A Comprehensive Overview: Arizona Marijuana laws, Mandatory Minimum Drug Sentencing, and Impacts on Society.
Drug Conviction Results in Sentencing Typically Reserved for Murder
John was accused of a first-time, non-violent drug offense. He had no prior criminal record, no evidence of drug abuse, and no prior drug convictions.
The Defendant was convicted and sentenced to the longest known prison term in US history for a drug conviction. A Florida judge ordered John to serve two life terms, plus twenty years, with no chance of parole.
Some reports indicate no Marijuana or other illegal drugs were found or produced in the drug investigation, and that the only evidence used to convict John was testimony by two informants.
Now 67 years of age, John was sentenced to life without parole 17 years ago, for conspiracy to import and distribute marijuana. The arrest took place following a reverse sting operation, in Florida.
John’s family describes him as being a passive model prisoner, subject to the “harshest of conditions and treatment”. John and his family declare his innocence; and say that he was simply at the wrong place, at the wrong time, with people he didn’t know.
Sending a man to die while serving two life sentences in prison, for a crime he did not commit is without a doubt a violation of basic fundamental human rights, and the truest of injustices in and of itself.
If for one moment we try to set aside the issue of innocence over guilt, and look at this punishment, I think most would agree that it is polarizing. If in fact a crime took place, and the defendant played a role in it, does such an egregious punishment fit the crime? In this case, the judge ordered a sentence that is more commonly reserved for one guilty of homicide.
Many people, including Judges, are struggling to make sense of the harsh punishments called for under Mandatory Minimum for drug crime convictions.
Under Mandatory Minimum drug laws, a judge does not have the same discretion needed to reduce a sentence so that it is fitting and just for the crime of which the defendant is convicted. They are held to order minimum long term prison sentencing for drug crimes under those laws, regardless of the circumstances.
This brings our discussion to its core, Mandatory Minimum Sentencing for drug crimes. Currently, Marijuana is the most common drug offense committed in the US. That is, for now anyway. So our discussion will evolve around Marijuana offenses, arrests statistics, sentencing,defenses, economics, trends, and the impacts of Mandatory Minimum sentencing laws in Arizona and the USA.
The Mandatory Minimums Debate: “Justice v. Cruel and Unusual Punishment”
According to recent statistics reported by Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), the Federal prison population has increased from 28,000 to 218,000, nearly 8 times its size over the last 40 years. Many, including FAMM attribute the skyrocketing prison growth and overpopulation to mandatory minimum sentencing for drug convictions.
Mandatory Minimum (MM) sentencing laws are those that give judges far less discretion in sentencing and require long term minimum prison sentencing for certain drug offenses. They apply even to first-time, non-violent, low-level drug crimes.
These MM long-term and life sentencing guidelines have become the center of much debate in our Country, and prime targets of public scrutiny, and demand by the public. In addition to the exorbitant costs to tax payers, prison overcrowding, another primary element of the debate is the constitutionality of Mandatory Minimum drug sentences. Opponents argue that they are in violation of the Eighth Amendment rights afforded by the Constitution against cruel and unusual punishment.
Mandatory minimum sentencing laws were around long before increased MM laws were passed in the late 1980s by Congress and State Legislatures. They were intended to keep sentencing more consistent for certain crimes. However, the “War on Drugs” escalated in the 1980s during the Reagan Administration. As a response to public outcry over the safety of society in light of drug crimes that plagued the country, more severe MM sentencing was established. It was felt that by creating laws demanding more harsh punishments would reduce the incidents of drug offenses.
Since then, the cost of incarceration has spiked over 12 times what it was before the 1980s “War on Drugs” battle. Before the egregious sentencing mandatory minimums, the USA was spending about $540 million on Federal Prisons as compared to $6.8 billion dollars reported in 2013. Meanwhile tax payers are spending approximately $50 billion dollars a years to support State Prisons.
According to the Federal Register The Daily Journal of the United States Government, the average cost to house and guard an inmate in prison, in 2013 was approached nearly $30,000.00.
