Recently in Arizona Criminal law Category

Arizona v. Hauser: prior felony convictions under ARS 13-604 and 13-702.02

If somebody is convicted of a felony in Arizona and then they are charged again with a new felony, does that prior felony conviction affect the new case? The answer to that question is "it depends..."

As a general rule, a class 6, class 5, or class 4 felony counts as prior convictions for up to five years. A class 3, 2, or 1 felony can last up to 10 years. A dangerous crime conviction is a lifetime or "historical" prior and time spent in custody does not count towards the time period, whether the prior conviction was dangerous or nondangerous. The relevant dates are date of occurrence to date of occurrence. Also, a third "expired" felony counts too regardless of how old it is. In the parlance of Arizona criminal law, a felony that counts to enhance the sentence on a new charge is called a "historical" prior.

For example, if somebody commits a class 6 nondangerous felony on January 1, 2000 and is charged with a new crime committed on January 2, 2005, and the person did not do any jail time, they should be treated as a first offender. That prior conviction is non-historical. However, if that class 6 felony was dangerous then it would count as a prior conviction. Also under the first scenario, if the person did more than one day in jail, the first conviction would count as a historical prior because time spent in custody does not tick the felony clock.

This is important because prior convictions can enhance the penalty for new convictions. By way of example, a first conviction for a class to nondangerous felony the penalty can be anywhere from probation up to 12 ½ years in prison. But with one historical prior the sentence is a minimum of 4 ½ years in prison up to 23 ¼ years in prison. Someone with a historical prior is not eligible for probation on a new conviction.

Even though someone may be charged with a felony and have a historical prior conviction, that does not mean the prior will automatically apply to enhance a new sentence upon conviction. For one thing, the government must officially "allege" the prior, usually as an attachment to the indictment. And further, the government must "prove up" the prior upon conviction on the new charge. Sometimes, the government will even drop the allegation of a historical prior to motivate a person to plead guilty.

Finally, even if a prior conviction is too old to be alleged as a historical prior, the government can try to get around that by alleging under ARS 13-702.02(2) "Multiple offenses not committed on the same occasion": "(2) those that "were not committed on the same occasion" and "are not historical prior felony convictions as defined in section 13-604." See State v. Thompson, 200 Ariz. 439, 441 ¶ 9, 27 P.3d 796, 798 (2001). For a detailed exposition on the difference between ARS 13-702.02 "multiple offenses" and ARS 13-604 "sentencing enhancements" see State v. Hauser.

Arizona Veterans and Traumatic Brain Injury and CTE

Frontline recently ran a story about football players who suffered brain damage from playing football. It is one the best documentaries I have ever seen (see it here "League of Denial").

Most people assume that football players who suffered multiple concussions were at high risk for brain damage and the evidence certainly supports that opinion. But the real insight of the Frontline story is that even players who never once suffered a concussion and who only played high school football were at serous risk for Chronic Traumatic Encephalitis (CTE). The important point here is CTE can be caused by the cumulative effect of thousands of sub-concussive hits. In other words, it is the normal hits of the game (about 1500 per season per player) that causes the brain damage and not necessarily the highlight reel hits.

CTE can only be diagnosed conclusively by an autopsy, and like any other encephalitis, ie, "Mad Cow" disease, it eats away at brain tissue like a microscopic, but very real Zombie. It turns normal, happy people into depressed, anti-social, and destructive suicidal maniacs. It destroys a person's very soul.

So what does that have to do with veterans? We now know that veterans suffer some of the very same brain injuries that football players suffer, traumatic brain injury or TBI, and that injury can have the very same effect on veterans as it does in football players. Again, this is not necessarily the result of a small number of spectacular hits, from an IED for example, but from multiple sub-concussive hits.

Dr. Bennett Omalu, the doctor who started the CTE and NFL investigation with his groundbreaking discovery of CTE in Mike Webster, also studied war veterans. You can see that study here "Chronic traumatic encephalopathy in an Iraqi war veteran with posttraumatic stress disorder who committed suicide."

