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

18July
2019

Family caregivers play an important role if your loved one is in trouble with the law in Arizona and elsewhere.

How family caregivers can help after he arrest of a loved one in Arizona
Family caregivers can help a loved one after arrest

No matter who you are or what your mental state, an arrest is a traumatic experience. It’s considerably worse for people with mental health issues. An arrest can trigger a mental health crisis. The defendant might not have medication and no idea how to react to an arrest.

How Family Caregivers Can Help After an Arrest in Arizona

Family caregivers can be invaluable if a loved one is in trouble with the law. The National Alliance on Mental Illness points out family members should act fast after the arrest of a relative with a mental illness.

Police will not always tell you where a family member is being held. You can use an online jail locator to track down a loved one.

If you know which jail your loved one is being held in, you should make sure he or she has their proper medication. Sudden withdrawal from medication can exacerbate mental health problems and trigger a crisis.

If your family member has not informed the jail staff about his or her condition, the caregiver should contact his doctor or psychiatrist as soon as possible.

You may have to contact a doctor in writing. Some medical professionals are concerned about sharing information with jail staff. Caregivers should stress the urgency of the situation. Make the request succinct. Stress the following:

  • The diagnosis of your loved one
  • What type of medication he or she takes
  • The caregiver’s contact information
  • Information relating to your family member’s doctor.

A caregiver should aim to visit a loved one who is in trouble with the law as soon as possible. If the family member appears at a bail hearing, it’s important to attend and provide funds for the defendant to make bail if possible.

The caregiver can also arrange for the mentally ill family member to receive legal representation.

Be persistent in tracking down an attorney and look for a lawyer with a long track record in defending people with mental illnesses.

Going to court and giving as much background as possible about your loved one to an attorney can help secure his or her release. Ask the attorney about pre-trial release or jail diversion programs that could be beneficial.

It’s also important for the caregiver to make sure a family member is not being mistreated in jail. Inform the attorney of any mistreatment and consider contacting organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

Family caregivers play a vital role after a family member gets into trouble with the law in Arizona. Working with an attorney can be extremely helpful. Please contact our Phoenix-based criminal defense lawyer today.

Posted in Mental Health |

People with Developmental Delays May Lose Out in the Criminal Justice System

11July
2019

Developmental delays or developmental disabilities can be caused by a range of conditions. The courts are a blunt instrument when it comes to dealing with people with these disorders. People with developmental delays may lose out in the criminal justice system.

Developmental delays are first diagnosed in childhood. A child may struggle to speak or understand what’s going on.

According to Healthline, developmental delays can be caused by conditions including intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, Down Syndrome, autism spectrum disorders, and muscular dystrophy.

Developmental delays in the Arizona criminal justice system
Developmental delays can cause issues in the criminal justice system

Developmental delays can affect vision, language and speech, movement, social and emotional skills, and cognitive skills.

When a delay causes all of these disorders, the condition is called a global development delay.

Developmental delays can last into adulthood and mean people who suffer from them lose out in the justice system. Juries can be less sympathetic to people with developmental delays unless their conditions are properly highlighted by a criminal defense lawyer who is familiar with the challenges a defendant faces.

According to a Bureau of Justice Statistics report, 30 percent of all prisoners report having a cognitive disability. About 3 in 10 state and federal prisoners and 4 out of 10 local jail inmates report suffering from at least one disability.

The figure is considerably higher than among the general public where under 5 percent of people report a developmental difficulty.

The figure was reached by researchers asking inmates if a mental, physical, or emotional difficulty caused problems with concentration, remembering, or decision-making.

Research by the mental health non-profit The Arc found people who suffer from developmental or intellectual disabilities are more likely to be involved with the criminal justice system both as victims and perpetrators. They are 4 to 10 times more likely to become victims of crime when compared to those without disabilities.

The report noted many people who suffer from developmental delays suffered childhood trauma. Research from the mid-80s to the 1990s indicated the types of offenses committed range from property crimes like theft and shoplifting to sexual assault and homicides. Studies show people who suffer sexual abuse as children have a higher chance of becoming abusers.

The Arc suggested people with developmental difficulties are more likely to be enlisted by criminals to take part in crimes. They often do not realize the gravity of what they are doing. People with developmental delays are more likely to admit to crimes they did not commit or be manipulated by law enforcement officers.