For the past the 4 decades the incarceration of non-violent, non-dangerous drug crimes has cost taxpayers trillions of dollars, without any significant evidence that it has reduced incidents of illegal drug offenses, or made streets in the USA safer.
Nearly 50 percent of all Federal prison inmates are serving time for drugs offenses; and one im five inmates are serving sentences for drug crimes in State prisons.
To address these issues, a bipartisan bill SB 1410 was passed by the Federal Senate Judiciary Committee January 30, 2014 known as the “Smarter Sentencing Act of 2014”. It serves to reduce prison sentences for non-dangerous drug offense convictions, which would lead to a reduction of spending of about $4 billion dollar over the next 9 years. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that it would lead to a reduction of sentencing and early release of over 250,000 prisoners over that time span in comparison to current laws.
The US Sentencing Commission recently announced that it will continue its work with Congress toward reforms of mandatory minimum drug sentencing for non-dangerous non-violent drug crimes will be a priority over the next year. Earlier in 2014 the Commission unanimously voted to reduce some of the harsh guidelines in mandatory drug sentencing, as starting point in their efforts. The Commission recognizes that addressing these mandatory minimums is critical to reducing the prison overpopulation crisis, and sharply rising costs of incarceration and resources to meet the overpopulation demands.
Marijuana Arrests in the US: FBI and Federal Bureau of Prison Statistics
According to recent statistics by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), it was estimated that every 42 seconds a Marijuana arrest was made in the United States.
According to the FBI Uniform Crime Reports in 2012 there were over 1.5 million drug crime arrests in the USA. The total drug violations reported was 1,552,432. Of those Marijuana charges constituted nearly 750,000, nearly half of all drug arrests in the country. Of those, a staggering 88 percent, 658,231 were for possession and use, making it the most common drug crime in the country.
In January 2014 The Federal Bureau of Prisons reported that a total of nearly 99,000 inmates were currently incarcerated in Federal Prisons. This means that 49 percent of the all inmates serving in prison are there for drug offense convictions. Most of those are for Marijuana related crimes.
Where Can You Purchase Recreational Marijuana in Arizona?
There is no place in Arizona where a person can lawfully purchase Arizona outside of the AMMA Guidelines. Recreational Marijuana is currently prohibited in Arizona.
In Arizona, All Marijuana violations are classified as felonies. A person is in violation of Marijuana laws if they knowingly possesses or uses Marijuana outside of the scope of AMMA for under A.R.S 13-3405 (B):
- Personal use and possession of 2 pounds or less of Marijuana, will face Class 6 felony charges.
- Possession of at least two pounds of Marijuana will expose a person to Class 5 felony charges.
- Possession of Marijuana equals four pounds or more of Marijuana they may be guilty of a Class 4 felony.
Penalties for convictions expose a person to prison terms. Statutory Threshold Amount for Marijuana possession is 2 pounds. Convictions involving amounts that exceed 2 pounds, or are repeat offense, call for more harsh punishments. With few exceptions, if a person is convicted of possessing more that amount, with few exceptions, a person will not be eligible for suspended sentencing, probation, pardon, or release from incarceration until they have served imposed court ordered sentencing.
In some cases, first time offenders may be eligible for a drug diversion program that will allow them to avoid jail in return for successful completion of a substance abuse program, known as TASC.
Marijuana Arrest Statistics in Arizona
According to the Arizona Department of Public Safety (AZDPS) crime statistics for 2012, there were a total of 28,935 arrests for drug crime violations. Of those, 15,001 or 52% of all drug crimes arrests were for possession or use, making it the most common drug offense in Arizona.
Arizona Marijuana Laws
Under Arizona Law A.R.S. § 13-3405 Possession, personal use, sales, transportation, distribution and production is prohibited. The law requires that the suspect must “knowingly” or “intentionally” be in possession, or be committing one of the other prohibited acts related to Marijuana.
A person may be guilty of violating this law, when the offense is outside of the requirements, provisions, exceptions and limitations afforded with the AMMA guidelines.
