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 |

When Can an Employer Ask About Your Criminal History in Arizona?

10June
2019

It’s hard to put your criminal past behind you in Arizona. Job and college applications ask you about previous offenses and a potential employer can quiz you about it from the outset.

Earlier this year, a bill that would have shielded job applicants from questions about their criminality early in the application process, failed to progress.

When can an Arizona employer ask about your criminal history?
When an employer can ask about your criminal history

Senate Bill 1437 was also known as “ban the box” legislation. The legislation would have prevented employers in the private sectors from asking job applicants about their criminal histories until employers gave applicants a job interview. The judiciary committee killed the “ban the box” bill in March, reported AZMirror.

The bill would also have limited questions to criminal records within the preceding seven years only. SB1437 stipulated job applicants would only have to reveal convictions directly related to the job. The bill passed the Senate and was assigned to the House Rules Committee, but never received a hearing.

The Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee questioned the ability of the legislature to govern private employers.

Rep. John Allen, R-Phoenix said he did not believe the bill was constitutional and predicted the courts would strike it down. He questioned the authority of the state to restrict private sector employers in asking about criminal records. He said:

“I know a lot of states do it with government entities, but I don’t know if we have the legal ability to go into a private company and tell them what they can’t look at.”

The failure of the bill to progress means an employer can ask you about your criminal history in Arizona from the outset.

The bill was known as the “ban the box” legislation because the applicant must check on job applications if they’ve been convicted of a felony.

The legislation was restricted to companies with over 15 employees. It would not have applied to jobs that require fingerprint clearance from the state, positions at public airports, jobs in firefighting, law enforcement, prosecutorial agencies, emergency medical services transport, court security or probation offices.

Other criminal justice bills died in the legislature this session. They included House Bill 2424, a measure that would have addressed an ongoing issue with Class 6 undesignated felonies. It would have automatically designated them as Class 1 misdemeanors.

Class 6 felonies are the lowest level felony in the state. Under the existing law, they are automatically considered felonies unless otherwise designated as a misdemeanor.

The bill aimed to change the law so as a defendant would only be convicted of a felony if he or she failed to complete the required programming. The bill unanimously passed on the House floor but did not appear on the Senate Judiciary Committee’s agenda.

Your criminal history in Arizona can seriously impact your job prospects. Talk to our criminal defense lawyer today about the best course of action if you have been charged with a crime at (602) 340-1999.

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Posted in Uncategorized |

Brain Scan Evidence Plays an Increasing Role in Criminal Trials

6June
2019

Brain scan evidence is a fast-evolving area of science. Although it’s still developing, these techniques are playing an increasing role in criminal trials.

Research by Duke Law found hundreds of cases over the last 10 years were influenced by the results of brain scan analysis. The results of MRI and CAT scans that can point to brain abnormalities were used to make a case for leniency in about 5 percent of murder cases, Phys.org reported.

However, the use of brain scan evidence rose to a quarter of all cases in death penalty trials. The evidence is often used to support a claim that the defendant lacked the capacity to control his actions.

Brain scan evidence plays important role in criminal trials
Brain scan evidence plays key role in criminal trials

It’s not clear if this evidence is beneficial or detrimental to the defendant in these cases.

Some supporters of brain scan evidence argue it may make a judge or juror less likely to want to punish a defendant for his or her crime. Evidence of a brain disorder suggests the defendant had less intent to commit the crime.

Alternatively, brain scan evidence may make the offender appear to be more predestined to violence and more dangerous. Under this argument, he or she would be more likely to re-offend in the future.

A survey by Phys.org found the use of neurobiological evidence like MRIs is more likely to lead to shorter prison sentences and longer involuntary hospitalization terms than the equivalent psychological evidence.

The evidence suggested brain scan evidence is more effective in establishing an insanity defense. People found to be guilty except insane in Arizona face a term of confinement in a secure institution equivalent to the length of time they would have served in prison if they were found guilty.

Brain scan evidence can play an important part in criminal cases but there is a limit to the ability of MRIs and CAT scans to pinpoint complicated mental disorders.

When mental illness is a factor in a criminal proceeding it’s important to talk to a lawyer who is well versed in these issues. If you or a family member with a mental illness has been arrested in Arizona, please call me at (602) 340-1999.

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Stay off Social Media if You Have Been Charged with a Crime

20May
2019

For most people in the 21st century using social media has become as natural as talking on the phone was in the previous century. However, social media and crime is a tricky issue.

There are clear dangers in using a medium that broadcasts your views to the wider community. People should refrain from talking about the issue on social media or even disable their accounts if they are facing criminal charges.