At the Garcia Law Firm PLC, we have represented people with developmental delays and other mental health issues for decades. Please call our experienced criminal defense lawyer today at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Mental Health, Mental Health Defenses, Uncategorized | Tagged |

ACLU Warns of Lack of Medical Care and Deaths in Arizona Prisons

1July
2019

Deaths in Arizona prisons occur far too often. The large population that suffers from mental illness is most vulnerable.

In 2018, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) published an account of “horrifying” stories from Arizona prisons.

The ACLU highlighted a lack of adequate medical care and poor resources for people with mental illness. The report illustrates the importance of alternative sentences to incarceration for the mentally ill.

ACLU is concerned about the lack of medical care in Arizona prisons
ACLU warns of lack of medical care in prisons

The report detailed how a 43-year-old died from a staph infection at an Arizona facility. A 36-year-old inmate died due to delays in diagnosis and inadequate emergency care for an aortic dissection. Three men succumbed to complications from metastatic cancer. The cancers spread due to a lack of medical treatment.

The picture of poor medical care and deaths in Arizona prisons is just as depressing for people who suffer from mental health problems.

The ACLU warned the lack of help for mentally ill people in Arizona prisons is disastrous.

In the spring of 2017, prisons recorded four suicides in a three week period, an “astonishing rate of self-harm” in the state prison system.

The ACLU claimed the deaths were in breach of a legal settlement reached more than four years ago in the case of Parsons v Ryan. A settlement reached in the case was meant to provide new healthcare and mental health safety standards for inmates.

That settlement required the Arizona Department of Corrections to revise the rules for prisoners with serious mental disorders in solitary confinement. Instead of spending all but six hours a week locked in their cells, prisoners should be given a minimum of 19 hours a week outside the cell. The time must include mental health treatment and other programs. 

The ACL said the Arizona Department of Corrections failed to meet its requirements. It said inmates in prisons are suffering and dying because of the state’s inherent failures. Delayed health care and help for inmates with mental illnesses is often a death sentence.

Last June a federal court found Arizona prison officials to be in contempt of court for their continued failure to provide basic health care to inmates. The ACL noted U.S. Magistrate Judge David K. Duncan fined ADC more than $1.4 million for repeated violations of the settlement agreement. 

The lack of access to medical care and deaths in Arizona prisons is clearly a major concern. People with mental health problems are suffering and dying in Arizona prisons.

If your mentally ill family member is facing criminal proceedings in Phoenix or elsewhere in Arizona please call our attorney at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Mental Health |

Arizona Locks Up More Mentally Ill People than it Hospitalizes

20June
2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Mental Health | Tagged |

Report Considers How Arizona Heat Fuels Crimes Committed by the Mentally Ill

18June
2019

When temperatures rise in the summer months in Arizona, people who suffer from mental illnesses often experience an uptick in problems.

A recent report in AZCentral highlighted how the Arizona heat may fuel crimes committed by the mentally ill in the state.

The reporters spoke to Teresa Jimenez Dupee, a woman from Yuma who hears voices in her head when the mercury rises. She spoke of her elevated problems during the summer.

Arizona heat fuels a mental heath crisis in the state
Mental illnesses is exacerbated as summer heat takes hold

Yuma is one of the hottest places in Arizona. It is often listed as one of the hottest places in the United States.

According to Sylvia Flores who runs the Yuma office of Hope Inc. a non-profit health center that helps people with a range of mental illnesses including bipolar disorders and schizophrenia, the summer heat has a detrimental effect on center users. She said heat takes an additional toll on people who suffer from mental illness.

The summer can pose a grave danger to the mentally ill, particularly those who are homeless, and it may have an impact on crime.

Out of people who died of heat-associated causes in Maricopa County in 2016, around 15 percent suffered from mental illness, according to an analysis of autopsy reports by Arizona Republic.

The Arizona heat appears to be contributing to the deaths of mentally ill people. Just over 4 percent of people who died across the nation that year had a medical history of schizophrenia. Nationally, 1.1 percent of the U.S. adult population has schizophrenia, the National Institute of Mental Health states.