It is not a valid defense to claim that the person charged was aware of the Arizona laws. However, in order to prosecute the charges, the prosecution must be able to prove without a reasonable doubt, that the person knowingly used, or possessed the Marijuana.
Arizona Drug Sentencing Factors in Convictions
Sentencing and penalties for marijuana possession convictions vary depending on at least five factors which include:
- First time or repeat drug offense;
- Amount or quantity found in the suspects possession;
- Quantity is below, equal or exceeds the statutory Threshold Amount;
- Prior criminal history;
- Age of persons involved in the offense;
- Other crimes surrounding the Marijuana possession charges;
- Mitigating or aggravated factors;
- Whether or not the possession crime was dangerous, violent, or involved weapon crimes.
Possession of Marijuana or paraphernalia charges, or usually classified as Misdemeanors. However, the quantity of the drug found in a person’s possession is what drives the charges.
By this, it means that the higher the quantity allegedly found in a person’s possession, the more severe the charges and penalties for conviction.
If the quantity the Marijuana possessed exceeds the Statutory Threshold Amount of 2 pounds the possessor will be exposed to prison terms. The Threshold Amount is the street or market value of an illegal substance.
Mandatory prison sentencing guidelines apply for possession of quantities in excess of 2 pounds, even for a first time offense. Exorbitant fines of up to $in amounts $100,000.00 per defendant and up to $1 million for enterprises may be ordered in addition to other penalties.
Possession in any illegal drug, in higher quantities is perceived by law enforcement and prosecution as an indicator that the possessor of the drug was selling it or intending to sell it, distributing it, or transporting it for sale.
Eligibility Guidelines for Participation in a Drug Diversion Programs
In the case of first-time non-serious drug convictions, a defendant may be eligible for the TASC program. TASC stands for Treatment Assessment Screening Center. Successful completion of the charges may reduce it from a felony down to a misdemeanor and may serve to reduce or eliminates incarceration.
Participation in TASC is not an automatic entitlement program. The person must be considered eligible, and acceptance into the program must be agreed upon by the Defendant, Judge, Prosecution, and TASC itself. Though guidelines may vary, here are some general eligibility rules:
- The defendant must plead guilty;
- The Defendant must have displayed signs of drug addiction or abuse which resulted in criminal charges;
- The violation was a first time offense;
- The crime was non-serious, non-dangerous, non-violent;
- The defendant has not been convicted of any prior violent or sexual offenses;
- Criminal charges were limited to use and possession of a small amount of an illegal drug.
The eligibility guidelines, requirements, and limitations may vary between drug courts in which the jurisdiction where the Superior Court is located, and where the TASC programs are operated.
There is no such thing as a successful “cookie cutter” defense. An effective criminal defense attorney will conduct their own investigation, tailor and build a defense strategy that is unique to the facts and circumstances of that case. This is the only way to gain the best results.
10 Criminal Defenses for Marijuana Possession/Use Charges
An effective Criminal Defense Attorney will tailor and build a defense strategy based on the unique circumstances of each defendant’s case. Below are 10 common defense strategies that might be used to challenge drug charges and evidence:
- Unlawful search and seizure;
- No probable cause of arrest;
- Wrong person was arrested;
- Miranda Rights were not read;
- No knowledge that the Marijuana was in your possession;
- No knowledge that the Marijuana was consumed;
- Challenging quantity in possession, especially the Threshold Amount;
- Entrapment by police;
- Actions were within the AMMA laws guidelines
- Procedural rights, trial rights, or other Constitutional Rights violations
It is important to keep in mind that if you wish to challenge your drug charges it is important to plead “not-guilty” and invoke your right to be represented by an effective criminal defense lawyer. This will increase your chances of getting a favorable resolution to your matter.
Some financial experts project that governments that legalized Marijuana would reap revenues that exceed $3 billion dollars annually; and up to 10 billion dollars annually by 2018. Those are projections are compelling, and apparently difficult for states and government to ignore, when debating about the legalization of Marijuana.