The authors report this case as a sentinel case of CTE in an Iraqi war veteran diagnosed with PTSD to possibly stimulate new lines of thought and research in the possible pathoetiology and pathogenesis of PTSD in military veterans as part of the CTE spectrum of diseases, and as chronic sequelae and outcomes of repetitive traumatic brain injuries.

A lot of people, most of them non-veterans and many prosecutors and police officers, think veterans facing prosecution are just using post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) as an excuse. Part of the problem is that PTSD cannot necessarily be proven with a test like a MRI or blood test. I now wonder how many cases of PTSD induced behavior is really the result of CTE?

For more information about Arizona veterans and the criminal justice system, see "Why we need Veteran's Court for Maricopa County and Pima County" and "Veteran's Court in Phoenix".

For a very article about this issue, see "The Case Against Brain Scans As Evidence In Court" by Jon Hamilton.

Veteran's Court in Phoenix

In a recent, and very encouraging development, the city of Phoenix municipal court has started a Veteran's Court program. That is a program that is available only to veterans. To qualify, one must have served in United States military. It does not matter if the service was in the reserves or active duty, the type of discharge does not matter, combat duty is not required, and to qualify no deployment is required.

In other words, so long as anyone was in the military and received any sort of discharge, presumably even other than honorable or even dishonorable discharge, they are qualified for Veteran's Court. So what is the benefit of Veteran's Court?

In the context of a DUI case, a veteran who is facing DUI charges can have the charges reduced to the minimum 28-1381(A)(1) regardless of the blood alcohol content alleged. For example, even if someone is facing a super-extreme DUI charge, which means a minimum sentence of 45 days in jail, that veteran can have the charge reduced to the minimum DUI charge. Even better, even though there is a statutory requirement for at least one day in jail for even a first time DUI conviction, that veteran can avoid jail completely so long as he is compliant with all court ordered treatment.

For example, imagine a non-veteran convicted in the city of Phoenix with a BAC above .20. He would have to do 45 days in jail, which usually means 9 days in the county jail and another 5 days home arrest. But a veteran would not any jail time so long as he complied with the treatment the court ordered. Keep in mind, however, that treatment could be onerous in its own right: it could very well include inpatient treatment for months.

The idea behind Veteran's Court is that our veterans should not suffer criminal sentences as a result of their service. And while the category of "veteran" may seem broad, it is better to make the net wide and include as many veterans as possible.

What is the Battered Women Syndrome Defense in Arizona?

As I have previously, Arizona does not allow evidence of diminished capacity and does not allow a defendant to argue extreme emotional disturbance. That is the rule from the Arizona Supreme Court case of State v. Mott. What this rule broadly means is that a defendant cannot present expert testimony as to the defendant's state of mind. Having made that point though, the Mott rule is not exactly airtight. That is because of two exceptions.

The first is that a defendant can still introduce "observational" evidence at trial, even if that evidence is from a mental health expert. In other words, a psychologist or psychiatrist can testify evidence that he observed, even if they are related to the defendant's state of mind.

Second, if the defense claims self defense, and in particular self defense as a victim of domestic violence under ARS 13-415, then the reasonable person standard is from the perspective of someone who has been the victim of domestic violence.

If there have been past acts of domestic violence as defined in section 13-3601, subsection A against the defendant by the victim, the state of mind of a reasonable person under sections 13-404, 13-405 and 13-406 shall be determined from the perspective of a reasonable person who has been a victim of those past acts of domestic violence.

This is the battered women syndrome defense. In the Mott decision, the court stated in footnote 3 that nothing in the decision applied in self defense cases.

Evidence of battered-woman syndrome is ordinarily offered in self-defense cases. It has been used to aid the jury in assessing the reasonableness of the defendant's apprehension and the imminency of death or serious bodily injury. Ex Parte Haney, 603 So.2d 412, 414 (Ala.1992); State v. Koss, 49 Ohio St.3d 213, 551 N.E.2d 970, 973 (Oh.1990); Bechtel v. State, 840 P.2d 1, 9 (Okla.Crim.App.1992). In this case, however, defendant did not offer the evidence for these purposes and we need not address the admissibility of battered-woman syndrome evidence in self-defense cases.

