelson’s family members he had stolen a gun and bottle of liquor the day before the attack, but he had returned the weapon before leaving home Saturday morning, the day of the attack. He was apparently intoxicated and making suicidal statements before he left.

The incident ignited national concerns about the use of excessive force when apprehending suspects. With more and more social advocates focusing on the increasing numbers of police killings of often unarmed people, Nelson’s death promotes discussion of appropriate police conduct in tense situations.

In 2015 alone 1,125 people were killed by police in U.S. which is nearly 47 times the number of citizens killed by police in England and Wales. Additionally, it has been shown that people suffering from mental illness account for a large portion of these victims. The Washington Post found that 243 of the 965 people shot and killed by police in 2015 showed signs of mental illness.

People with mental illnesses have been shown to make up approximately 16% of prison populations.

Steps are being made to remedy the growing number of police shootings. Phoenix Police Commander, Michael Kurtem has announced the formation of a seven person “crisis intervention squad” at diverting pick-ups of mentally ill people away from first responders in the department. Instead the team with deal with mental health situations with a palliative approach, prioritizing treatment over incarceration.

The Phoenix Police department is also taking steps to train its patrol officers in crisis intervention.

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

Breaking Down Your Arizona Probation Terms


If you have been sentenced to probation in Arizona, you may be confused by the fact your judge gave you a timeline of something between 18-24 months of probation. Probation terms in Arizona dictate that a judge can sentence an offender to time frame of probation instead of a specific number of months.

Review of Arizona Probation Law

Probation is the the release of an offender from detention, subject to a period of good behavior under supervision. It can also be served in lieu of prison time for minor or first-time offenses. When a judge sentences an offender to 18-24 months this means they are willing to review the terms of probation after 18 months. If the judge feels that an offender has been successfully rehabilitated they will grant a release from probation before the full 24 months is completed.

Can I File for Early Termination?

juvenile charges resulting in probationAn offender can file for early termination at any time after your probation requirements, besides amount of time, have been completed. Probation requirements can range from completing community service to attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. That being said, the motion will most likely be opposed by your probation officer and the prosecuting attorney for your case. Your request will be taken into consideration whether or not you violated any terms of your probation.

Most plea deals and probation terms will indicate when you can file for early termination. Consult with your criminal defense attorney who can be an asset in having your probation terminated early. A defense attorney can help get your PO on the ground and meet with the prosecutor in your case.

You are currently on probation and hope to file for early termination give us a call today and our team of experienced criminal defense attorneys will provide guidance in these matters. We have assisted many clients in having in post probation matters.

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

Police Union Lobby’s for New Legislation Around Rule 11


When a defendant is on trial and claims mentally incompetent, they undergo a trial under what’s known as Rule 11. Rule 11 is a two-part test that sees if the defendant is mentally competent to go through trial proceedings, understand them, and assist in their own defense. This is different than a defense claiming insanity.

If the Rule 11 deems the defendant incompetent, they are then sent to a mental facility. Oftentimes, that facility releases them shortly after for various reasons.

The facility they are sent to and how long they remain there are determined by 4 criteria: if they are a danger to themselves, a danger to others, persistently and/or acutely disabled, or if they are severely disabled.

man being arrestedPolice unions are pushing to change the release process because officers are having to keep coming back to those who are deemed incompetent, sent to a facility, and released from the facility. The person then continues to break the law, requiring police attention.

The legislation being drafted proposes that the courts be involved in the releasing decisions of the facilities when it comes to those deemed incompetent under Rule 11. Currently, mental-health professionals are the only ones involved in the releasing decisions as the courts give up their authority over defendants after they are released to a mental-health facility. They are also proposing a new process the defendant would go through before they are released from the facilities.

Those drafting the legislation stress that the idea isn’t to cut out the mental-health professionals, rather just to keep the courts and law enforcement included in the loop. Oftentimes, the Rule 11 rulings create an infinite loop of arrests and facility releases.

When discussing mental health and law enforcement, there is no easy, clear-cut answers, but there is constantly room to improve upon practices. The police union are lobbying to improve on existing practices involved in Rule 11 processes.

If you or someone you love is mentally ill and involved in a case, it is vital to have someone defending who cares about their client. At Garcia Law Firm, we care about our clients and provide the best defense possible. Contact us if you would like to know more about our services.

More on this story here.

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