Each year we are seeing more states are passing laws to legalize Marijuana narrowly, or broadly. Legalization in any form creates opportunities for financial gain from cultivation, dispensary retailers, jobs, and retail profits, state and federal taxation revenues, and opportunities for start-ups.
Photo Credit: Donald Petersen, Law Office of Donald Petersen
For example on September 17, 2014 The New York Times recently wrote of a Company, Mjardin Management, whose operations involve helping licensed cultivators set up nurseries, grow plants and run their businesses. Spokespersons for Mjardin reported that the company is currently reorganizing in with the long term goal of listing on the stock market with a traditional public offering.
Recently in Arizona it was reported that at least one state lawmaker proposed legalizing recreational Marijuana, to raise tax revenue due to a massive budget shortfall which is projected to be $667 million dollars in 2015, and $1 billion dollars for 2016.
Whether you are a proponent or opponent of legalization, there is no denying that it is big business. Profits are expected to grow, businesses prosper, and states tax revenues rise sharply over the next 3 to 5 years, as a result of legalization.
Drug Defense Attorney for Marijuana Charges
Any Marijuana charge is potentially serious because all felonies call for prison sentencing. No matter how serious the crime by law you are entitled to retain an effective criminal defense attorney to defend you charges, and protect your rights.
Even if you are interested in applying for TASC it is important that you retain qualified legal representation. It is never a good idea to go to court without proper legal representation, especially if you face drug charges, or other serious criminal charges.
You should always consult an experienced attorney if you face drug possession charges, to discuss your options for defense. If retained, your lawyer will protect your rights and defend your charges. Their goal will be to provide you with qualified representation and secure the best possible resolution to your matter.
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“Patient-to-patient sales and transfers were never intended under the law. Why it’s no longer being prosecuted”.
On-Line Marijuana Purchase Turns Deadly
Recently in Arizona, an incident involving an online Medical Marijuana sale went tragically wrong, and resulted in a shooting death. A 19 year old man answered a Craigslist advertisement from a seller, age 54. The parties arranged for a meeting to conduct the transaction.
After the seller requested to see the buyer’s Medical Marijuana Card, the 19 year old pulled out a gun and pointed it at the seller. He had apparently intended to rob the seller of the Marijuana.
But the seller had a gun of his own, and quickly retrieved it. The seller then fired several shots, one which hit the suspect. The suspect fled away, while returning fire, hitting the seller’s vehicle. The 19 year old suspect died that evening at a local hospital.
Though the investigation is pending, police were reported as saying that based on what the seller had told them, the seller’s actions were justified from a self-defense standpoint. No charges have been brought against the seller at this point.
This case was very tragic, and illustrates the importance of exercising caution in both buying and selling of Medical Marijuana among qualified users.
Where Can You Safely Purchase Medical Marijuana in Arizona?
The laws are strict with regard to where the Marijuana may be purchased. Under the AMMA, a qualified users may only purchase Marijuana from the following sources:
- A licensed and state approved dispensary;
- A patient’s designated caregiver;
- Another qualifying Medical Marijuana Patient;
- Home cultivation when authorized.
In the case above seller that placed the advertisement on Craigslist to sell it, was a qualified user, and qualified patient-to-patient sales is not a prohibited practice in Arizona.
However, selling “patient to patient” was not initially included in the 2010 AMMA law. According to the Director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, William Hubble, selling in this manner was never intended to be a lawful provision in the program.
The practice became acceptable following a July 2, 2014 Arizona Court decision on a criminal case State of Arizona v. Jeremy Allen Matlock.
In the case Jeremy Matlock had placed an ad on Craig’s List which offered to give Medical Marijuana in return for a donation of $25.00 per plant.
Matlock’s criminal defense attorney argued that the provision allowed for a qualified user to transfer or sell Medical Marijuana to another qualified user without the threat of arrest or prosecution. The prosecution argued to the contrary. The decision was left up to the judge who concluded that the 59 word provision that contained no commas, under A.R.S. 2811 was ambiguous, and could be interpreted in more than one way.
