May 2012 Archives

Fundamentals of Arizona Criminal Law

In Arizona, as in most parts of the United States, the idea of breaking the law is strictly associated with the thought of committing a crime. However, in reality, crimes are simply results from breaches in criminal law, which is a restricted and defined part of law that is looked at in more detail in this article.

Generally, Arizona criminal law refers to the rulings that the state has prepared in writing and legislature to protect its citizens. Breaking this law will lead to a case being brought by the state against the offender. A breach that results in a conviction will lead to punishment for the wrongdoer. The whole spectrum of the Arizona criminal law is so vast that makes it difficult to catalog. Nonetheless, the following are some of the major aspects of this state law.

Fatal Offenses

Unlawful killing or murder is strictly punishable by the law. Perhaps, this is the act most targeted by Arizona criminal law. In several jurisdictions, murder crimes are divided into different grades of severity. Manslaughter is a lesser variation of killing made in the dearth of malice, often brought about by diminished capacity or logical provocation.

Sexual Offenses

Arizona criminal law covers offenses that involve sexual acts or actions that are forced upon the victim. These crimes lack the element of consent, hence, considered illegal. Sex-related crimes differ greatly in severity. Sex crimes can be criminally prosecuted regardless of how innocent a person at the time is. Indecent exposure, public urination and public lewdness may be physically harmless in nature. However, since they happen in the wrong place and at the wrong time, a doer can be sent to jail. Crimes like solicitation, pimping and prostitution are deemed illegal even if both parties fully agreed to the sexual act.

Property Offenses

Criminal law in the state of Arizona also covers crimes against property. Trespassing, malicious damage to property, burglary, arson, theft and robbery are just a few examples of crimes that are covered by the law. Penalties are provided, of course, for these crimes as well as for conversion, embezzlement and others that involve deprivation of the property value. Robbery is considered theft by force.

Other Offenses

Other offenses that are punishable by law include bribery, escape and related offenses, perjury, obstruction of public administration, organized crime, terrorism, fraud (business and commercial), credit card fraud, forgery, offenses against public order (i.e. riot, loitering, false reporting of emergencies and unlawful assembly), misconduct involving weapons and explosives, possession of interception devices, promotion of gambling, possession of gambling records, illegal selling of drugs, possession and selling of peyote, illegally obtaining nitrous oxide containers, possession of narcotic drugs, obscenity, public exhibition of explicit sexual materials, cybersex, sexual exploitation of minors, domestic violence, abortion, failure to exhibit or procure a business license, child abuse, bigamy, abandonment of spouse and unlawful utilization of food stamps.

Committing any crime in the state of Arizona could mean facing charges, penalties and imprisonment. It goes without saying that individuals who disobey Arizona criminal law should pay for the crime one way or another.

Objectives of Arizona Criminal Law

Arizona criminal law is known for the serious possible sanctions or consequences for criminal offenses committed under its jurisdiction. Each crime is made up of criminal elements. Capital punishment may be ruled for severe crimes. Offenders may be incarcerated under different circumstances depending on the ruling. Confinement could be solitary and how long the prison term may take ranges from a single day to life.

Supervision by the government may sometimes be required, and this includes house arrest. Convicts may be obliged to conform to certain guidelines or rulings as part of a probation or parole regimen. Penalties and fines may also be imposed as well as seizing property or money from an individual convicted of a crime. There are certain procedures that are observed in enforcing criminal law and these are the following:

Retribution

Criminals or offenders have to pay for their crime one way or another. This is the primary goal of the justice system. Offenders have committed unfair acts detrimental to another person or have taken undue advantage of other people; thus, Arizona criminal law will put them at some disadvantage in order to balance the scale. Arizonians must adhere to the law and not commit crimes because anyone who contravenes the law will be given just punishments.

Deterrence

Under the state's criminal law, deterrence is aimed at future offenders. The purpose is to impose penalties to discourage anyone to commit any crime. General deterrence is aimed at the society at large. Imposing penalties on offenders can make other people wary or scared of committing offenses.

Incapacitation

This pertains to the effect of sentences in terms of preventing, instead of merely deterring, future commissions of crime. Imprisonment incapacitates the offender by removing him physically from the society that he offended.

