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 |

Arizona has Strict Porn and Child Molestation Laws

9July
2019

Arizona has some of the strictest porn and child molestation laws in the nation. Both offenses are felonies. People who are convicted of offenses against minors often spend decades in prison with no prospect of release.

Arizona child pornography laws are set out under a very broad statute. Child pornography, also known as sexual exploitation of a minor or child exploitation, includes a wide spectrum of activities. Arizona law prohibits “recording, filming, photographing, developing, or duplicating any visual depiction in which a minor is engaged in exploitative exhibition or other sexual conduct.”

Porn and molestation laws in Arizona
Arizona has tough porn and molestation laws

The state’s law also targets “distributing, transporting, exhibiting, receiving, selling, purchasing, electronically transmitting, possessing or exchanging any visual depiction in which a minor is engaged in exploitative exhibition or other sexual conduct.”

Child pornography offenses are a Class 2 felony under state law.  A conviction for possessing an image or a sex act carries 10 years in prison for each offense. In other words, a defendant will receive 10 years for each single pornographic image. If you downloaded 10 images, you could receive 100 years in prison.

In one case, a man received 200 years in prison for sexual exploitation of a minor, including possession of images of children under the age of 15 engaged in sexual conduct. When the minor is under 15, the sentencing range is 10 to 24 years in prison, without any possibility of probation, early release or parole.

A report on Reuters noted how Morton Berger was convicted on 20 separate counts. The trial judge gave him the required minimum sentence of 200 years in prison, comprising 10 years for each count. The judge rejected the prosecutor’s request for a 340-year sentence. Berger’s appeal of the sentence to the U.S. Supreme Court proved unsuccessful.

Child molestation in Arizona is also a class 2 felony. A defendant commits molestation of a child if he or she intentionally or knowingly engages in or causing a person to engage in sexual contact, except sexual contact with the female breast, with a child who is under 15 years of age.

On a first offense of child molestation, a defendant faces a minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum of 24 years with a presumptive prison sentence of 17 years.

The minimum sentence for a second offense is 21 years, with a maximum of 35 years.

Arizona’s strict porn and child molestation laws mean you will be facing the prospect of a long prison sentence if you are convicted of these crimes. There are defenses. If a lawyer can show the defendant did not know what he or she was doing, this is a defense to the crime. Please contact our experienced Phoenix criminal defense attorney today for more information.

Posted in Uncategorized |

Schizophrenic said “Voices in his Head” Caused Him to Kill His Wife

5July
2019

On occasions, we hear of sad cases in which a schizophrenic defendant says voices in his or her head led to a violent act.

Although this is a relatively rare occurrence, many schizophrenics say they experience these inner voices.

Earlier this year, a 72-year-old man from Scottsdale in Arizona claimed voices in his head told him to kill his wife with a hammer. Jozef Miller took medication for his condition but said he continued to experience these symptoms. He is charged with capital murder.

A TV report on 12 News stated Jozef Miller, told investigators his wife was sitting down to a meal when he hit her over the head with a hammer. He changed his clothes and went to a casino without telling anyone what happened.

The news report started Miller then tried take his own life by carbon monoxide poisoning. He said the voices that told him to kill told him to stay alive so he could pray for his wife. Police say Miller showed no remorse. They said he told investigators he did her a favor, although he hoped she was in a better place. Miller called 911 after the alleged killing.

The 12 News report noted Miller admitted attempting to kill his wife last year. Police said he struck her with a blunt object during a massage. He was arrested but later released pending a hearing in Scottsdale City Court, according to documents.

Schizophrenia is a chronic brain disorder. It affects less than one percent of the U.S. population, according to the American Psychiatric Association.

Symptoms of the disease include hallucinations, problems with focus and thoughts, delusions, and a lack of motivation. Some studies suggest as many as three quarters of schizophrenics will hear voices at some time. The more acute symptoms can be successfully treated.

Without treatment, the consequences of this acute disease for the sufferer and society can be high. A report in Schizophrenia.com noted schizophrenics who don’t receive proper treatment often end up homeless or incarcerated. However, their crimes are usually misdemeanors rather than crimes of violence.

If you or a family member with schizophrenia has been charged with a crime, please contact our Phoenix-based defense lawyer as soon as possible.

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Will You be Charged with a Federal Drug Crime if You Have Mental Illness in Arizona?