Under Arizona judicial laws, if language may be interpreted with a dual meaning, or in more than one way, the court must give leniency to the defendant.
On July 2, 2014 the presiding judge in the case, Honorable Judge Richard Fields, decided that the language that applied to the practice of patient-to-patient sales was so confusing that the suspect could not possibly know he was violating the law. Fields concluded that the language was drafted poorly and needed much work.
Since then, the practice has been accepted for qualified users to sell to other qualified users, as long as the sale meets all other requirements, not in violation of any other AMMA provisions or limitations.
Qualified users see this practice as convenient. While qualified users who sell it, see it as way to profit, and opportunity for Entrepreneurship
Opponents of the practice feel that it leads to safety and law enforcement problems, and abuses; and that it should be appealed. At this point, it is not known if the case will be appealed, or the language of the law rewritten to prohibit patient-to-patient sales and transfers.
A safe practice does not always prove to be lawful. And just because its lawful, does not necessarily make it safe.
AMMA Laws: Past, Present and Future
It’s been four years since Arizona legalized Medical Marijuana since the voters of Arizona passed the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA) by a majority in 2010. But licensed dispensaries have only been opened for operation and dispensing for about 18 months. After lengthy court battles related to zoning, and criminal prosecution concerns, the program is finally operational and functioning well.
To reflect on where we’ve been and where we are now, you would never know that implementing it was not easy. It faced legal battle after legal battle in civil courts, and many qualified users, dispensaries, and those with medical or economic interests, pressed on, under the threat of Federal prosecution.
Though Medical Marijuana is legal, those who qualify to use, distribute and sell, are well aware of the narrow limitations that apply under the laws governed by legislation, and created by the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS). The ADHS spent significant economic resources to create these guidelines and help regulatory make sure growers, buyers, sellers and distributors are in compliance.
Among the many reasons the laws exist to make sure that Marijuana is sold safely and only to those who qualify, are sold by licensed sellers and distributors who lawfully sell it, and to make sure it does not wrongly fall into the hands of children.
As of June 30, 2014 there were 52,638 qualified users in the state, 1,231 dispensary agencies, and 502 caregivers. There were 38,923 new applications pending at that time.
As of June 30, 2014 there were 94 qualified minors in the program. Use by minors is subject to stringent eligibility and parental supervision guidelines.
Since the passing of the AMMA, the ADHS added Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to the list of qualifying conditions. It will be added with an effective date of January 1, 2015, to allow time for certification of agents, dispensaries, and physicians to develop policies for administration under the guidelines.
The program has been deemed a success thus far, but it continues to evolve. State regulations, case law, police enforcement guidelines, federal and state legislation, governing entities, medicine, taxing, and other economic influences subject to change, and evolution. In four more years, the program may look quite different than it does today.
Protections Not Afforded under Arizona Medical Marijuana Laws
Under the AMMA a qualified user is allowed to purchase and possess 2.5 ounces of Marijuana for treatment and symptoms related to a qualified condition.
If a qualified patient lives more than 25 miles from the nearest dispensary, they are allowed to cultivate not more than 9 plants within an “enclosed locked area”.
There are some state prohibitions however, even with Medical Marijuana. The AMMA does not authorize users to engage in any of the following activities:
- It does not allow a person to drive, or operating any vehicle, aircraft, or boat while impaired to the slightest degree as a result of being under the influence of Marijuana solely or in combination with other drugs or alcohol;
- It does not authorize a person to undertake any task while under the influence, that may result in negligence or professional malpractice;
- A qualified user is not authorized to possess or use on a school bus, or any pre-school through high school grades;
- It does not authorize use of Marijuana in a public place or on public transit;
- It does not require federal assistance programs or health insurers to pay any costs associated with Medial Marijuana use;
- It does not require an owner of private property, or an employer of a work place to allow the use of Marijuana on their property or at work.
- It does not prevent medical facilities, nursing care, hospitals, or other health care facilities from adopting their own necessary and reasonable restrictions on the AMMA guidelines related to storage and use of qualified patients for their safety and the safety of other residents.