That can be a difficult message to convey. Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter have become part of our everyday lives. For some people, posting their thoughts on social media is as natural as getting dressed to go to work.

The effects of social media and crime

social media and crime

Unfortunately, any social media posts can be used against you when you are facing criminal charges.

Many people assume their posts will not be searched by people who are not in their networks. This is not the case. One survey reveals that four in five police departments now use social media to help their criminal investigations.

CNN notes a growing number of police departments are turning to Facebook to catch criminals. Police also use the social network to gather evidence against a wide range of people suspected of criminality.

Any statements you make or images that you post online are fair game to law enforcement officials. They can determine your whereabouts at the time the crime occurred, and your actions leading up to the crime.

After you are charged, any discussions you get into with friends may be used against you. This includes private messages on social media.

Be Careful About What You Post Online

Some things you share online may jeopardize your criminal defense case. A man in Florida was charged with more than 140 felony counts after posting photos depicting him with cash, guns, and stolen items on his Instagram account.

Online behavior does not have to be this blatant to undermine your case. Merely posting how you plan to plead to a charge and why can be damaging. You can ruin the confidentiality between yourself and your lawyer by posting details about your case on social media.

Social Media and Crime – What Not to Do

Social media can get you in trouble in a wide range of ways. Don’t.

  • Post pictures of any potential crime scene
  • Post images or words about drinking alcohol if you are facing a DUI
  • Give confidential medical information relating to mental health or other issues;
  • Criticize arresting officers
  • Criticize judges
  • Post images of handling firearms if you are facing gun charges
  • Give out information that breached bail conditions
  • Post anything that could be viewed as witness intimidation;
  • Give details of potential defenses;

 

The best advice is avoid social media post-arrest. Ideally, disable your account. Even if you don’t post anything, a friend or family member might put something on your account that undermines your case. Anything you delete can be viewed as witness tampering.

 

Talk to our experienced Phoenix criminal law attorney about your case as early as possible. Communication through a lawyer is confidential and safe.  Call the Garcia Law Firm at (602) 340-1999.

 

 

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How is Mental Fitness Tested?

14January
2017

When using a mental health defense for y our case, you will have to be tested to determine whether you are mentally ill. A mental health evaluation is conducted by physicians to get an overall picture of how your mental health is. They’ll test how well you’re able to think, reason and remember by asking you questions and examining you either vocally or in writing. They will assess how you look, your mood, behavior, thinking, reasoning, memory and overall ability to express yourself. In some cases, they will also conduct a blood or urine test.

mental health patient counselingWhy are mental health evaluations done?

Mental health evaluations can help your physician find out if you have a mental health disorder such as anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease, or anorexia nervosa.

People are usually referred to get a mental health exam because they are having problems at home, work or school. They may also have a court ordered petition for an evaluation after being arrested for a crime that may relate to their mental health.

What is the result of a mental health evaluation?

Mental health evaluations help physicians determine if a person needs treatment for a mental health disorder and if they a danger to themselves or others. If the person does in fact need treatment, the physician can recommend one, including medication.

What happens in mental health evaluations ordered by the court?

After being evaluated, if there is enough evidence to prove that the person needs help with their mental health, the court may order them to treatment. The treatment may be completed at a hospital or at a community based clinic, or both.

The maximum period for court ordered treatment is 365 days. The person ordered to treatment may request a judicial review after 60 days if they believe their circumstances have improved. During the review the court may changes the order for treatment, lessening the amount of days that must be completed or terminating the treatment completely.

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

Catholic Bishop Urges “Speak Up for Marriage”

23February
2015

Recently the bishop of Shrewsbury spoke up staunchly in favor of the union of marriage and urged his congregation to do the same, during a homily delivered on February 15th. Providing some compelling arguments in favor of holy matrimony, the Rt Rev. Mark Davies spoke before a mass for married couples at St. Columba’s Church recently, contending that the increasingly taboo subject of marriage was damaging to society.

The Bishop implored his congregants, comprised of married couples celebrating a range of anniversaries, some celebrating up to 65 years of marriage to one another, to speak up in favor of marriage and to support it. Bishop Davies called upon the Church to, “rebuild a culture of the family based on marriage.” He pointed out that teachers are often now afraid to teach the traditional marriage model to students, in part as a measure of respect to students’ backgrounds, but due in large to the trepidation and taboo nature that marriage has adopted as of late, according to Davies.

Davies elaborated further, stressing the urgency of the issue, contending that,”the Church may well find herself amongst the last voices in society whole-heartedly speaking for the family based on the strong foundation of the lasting, life-giving, faithful union of one man and one woman.” Davies explains that the breakdown of families is not only financially but socially harmful to our society as a whole, but more specifically for young people who are experiencing and being shaped by splitting families. Davies even addressed the shifting landscape in politics, urging our political leaders to hold true to the values of the traditional family model.