Dr. David Eisenman, a professor of medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, told AZCentral, certain medications including antipsychotics and antidepressants can block the body’s ability to regulate its own temperature. This means people with mental illnesses may face a higher danger of heatstroke and other illnesses related to rising temperatures.

Dupee who takes the antidepressant desvenlafaxine and the antipsychotic haloperidol said she has suffered heatstroke on four different occasions.

Yuma has a homeless community by the Colorado River. It’s particularly vulnerable in the summer when the heat becomes unbearable.

A report in PsychCentral pointed to a potential link between hot weather and increased violent crime.

A team of researchers suggested violent rates are consistently higher near the equator compared to other parts of the world because of hot temperatures.

PsychCentral developed a new model, called CLASH (CLimate Aggression, and Self-control in Humans).

The research went beyond the theory that heat is linked to aggressive behavior. It indicated a hot climate combined with less variation in seasonal temperatures can lead to more hopelessness and less self-control, contributing to aggression and violence.

The model was outlined in the journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences. Lead author Dr. Paul van Lange, a professor of psychology in Amsterdam said people living in hot climates have less hope for the future.

At the Garcia Law Firm, our attorney has helped mentally ill people charged with crimes for decades. We are aware of some of the factors that can contribute to mental stress such as extreme heat. Please call our attorney for a consultation at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Arizona, Mental Health | Tagged , |

Mental Health is the Focus of Anti-Gun Legislation Move in Arizona

13June
2019

Arizona has one of the worst ratios of students to school counselors in the nation. Concerns that a lack of intervention sparks potential gun violence led high school students in the state to make mental health concerns the focus of an anti-gun legislation move.

March for Our Lives Arizona, a movement led by teenagers, called for reforms earlier this year. It has over 65 clubs in schools across the state as well as seven regional groups, and members in every single congressional district.

March for our Lives Arizona supports anti-gun legislation
School shooting sparks support for anti-gun legislation

The teens brought a bill to the state capitol in February, reported The Nation. The legislation called for school districts to be required to draw up school-safety plans.

The plans would outline how each school would help students facing mental-health crises. The legislation would require schools to develop partnerships with agencies and outside community organizations. Students wanted partnerships to allow them to be referred for help when counselors cannot provide long-term care.

The legislation ended up stuck in the House Rules Committee. The students pledged to keep pressing for mental health reforms in schools.

Jordan Harb and Emma Rowland, members of March for Our Lives Arizona who wrote the article, said the students would keep pressing for change a year after 17 staff and students were killed by a gunman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. They wrote:

“The mental-health crisis cannot be solved with one bill. But it is a step in the right direction, and we will keep fighting for better support in schools, because ignoring students’ mental health is a threat to school safety. We showed that when we introduced our bill on February 6, that we have a voice.”

Shootings at Virginia Tech and Aurora in Colorado were carried out by mentally disturbed people. However, the connection between mental illness and gun violence is tenuous, according to some studies.

James Holmes, the shooter who killed 12 people at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado in 2012, reached out for psychiatric help before the shooting. Court-appointed psychiatrists said he was mentally ill. He was not successful in claiming an insanity defense in his murder trial. The psychiatrists told the court he was mentally ill but not insane.

People often wrongly assume mentally ill people are likely to be violent. If you or a mentally ill family has been arrested, please call attorney Bernardo Garcia at (602) 340-1999.

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Posted in Mental Health, Uncategorized |

Peer Support Programs Help Defendants with Mental Illness in Phoenix

27May
2019

It’s tough to be charged with a crime if you are mentally ill in Phoenix. It’s even harder if you have no family or other support networks to turn to.

However, peer support programs often play an invaluable role in helping mentally ill people who fall foul of the law.

The role of the Criminal Justice Engagement Team was highlighted by 91.5 KJZZ. The team works with people following diagnosis with a serious mental illness in Phoenix.

the importance of peer support programs in Arizona

Peer support programs help Arizona’s mentally ill

The report noted how Gary Peltier of the team met a mentally ill man called Marco when he was released from the 4th Avenue Jail in downtown Phoenix in 2016.

Marco walked out of the jail clutching a plastic bag filled with the belongings he had with during his arrest.

The report noted Peltier worked as an engagement specialist with Southwest Behavioral Health Services’ Criminal Justice Engagement Team. Members of the team go to county jails to pick up people when they are released three times a day. Most arrests were for minor offenses.