- No person under the age of 18 may use Medical Marijuana unless they are examined by a doctor; the parent or guardian of the patient applies on their behalf, and a parent or guardian serves as a designated caregiver.
Out of State Card Holders
Under A.R.S. 36-2804 a qualified user registered in another state to use Medical Marijuana, may possess and use it. However, the qualifying patient registered outside of Arizona is prohibited from purchasing the Marijuana from a dispensary. This is because the dispensaries are prohibited from selling it to unregistered users, not verified by the State’s system.
A “Visiting Qualified Patient” is recognized by law as being one who is not a resident of Arizona; or has been a resident less than 30 days; a person who has been diagnosed with a debilitating medical condition by a medical professional who is licensed authorized to prescribe the drug in their state of residence; or the former State of registry within 30 days of the relocation.
A person may apply and qualify to hold a card in more than one state, as long as they meet all eligibility requirements of the states in which they wish to register.
States that have legalized medicinal Marijuana recognize reciprocity to some extent, in that they recognize qualified cardholders in other states for purposes of use and possession.
However, states may vary with regard to how much may be in their possession, whether or not it can be purchased, and other various provisions.
So if a user is a registered, qualified card holder in Arizona, and plans to visit another state, it is important that they become familiar with the guidelines and laws pertaining to out of state users and possessors. Users visiting or relocating to a different state are bound by the laws, and prohibitions while in that state.
States v. Federal Laws in Legalizing Marijuana
Despite the fact that 23 states have legalized Medical Marijuana and two states have legalized recreational Marijuana, the Federal Government still prohibits Marijuana in all forms, and for all uses.
Not only is it prohibited under Title 1 of the United States Code (USC) 21 Controlled Substances Act, but it is classified as a “Schedule I Drug”. The Federal Drug Law categories drugs into 5 classifications with Schedule I drugs considered to be the most dangerous and addicting.
Much controversy, inconsistencies in prosecution, and litigation has surrounded the conflict of Federal Prohibition and State Legalization of Marijuana.
Historically, the Government has been granted supremacy in the event that there is a conflict with state and federal laws. However, the Government made a the decision not to enforce criminalization, or to intervene into State legalization laws as they pertain to Medical or Recreational Marijuana, as long as the State’s Marijuana Laws are not violated.
The Federal Government enforces violations of the AMMA act, and similar laws in other states. They reserve prosecution for those violations, as well as serious, violent, or dangerous drug crimes, as well as those involving high level dealers v. street dealers; serious offenses; drug crimes that involve smuggling across borders, drug trafficking, and large quantities.
Criminal Defense for Marijuana Crimes
It is important to be aware that violations of the AMMA guidelines are harsh, and expose a person to both civil fines and penalties, and criminal prosecution, in violation of A.R.S. 13 – 3405.
All Marijuana drug crimes are charged as felonies, which expose a person prison sentencing in Arizona. If you or someone you know has been charged with any drug crime, you should consult an experienced criminal defense attorney before going to court for or pleading guilty. James Novak, DUI and Criminal Defense Attorney, provides a strong defense in drug cases. He is a former prosecutor, and exclusive criminal defense attorney serving Phoenix, Mesa, Tempe, Gilbert, Scottsdale, and Chandler Arizona.
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Heroin: Fighting the Epidemic and Clearing its Path of Destruction – Part 2 of 2
After a fatal drug overdose, moments count. Call #911 first. Get emergency treatment. If you are arrested, or Criminal Charges are brought, they can be defended by an experienced drug defense attorney. But you only get once chance to save a life.
Twenty-year-old Stephen Cardiges of Lawrenceville, GA was a week from celebrating his 21st birthday. He was an Eagle Scout, excited about his plans to join the US Navy after turning 21. Stephan slipped into unconsciousness in the back of a Honda Civic, from a Heroin overdose, while his friends drove around town. His companions knew he was unconscious but didn’t want to call #911 or seeking help for him. Why? The reason was, they feared arrested for possession and use of Heroin. Perhaps they thought he would wake up on his own. Nonetheless, after a while, Stephen’s friends allegedly left Stephen there unconscious, in the back of the parked vehicle while they went their separate ways.