Rehabilitation

Another goal of the Arizona criminal law is to turn the wrongdoer into a valuable society member. The law is aimed at preventing further offenses by making the offender accept that what he did was wrong. In several ways, rehabilitation is the most enlightened goal of criminal law in the state. But that is all in theory.

Denunciation

A sentence may be inflicted to express the disgust of the society with the crime committed. Sometimes, denunciation is considered as a separate objective of the Arizona criminal law. It is difficult to perceive, however, what denunciation adds to other goals of punishment, specifically deterrence and retribution, and what occurrences would result to giving a sentence that could not be rationalized by one of the other goals of the justice system.

Restoration

Another objective of Arizona criminal law is to pay much attention to the victim's position by getting criminals to face up to the damage they have inflicted. Certain extent of community participation may be involved such as in meetings of groups that are in support of either the plaintiff or the defendant. Recommendations that emerge from such meetings may be considered by the sentencing judge and the representatives of the community may be involved in checking whether the defendant complies with the clauses that may be laid down.

Arizona Criminal Law: Fundamental Steps in a Criminal Case

Criminal cases in the state of Arizona involve the commission of acts which are deemed in violation of the state criminal law, and are liable to be punished by fines, probation and imprisonment. The lawyer that represents the local government or county that formally accused a person of committing an offense is the prosecutor. The accused is called the defendant. Arizona criminal law can sometimes be complicated and difficult to understand; hence, a largely uniform set of steps or procedures is followed.

Arrest

Generally, a person who is suspected to have committed a crime is arrested by a law enforcement officer when probable cause shows that a crime has really happened. Following that, the arrested person may be brought before an arbitrator or judge for preliminary appearance within a day of being arrested or he should be released.

Initial Appearance

During the initial appearance, the name and address of the defendant will be determined by the judge. The defendant will be informed of the charges leveled against him as well his right to remain silent. He would also be advised to get a lawyer who knows Arizona criminal law well. If the defendant cannot afford one, the state may appoint a lawyer and set all the conditions for jail release.

Preliminary Hearing

A preliminary hearing will be held to allow the judge to examine evidences presented and hear testimonies from witnesses invited by the prosecuting lawyer and the attorney for the defense. Arizona criminal law allows both parties to present evidences to bolster their respective cases. Once it has been determined by the judge that there is sufficient evidence that may prove that the defendant has really committed a crime, a trial will be called in superior court and an arraignment schedule will be set.

Arraignment

At this stage, the individual who is accused of a crime enters a guilty, no contest, or not guilty plea. Once a not guilty plea is entered, a trial date will be set by the judge. If the defendant pleads guilty or he asserts no contest to the accusation, the judge will then schedule a date for the sentencing.

Trial

The person who is accused of a crime has the right to a fair trial either before a jury. Once the court is prepared for the commencement of the trial, both sides will make their opening statements. Normally, the prosecuting lawyer speaks first. To start, an attorney who is well versed in Arizona criminal law will give an overview of all the facts that will be presented. The same kind of opening remarks may be given by the opposing attorney or he may have the opening statement reserved until later in the court trial at a time he deems appropriate. Either lawyer may opt not to render an opening statement.

Sentencing

Once everything has been examined in the trial under Arizona criminal law and a verdict has been given, a sentencing hearing will then be scheduled to figure out the punishment that will be faced by the defendant if he has been found guilty or liable for a committed crime. At this stage, testimonies will be heard by the judge from both the defense and the prosecution concerning the penalty that every side feels the prosecuted defendant must get.

How to Find a Good Arizona Criminal Law Attorney

There is currently no list that objectively ranks all Arizona criminal law practitioners in terms of their competence, experience, and knowledge of the law. Hence, you will need to do a little research before you can actually find one who can best handle your case. To begin with, avoid limiting your search to Arizona criminal defense solicitors who specialize in particular aspects of the law. While a specialized solicitor would be a great choice in some cases, they likewise attract suspicion in other instances.