28June
2019

Many drug crimes are dealt with by the federal authorities. When the accused is dealt with in a federal court he or she often faces more severe treatment and longer prison time. If you have a mental illness in Arizona, you can face a federal drug crime.

Drug crimes fall under either state or federal jurisdiction. Although the majority of drug crimes are handled by the state, the feds will prosecute in some circumstances.

mentally ill people may receive a federal drug charge
Mental illness will not derail a federal drug charge

If the offender was arrested as part of a federal investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the FBI, or another federal agency, the offender will be dealt with in the federal courts.

The federal courts handle more serious drug offenses. Given Arizona’s proximity to Mexico, drug trafficking is high on the radar of federal drug prosecutors. People charged with drug possession are often also charged with trafficking or even manufacture. The federal courts get involved in drug offenses that cross state or national lines.

Federal offenses carry strict penalties and minimum sentences. If you are convicted of a first offense of trafficking more than 100 kilos of marijuana you face a minimum sentence of five years in prison.

Drug offenders and other people who suffer from mental disorders face many challenges in federal prisons. The Marshall Project has warned of suicides of people with mental disorders in prisons.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons faced increasing criticism of its treatment of inmates with mental illness five years ago. It published a new policy to help those with mental health problems. However, research by the Marshall Project found rather than expanding its treatment, the bureau lowered the number of prisoners designated for help by more than 35 percent. The department decided some prisoners with long histories of psychiatric problems did not require any routine care at all.

The Marshall Project noted how federal prisons classified just 3 percent of inmates as having a mental illness serious enough to require regular treatment. This compares with more than 30 percent of inmates in some U.S. states.

Nonviolent first-time drug offenders typically avoid prison sentences if they are dealt with by state courts in Arizona. Arizona passed Proposition 200 in 1996. It means judges can no longer send first or second-time nonviolent drug offenders to prison until their third conviction. However, you can be imprisoned for a first meth offense.

Drug crimes and the interplay between the state and federal systems can be confusing. If you suffer from a mental illness, the system may be bewildering. Please contact experienced Phoenix-based attorney Bernardo Garcia as soon as possible for help.

Posted in Uncategorized |

A woman who Sent More than 159,000 Text Messages to a Man is Found Mentally Incompetent

26June
2019

The rapid growth of online technology has been accompanied by a rise in cases of cyberstalking and other electronic threats. A recent case in Arizona highlights how people with mental health issues can incriminate themselves online. It also illustrated how Rule 11 works in Arizona when defendants are mentally incompetent.

A woman from Paradise Valley is fighting charges over stalking and criminal trespassing. She is accused of sending more than 159,000 text messages to a man who she went out on a single date with.

Police claim Jacqueline Ades sent a man more than 159,000 text messages after she met him on a dating site. Investigators said some of the messages sent over a 10-month period were threatening. 

Prosecutors said Ades started threatening her former date after Paradise Valley officers escorted her from the man’s property in July 2017. Texts appeared to threaten mutilation, and cannibalism according to police.

Ades has being held in Maricopa County’s Estrella Jail without bond since May 2018. Her case attracted national media attention.

A report in AZCentral noted how her attorney requested a Rule 11 competency hearing. The request for the hearing in January followed concerns that Ades did not understand the charges and the proceedings against her and was unable to assist in her own defense.

Ades was deemed mentally incompetent at a Rule 11 hearing in March. According to report, she rejected a plea deal that would have released her from jail because she had already served the required time. She insists on pleading not guilty.

Media reports stated two of the three mental-health professionals found the defendant mentally incompetent to stand trial, but restorable. One thought she was mentally competent. The trial was delayed for at least two months.

Ades said in an interview the whole episode was a joke. The New York Post reported she claimed the jury would order her to marry the man she allegedly bombarded with text messages and she was previously abducted by Walt Disney.

Police said they arrested Ades when she took a bath in the man’s home while he was out of the country.

The competency rule or Rule 11 is important. It protects people with mental illnesses who cannot understand the proceedings they are facing and are not able to consult with a lawyer. Defendants with mental illnesses often make a recovery and are able to face charges when they are of sound mind.

At the Garcia Law Firm, our attorney has considerable experience in these cases. Please contact the firm at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Uncategorized |

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 , , , |