An observant officer noticed the youth in the Honda Civic parked in a driveway, with no one else in it, but Stephan. The observant officer approached the vehicle concerned that the youth was having a medical emergency. The officer immediately noticed the Heroin paraphernalia next to Stephen. The officer called for Emergency Paramedics and in the meantime tried to revive him. But it was too late. Stephan had already slipped into a coma. He was pronounced dead at the East Side Medical Center, which was a mere 2 miles away.
Would Stephen be alive today if someone had called #911 or taken him to the Emergency room for medical attention? With the proper medical care, I strongly suspect Stephan would have survived.
The Upward Trend in Heroin Use in the USA
The National Institute for Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports alarming statistics and trends in heroin.
Over 4.2 million people in the USA, in those among the ages of 12 or older, admitted to using heroin at least once. Of those, it is estimated that nearly 25% of those became addicted to it. In 2012, drug overdoses was the number 1 cause of deaths, exceeding motor vehicle accidents in 17 states in the USA.
In the last 7 years, use has been driven sharply upward, especially in young adults, ages 18 through 25. In 2012, a research study by nearly 670,000 Americans reported using it. Of those, ages 12 and over have doubled during that time. It’s been identified throughout the USA as being the most important drug issue plaguing out country, thus being called an epidemic by the NIDA Community Epidemiology Work Group (CEWG). he US Government, other national, and local agencies, including law enforcement agencies, the medical community, and parents seek desperately, for solutions toward prevention, intervention, and treatment.
More Police to Carry “Miracle Drug” for Emergency Fatal Overdose Treatment
Many drug overdose deaths, including heroin overdose fatalities are preventable. They may have been prevented, if victims, friends or family were not afraid of arrest or prosecution.
In our part 1 of 2 segment on this topic, we discussed the fact that the FDA recently approved a life- saving injection “Evizo”, that can be administered by trained first responders such as police officers, family, or other health care professionals. The injection contains the drug “Narcan” (Brand name) or Naloxone (Generic), which has proven effective in reversing a fatal overdose of heroin or other opioid in a patient. It is known to actually revive patients who would otherwise have not survived. This treatment is only temporary and immediate for use to revive the patient until specialized medical treatment can be administered. Also, it has not been effective in reversing other potentially fatal overdoes such as those on cocaine or other methamphetamines, for which other life-saving drugs exist. Nonetheless, it is being called a miracle drug for opioid overdoses. The key to its effectiveness is immediate use, as soon as possible following the over dose.
#911 Good Samarian Laws: Immunity for Seeking Overdose Help
A minority of states have what are known as #911 Good Samaritan Laws. If these are in place, and if people in those states were aware of them, they may be more inclined to seek emergency medical assistance for an overdose.
These Good Samaritan laws are intended to provide a certain amount of immunity from arrest and prosecution for themselves, when they seek emergency medical treatment for overdoses or call #911. But currently, just a handful of states have them. They exist in only 18 states including Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. This leaves 65% of the country without #911 criminal immunity laws for witnesses, or overdose victim to call for help.
Drug Good Samaritan #911 Laws vary by state, with regard to provisions and immunities to arrest or criminal charges. But most states extend immunity laws narrowly to drug possession and use crimes, and do not suppress evidence for other more serious charges such as sales, manufacturing, and distribution crimes.
Arizona does not Good Samaritan Laws such as this in place. This presents a great concern, in light of the fact that it is recognized as a 6th highest state in the country for heroin overdose fatalities according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse..
People often to call #911 or seek medical treatment for fear of arrest or prosecution since the use or possession was in violation of Arizona State Drug Laws. And currently there is no protection for those seeking emergency help for themselves or others in absence of these Good Samaritan Overdose laws. This decision, not to seek help, has unfortunately led to preventable fatalities.