Workers with the Southwest Behavioral Health team help mentally ill people after their release from jail. They assist them to obtain driver’s licenses, to find a roof over their heads, to get a bus pass, or to understand the Arizona court system. Workers like Peltier said they also provide plenty of encouragement and hope.

Peltier told KJZZ these peer support programs are effective. He has firsthand experience of the issues. He was jailed and ended up at Central Arizona Shelter Services.

The Criminal Justice Engagement Team helps people who diagnosed with a serious mental illness following their arrests for non-violent crimes.

The first step is to make sure people like Marco have a place to sleep for the night. The team gives them a case manager.

Rachel Zamora, a senior team leader for the Criminal Justice Engagement Team, described the operation as like being a “triage team.”

Time is of the essence. The team aims to get a referral and meet with the individual within 24 hours of their release from jail. The alternative may be languishing behind bars where their condition deteriorates or ending up on the streets with no support.

The Criminal Justice Engagement Team was launched in 2016. It is part of the Smart Justice Program, a partnership between the county and Mercy Maricopa, the regional behavioral health authority.

At the Garcia Law Firm, our attorney helps mentally ill people who get in trouble with the law in Phoenix and elsewhere in Arizona. People with mental health issues are often charged with minor crimes. They may lack the ability to understand what is going on and risk incarceration for long periods. Call the firm at 602) 340-1999.

Posted in Mental Health | Tagged |

Is There a Link Between Mental Illness and Gun Violence?

23May
2019

America has experienced a series of mass shootings in recent years. After almost every tragedy, commentators and politicians talk about the potential link between mental illness and gun violence.

It’s certainly the case that some people implicated in mass shootings suffered from mental illness.  James Holmes, the shooter who killed 12 people at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado in 2012, sought psychiatric help before the shooting. Court-appointed psychiatrists testified he was mentally ill. However, his attempt to use the insanity defense proved unsuccessful and he was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder. The psychiatrists told the court he was mentally ill but not insane.

mental illness and gun crime

is there is a link between mental illness and gun crime

Although some mass killers suffered from psychological problems, the link between mental illness and gun violence is far from automatic.

An article in The Trace points out it’s misguided to pin the blame for violence on mental health problems.

Yu Lu, a postdoctoral research fellow in behavioral health and research at the University of Texas Medical Branch, told the publication numerous news reports link mental illness and gun violence. She said:

“If you look at data, if you look at actual research, there’s minimal evidence supporting this claim.”

Lu’s study Preventive Medicine considered the connection between mental health issues and gun-related behaviors.

She concluded most mental health issues — including depression, anxiety, stress, PTSD, and issues like borderline personality disorder, bear little association with gun violence.

The correlation between shootings and access to guns was more obvious. People with access to guns were 18 times more likely to have threatened someone with a firearm than those who didn’t have access to a firearm.

Lu and a co-researcher considered data from 663 young adults recruited from seven Texas high schools. The team caught up with them every year for eight years from 2010.

Other research supports Lu’s conclusions. A database that looked at the characteristics of mass shooters found a “tenuous connection” between mental illness and gun violence. Under 15 percent of mass shooters were psychotic.

The Treatment Advocacy Center stated about 23 percent of mass shooters demonstrated mental health problems.

The American Mental Health Counselors Association also addressed potential links between mental illness and gun crime. It concluded:

“Most people who suffer serious mental illnesses are never violent. Certain people with serious mental illness do face an elevated risk of violence during “certain high-risk periods.”

These can include an initial episode of psychosis and inpatient psychiatric hospitalization.

The association said people who suffer serious mental illness are rarely aggressive. Just 3 to 5 percent of all violence, including gun violence, is linked to mental illness.

The reality is people with serious mental illness are far more likely to become victims of violence than to carry it out. This includes in jails and prisons where other inmates target them.

The violent crime victimization rate is 12 times higher among people with serious mental illness than among the overall U.S. population.

As an attorney who helps people with mental illnesses after they are charged with crimes, I frequently have to address the misconception that mental illness and gun violence are automatically linked. Please call me at (602) 340-1999 about mental health defenses if you or a family member has been charged with a crime.

Posted in 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 |