What this means is that while a defendant cannot use an expert witness to prove generally the defendant did not have intent to commit a specific crime, that expert can be used, among other things, to prove expert observations and to establish the reasonable person standard as a victim of domestic violence for a claim of self defense.

So bottom line, what does this mean? Are these two exceptions so broad as to have made the Mott rule irrelevant, or are they in fact the exceptions that prove the rule? All I can tell you from my own experience is... it depends. Courts will typically resolve this issue pretrial on a case by case basis.

Is a Pillow a "Deadly Weapon" or "Dangerous Instrument"? Why Yes it is...

Some crimes are alleged as "dangerous" because a deadly weapon was used by the defendant. For example, if a defendant uses a deadly weapon while committing misdemeanor assault, the charge will be aggravated or felony assault and as "dangerous". That is true even if the victim was not hurt at all. If someone disturbs the peace of another person while displaying a deadly weapon, that is a felony even if no one was hurt.

So what exactly is a deadly weapon? Under ARS 13-105(15), a deadly weapon "means anything designed for lethal use, including a firearm." That is obviously circular, but ARS 13-105(12) defines "Dangerous instrument" is more helpful:

means anything that under the circumstances in which it is used, attempted to be used or threatened to be used is readily capable of causing death or serious physical injury.

The important point here is that a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument can be anything under the sun, and is not limited to obviously deadly weapons like guns or knives. For example, I go to a bar and have a beer and go home. In that instance, the beer bottle is nothing more than a bottle. But let's say I get into an argument and I grab the bottle by the neck threatening to hit someone. In that instance, the beer bottle would be a deadly weapon and I would be charged with aggravated assault. I would venture to guess the instrument most charged as dangerous would be a car. I once had a case where the county attorney claimed the sidewalk was a dangerous weapon because a defendant was trying to slam a boy against it causing injury.

I bring this up in the context of the Jodi Arias trial. The prosecutor has alleged Ms. Arias stole her grandfather's handgun to kill Mr. Travis Alexander, which, in the eyes of the government, proves the crime was premeditated and therefore murder one. There is only one problem with that proposition, Mr. Alexander did not die from a gun shot, but from multiple stab wounds. He was shot after he was already dead or nearly dead. So how does the fact Ms. Arias stole a gun to kill Mr. Alexander, assuming that point is sufficiently proven to the jury, prove premeditation?

It doesn't. Imagine the following scenario: the government alleges Ms. Arias stole a pillow from her grandfather with the intention of smothering Mr. Alexander in his sleep. A pillow, as defined by ARS 13-105, is a deadly weapon under that particular scenario. Also imagine the evidence proves Mr. Alexander was only smothered after he was already dead. Would anyone, under those set of facts, believe beyond a reasonable doubt stealing the pillow and smothering Mr. Alexander after his death proved Ms. Arias intended to kill Mr. Alexander with premeditation? Of course not, but the broader point is that this "pillow" scenario is legally absolutely the same as the "she stole the gun to kill him" theory as the government has presented.

How to Get Permission to not have to Register as a Sex Offender

Under some circumstances, someone who is convicted of a sexual offense could have the requirement to register as a sex offender. That means once they are on probation, usually after being released from jail or from the Arizona department of corrections, they must tell the local police station that they are living in the neighborhood within 10 days of moving in. The police will then notify all local residents, through the mail, that a registered sex offender is in the vicinity.

The theory behind having sex offenders register is that parents and citizens will be careful if they know someone convicted of a sex crime is nearby. For many people convicted of a sex crime felony, probation can last for the "lifetime" of the defendant, which would include the lifetime requirement of registering as a sex offender. But is there a way to get rid of that requirement to have to register as a sex offender. The answer is yes.