At this point, your biggest consideration must be the criminal defense lawyer's track record and whether he would be willing to devote his time to your case. One good way of finding the right defense attorney is asking for referrals. You can ask your friends, family members, neighbors or coworkers if they know someone who is not just well versed in Arizona criminal law, but also has a good reputation and proven track record of success.

Another way that will allow you to find the right Arizona criminal law attorney is by searching the Web. These days, there are many lawyers who maintain their own websites. Since there are attorneys who are offering free initial consultation, do not just speak with one lawyer but consult two or more, and then choose the one you think can best help you in your case. So far, the Internet is the best resource where you can easily find criminal defense attorneys near you.

With so many lawyers out there, choosing the right one is the trickiest part. Before hiring someone, make sure to perform a little background check. You can get information about your potential lawyer in some Web discussion forums or by simply reading testimonials. When you check the background of your chosen Arizona criminal law attorney, see for yourself too if you feel comfortable sharing your case with him. As much as possible, ask questions and observe how well he answers them.

Another thing that will help you hire the right criminal defense lawyer is checking his accreditations and credentials. Check if he is a member of a known law society or popular organization. Those who are regulated by reputable bar councils are usually reliable ones. Other credentials that you should check may include records from a previous office, teaching experience, published legal articles (if there are any) and others that you think could be helpful for your case. All these are helpful indications of the Arizona criminal defense attorney's reputation and standing in the legal community.

Do not forget to discuss with your potential Arizona criminal law attorney how you will pay him. Ask about his payment terms and if there will be any ancillary services you might need. Ask too what will happen to your case if ever he becomes unavailable because of any reason and who will represent you in such an event. Some lawyers are charging their clients on a contingency fee basis. Ensure that you will have all terms clear from the very beginning of your engagement.

Arizona Criminal Law: Presenting Criminal Case Witnesses and Evidences

Several possible scenarios may happen in the apprehension of a suspect for a criminal offense in Arizona. The police can hold the accused person and bring him to court for a District Court arraignment. A justice of peace can also be called by the police to have the accused person legally arrested. A bail commissioner can also set bail so the accused can be released. It is advisable for individuals who have been accused of a crime to remain silent and wait for the advice of an attorney who knows Arizona criminal law well.

Normally, a preliminary hearing is held following the arrest and initial appearance. Then, the date for the arraignment is set. If the accused plead not guilty, a trial date will then be determined. During the trial, witnesses may be called. The prosecuting lawyer will start the case by calling on witnesses and directly examining them. Trial witnesses will take an oath to tell the truth before they are put on the stand. All evidences, including documents, articles, weapons and testimony must comply with the definitions made by the Arizona Rules of Evidence prior to admission as proof or evidence, and presentation to the jury. It is the judge who will decide what evidence and testimonials are admissible under Arizona criminal law.

During the Arizona criminal law trial, witness testimony will be presented by the prosecuting lawyer to prove that the defendant committed a crime. The accused person's criminal defense lawyer may present witnesses and evidences as well to prove that he is not guilty or did not commit the crime. The accused person is deemed innocent of a crime until he has been proven guilty. When the side of the prosecution has completed its witness questioning, the defense is permitted to cross-examine the witnesses on any significant matter.

Following cross examination, the lawyer who called the witness may ask more questions to the witness to clear anything that was covered in the cross-examination. The judge may allow the opposing lawyer to do a re-cross examination. Once the prosecution has called all witnesses and presented all proof, their case is rested. At this time, the lawyer of the defendant may request the court to decide in favor of his client if the defense feels that the prosecuting lawyer failed to present sufficient evidence that will solidify the case against his client. This is what is called acquittal judgment in an Arizona criminal law case.

Once the judge agrees that there is insufficient proof to rule against the accused, he will rule in favor of the accused party and the case will end. If an acquittal judgment is not asked or the request has been denied, the defense my show proof for its side of the case. Too often, the lawyer for the defense waits until this part of the trial to bring in an opening statement. Evidences may not be presented by the defense since it is not ruled to do so. Bear in mind that the defendant in an Arizona criminal law case is not obliged to prove innocence. What is required is that the prosecution must prove the accused party's guilt beyond reasonable doubt.