The message is really driven home as the mass was held before a wide range of couples, who’s combined years of marriage was said to total over 2,500 years cumulatively, really highlighting a poignant note about the age old institution of marriage. You can read the full copy of Bishop Davies’ sermon here.

Via: Independent Catholic News

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Guidelines for a Criminal Offense in Phoenix, Arizona

19August
2013

Criminal offenses in the state of Arizona are divided into two categories, felonies and misdemeanors. These two categories are further divided into several different classifications. This classification is represented by numbers, with a lower number representing a more serious offense. Serious offenses are usually categorized as felonies, whereas the less serious crimes and offenses are categorized as misdemeanors. Some of the sentencing guidelines for criminal offenses in Arizona are given below:

Misdemeanors

The less serious crimes are classified as misdemeanors and the penalties for such crimes are generally less severe as compared to felony crimes. In Arizona, and in most other states, a misdemeanor offense is classified as follows:

Class 1 misdemeanor – This offense usually has a potential incarceration of up to 6 months.

Class 2 misdemeanor – A Class 2 misdemeanor includes a possible of 4 months incarceration.

Class 3 misdemeanor – This is the most lenient type of misdemeanor offense and involves up to 30 days incarceration.

Depending on the severity of the offense, the offender may also have to face fines and be ordered drug and alcohol screening by court. The fine amount depends on the facts and severity of the case, such as a previous criminal record. The court may also order community service.

Felonies

The more serious crimes such as burglary, aggravated assault, use and possession of illegal drugs etc. are considered felony crimes and fall in this category. They carry more serious consequences as compared to misdemeanor sentences. The classification of felony crimes in the state of Arizona are given below:

Class 1 felony – This is considered the most serious felony crime and carries up to 25 years to life in prison. In case of First Degree Murder cases, the state of Arizona allows the death penalty.

Class 2 felony – A Class 2 felony carries a jail sentence of up to 5 years in case of a presumptive charge, with other penalties and fines. In more serious cases, like an aggravated Class 2 felony, the jail sentence can range up to 12.5 years.

Class 3 felony – This carries a jail sentence of up to 3.5 years in presumptive cases and up to 8.75 years in an aggravated offense.

Class 4 felony – 2.5 years up to 3.75 years in an aggravated offense. In case of a mitigating circumstances, the jail sentence is 1 year.

Class 5 felony – 1.5 years in case of a presumptive offense and a maximum of 2.5 years in case of aggravating circumstances.

Class 6 felony – 1 year in case of presumptive circumstances up to 2 years in aggravating circumstances.

Depending on the severity and circumstances of the offense, such as if the offender has a prior criminal record, punishment and sentencing can vary.

Author Bio:

Helfand & Associates, Attorneys at Law, practice in New Jersey and New York.

Posted in Uncategorized |

Mesa Woman Arrested in Homicide Case

31March
2013

On March 21, Mesa Police officers were called to a Mesa apartment complex near Southern Avenue and Dobson Road after receiving reports of a fight.  When officers arrived at the apartment, they found signs of a struggle, including blood inside the apartment.

At that time, officers were concerned the missing apartment resident, Vanessa Mendoza, was either injured or possibly dead,  However, now the 27-year-old woman has been arrested by police and booked into jail on charges of hindering prosecution and concealment of a dead body.

According to the police report, investigators discovered that a homicide had taken place at Mendoza’s apartment and they eventually discovered the 27-year-old woman and her boyfriend, Genaro Silva, at a Chandler home. 

Mendoza refused to speak with police, however, Silva did not.  He revealed to police that on March 15 he went to Mendoza’s apartment, found her with another man, 39-year-old Daniel Barraza Gomez, and then hit the man with a hammer many times, eventually killing him.

According to Silva’s tale, Sylvia Olivas and Christopher Alejo, came to the apartment later that day, and Alejo allegedly stole money from Gomez and helped roll Gomez’s body in bedding.  The two men then  removed the body from the apartment, placed it into a vehicle and then drove to a secluded area on the Salt River Pima Indian community.  The body was then placed into a dry wash and set on fire. 

Police were able to locate Gomez’s remains from the Indian Reservation.

Silva has been charged with one count of second degree murder in the death of Gomez.  He has also been charged with hindering prosecution and concealment of a dead body.

Alejo has been charged with robbery, hindering prosecution and concealment of a dead body. 

Olivas, who is the mother of Mendoza, was arrested and charged with concealment of a dead body.

Original story found here.

Posted in Uncategorized, Violent Crime |