If someone was convicted under the 18 or as Arizona's guilty except insane, then the person can petition the court to eliminate the requirement to register as a sex offender. The statute is found under ARS 13-3821(G):

The court may order the termination of any duty to register under this section on successful completion of probation if the person was under eighteen years of age when the offense for which the person was convicted or adjudicated guilty except insane was committed.

The important point here is that the person must have completed probation for the court to release him from the duty to register as a sex offender. Also, while at first blush this statute may seem generous, it is actually very limited. In comparison with most people who are convicted of sex crimes, a very small percentage of them are under 18 or adjudicated guilty except insane. Guilty except insane is what Arizona has in place of the traditional common law "not guilty for reason of mental defect".

Louis Taylor freed after 42 years in prison

Recently, a man who spent 42 years in prison was finally released from custody. The man was convicted at the age of 16 of starting a fire that killed over 20 people. New evidence, however, convinced the government that it might not be such a bad idea to let him go. See "After 42 Years in Jail, Conviction Overturned in Case of Deadly Fire":

Louis Taylor was a teenager when he was convicted of murder for supposedly starting a fire that killed 29 people. Now 58, Taylor has been released from an Arizona prison after new information cast doubt on the evidence he committed arson.

The problem with so many people who are in custody that it is very difficult to get them out even if new evidence is discovered. Arizona has a procedure called a petition for post conviction relief, more commonly known as Rule 32. This procedure is most commonly used when a defendant claims his lawyer was ineffective. That's why is known as a petition for ineffective assistance of counsel. It is usually only available if the defendant went to a trial and lost. While it can be used if the defendant pled guilty, it is rare for it to be successful. The main problem with the rule 32 petition is that it goes to the same trial judge who heard the defendant's trial. As one may imagine any trial judge is unlikely to overturn a conviction that happened in his or her court.

The defendant has what is called a petition as a matter of right for the first rule 32 and that's is filed. That means the court must consider the petition. If the defendant files in a later rule 32 petitions, the court does not have to actually consider the petition.

If somebody has exhausted all state court remedies, which means appeal and a rule 32 petition, then they could go to federal court even though the conviction is in state court. If somebody is still in custody they can do what is called a petition of habeas corpus. If they are out of custody but still facing civil sanction, they can do another procedure called a petition for writ of error coram nobis.

The problem with any petition in federal court is that a federal judge is unlikely to overturn a state court conviction. And the simple fact of the matter is when somebody has been convicted of a crime they are more than likely to stay convicted of a crime whether or not they were truly guilty.

Avondale Detective Adam Lewis Fired for Misconduct

An Avondale police detective, Adam Lewis, was recently fired by the Avondale Police Department, and the firing was upheld by AZ POST, the state agency that certifies police officers. According to Lindsey Reiser of KPHO channel 5 "see AZPOST: Former Avondale detective used coercion to search homes":

[AZ POST claims] in a four-month period, between July and November 2010, Adam Lewis violated policies in 10 criminal cases. They say he used coercion and asked suspects questions before he read them their Miranda rights. In one case they say Lewis threatened to take someone to jail for outstanding warrants unless they let him search a business and even promised to have a current charged dismissed. 

On camera I said: 

"When people interact with officers, they ought to know what their rights are or what their rights aren't," said defense attorney Vladimir Gagic, who is not associated with this case. He said it's important that officers follow the rules to maintain the integrity of our system.
 
"I think good police realize that doing things by the book is easier and more convenient than playing off the cuff," Gagic said.

Logan McQueary, Baby Gabriel's dad, to testify against Elizabeth Johnson

September 27, 2012


Logan McQuery, the father of missing and presumed dead Baby Gabriel, is set to testify against the mother Elizabeth Johnson. Why will he say and why does the state need him? See my interview with ABC 15 to find out what I think.

Why Can't Shooting Victims Sue Gun Makers?

I will be hosting a radio show on this topic Wednesday Dec 19 at Noon Arizona time. You can see it here "Newtown School Shooting: What can be done?".

It's a simple enough question right? If gun makers are making a killing, literally, by selling guns and ammunition to the public at large, and that profit is to the detriment of society at large, why can't those victims sue gun makers?

The line of reasoning is similar to what happens when a big, bad company makes a ton of money by polluting the environment and expects everyone else to clean up the mess. In the parlance of law and economics, it is called an externality and the "tragedy of the commons".

The reason consumers can't sue a gun maker for the injury and cost it causes to victims is because back in 2005, democrats and republicans, under NRA pressure, passed the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act or 15 U.S.C. §§ 7901-7903. That law specifically bans all lawsuits in state and federal court.

Interestingly enough, Mexico wants to sue American gun makers and distributors because most of the guns used in the narco-trafficking war in Mexico come from the United States. I have always thought it ironic that the United States put so much time, money, and energy in civilizing Iraq, when Mexico, a nation that is orders of magnitude more important to the United States, is falling into anarchy. And, I think, one of the simple ways we could help Mexico is by letting them get justice for the damage that American gun makers and distributors have caused their nation (see "Mexico wants to sue U.S. gun makers").

President Felipe Calderon expressed his frustration to CBS News correspondent Peter Greenberg: "We seized more than 90,000 weapons...I am talking like 50,000 assault weapons, AR-15 machine guns, more than 8,000 grenades and almost 10 million bullets. Amazing figures and according to all those cases, the ones we are able to track, most of these are American weapons."
According to sources, investigators will obtain makes and serial numbers of guns seized by Mexican authorities and trace them to their U.S. distributors and manufacturers.

I think a reference is appropriate to the Ford Motor Company and their reaction to when they figured out it would be cheaper to pay for wrongful death lawsuits than to redesign and fix their deadly Pinto fuel tanks (see "Pinto Madness A Mother Jones Classic: For seven years the Ford Motor Company sold cars in which it knew hundreds of people would needlessly burn to death"). In other words, it was cheaper to kill and pay rather than to save lives. But at least Ford considered the possibility of lawsuits in changing their car design. As it stands now, gun makers have no such incentive. 

Ronald Chante should still be alive and kicking

It is said about America that, unlike other civilized and Western nations, that we put too many people in prison and jail who should be in a mental institution. Whether that is true across the board remains to be proven one way or the other, but in Arizona last Sunday, there was a clear example of that fact.

Police said Ronald Chante stole a Phoenix police utility truck and crashed into police officers during the chase. Records show he was in trouble with the law dating back 15 years. People who knew him said he had a drug problem, but he was obviously mentally ill and needed help...

"You get a person who is out there on their own who doesn't know they need help and they fall through the cracks and this is a perfect example," said Defense Attorney Vladimir Gagic. 

("AZ man shot by police 'misunderstood'?" by ABC 15 Brian Webb and Navideh Forghani)

The reason I mention this case is that because there is no reason Ronald Chante should be dead. Instead of lying dead on a cold morgue floor, he should be alive and kicking in a mental ward, or at least still in custody. I sincerely believe if Mr. Chante had been taken into custody in any other developed nation, for example, Japan, Canada, Italy, etc... he would still be alive today. 

In fact, even if it had been a less developed nation, he would still be alive. Sadly, at least in Maricopa County, one does not get mental health treatment unless one asks for it directly or a family or friend asks for it. So when someone like Mr. Chante goes to jail and no one bothers to notice the obvious, he ends up dying and putting the lives of ordinary citizens at risk at the same time. 

I know some people seem to think that because he wanted to commit "suicide by cop" that absolves the county jail and Maricopa County Sheriff of all moral responsibility. It does not. The fact he wanted to commit suicide, regardless of the particular method, is the sign of his mental illness. And if have a county jail system that cannot cope with the obvious problems that Mr. Chante displayed, then what is the point of even having what we now call county government? If our society can't stop the obvious and clear danger that Mr. Chante was to himself and others, what is the point of having a society at all? 

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.

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.