It is recognized my many, that the state needs to adopt more of the 10 strategies for states with similarly high drug overdose fatality rates recommended b Trust for America’s Health. Thus far, only 4 of the 10 known strategies were adopted, and did not include immunity laws from arrest or prosecution by a person, or others seeking emergency medical treatment for overdoses.
Heroin Crimes, Laws, Classifications, Penalties
Heroin is an Opiate and is classified as a Narcotic. It is also considered “Controlled Substances” under Arizona Laws and classified as a Schedule I drug. Offenses are prosecuted pursuant to Arizona’s Narcotic Drug Laws.
With regard to Narcotic violations, a person may be found guilty under A.R.S. 13-3408 of Arizona drug law, if they “knowingly”:
- Possess or use a narcotic drug; (Class 4 Felony)
- Possess equipment or chemicals for manufacturing narcotic drugs (Class 3 Felony)
- Obtain a narcotic drug through use of a fraudulent prescription, deceit, or misrepresentation (Class 3 Felony)
- Possess narcotics with intent to sell; (Class 2 Felony)
- Manufacture narcotics (Class 2 Felony)
- Administer a narcotic drug to another person (Class 2 Felony)
- Transport for sale, import into this state, offer to transport for sale or import into this state, sell, transfer or offer to sell or transfer a narcotic drug (Class 2 felony)
Narcotics violations in Arizona carry some of the toughest penalties of all illegal drug crimes. Narcotics charges are all classified as felonies. This exposes a person to prison sentencing, and steep fines, along with other harsh punishments in Arizona. Fines for felonies in Arizona can reach up to $150,000.00 per person, per charge; or $1,000,000.00 million per charge, per enterprise.
Arizona’s Statutory “Threshold Amount” under A.R.S. 13 – 3401.36 is one gram. The Threshold Amount refers to the market value, weight or measurement of a particular drug or substance as it relates to criminal drug laws.
Sentencing for convictions involving an amount of controlled substances that are under the statutory “Threshold Amount” may range from 3 years mitigated sentencing to 12.5 for aggravated sentencing for Class 2 felony charges.
Arizona punishments are harsh for repeat offenses, especially if they involve amounts that equal or exceed the “Threshold Amounts” for the given drugs. Sentencing is increased for these convictions can range from 10 to 12 years for maximum non-aggravated offenses; and 12.5 to 15 years for aggravated Class 2 felonies.
If a person is convicted of amounts that equal or exceed the Threshold Amount, more stringent penalties apply. They will not be eligible for sentence suspension, probation, pardon or release from prison until they have served the prison term ordered by the court. The exception to this earned credits, restoration or commutation pursuant to A.R.S.41-1604.07.
Probation is required for those convicted of use or possession of a controlled substance or drug paraphernalia. Participation in a substance abuse education or treatment program is also a required condition of probation for simple possession/use charges. Second offense possession or use penalties may require incarceration as a term of probation.
Drug Treatment Program Alternatives to Reduce or Avoid Incarceration in Arizona
Your criminal defense attorney will work with you, and the court system to determine if you qualify to participate in an educational drug counseling or treatment program in turn for a waiver of incarceration or mitigation of time for which a person is sentenced to incarceration. Certain criteria must be met to qualify, and a defendant must be invited to participate in the program by the prosecution and the courts. They are designed to provide the defendant with the medical counseling or treatment needed, and incentives to help reduce the person’s dependency on illicit drugs, so that they can avoid repeat offenses, and become healthy and constructive in society.
Successful Completion of the program can also lead to a reduction in charges for example, reducing a felony to a misdemeanor to avoid prison terms. If an inmate is incarcerated for drug crimes, they may be offered the option of participating in a substance abuse program voluntarily. If completed successfully, they may earn credits that can be applied to early release due to reform and rehabilitation program guidelines in place.
These programs may also be used as a conditional requirement during parole, or probation, following a term of incarceration. Failing to complete the program would institute the original jail or prison time to the longer term.
Recent legislation as has been introduced with similar provisions and incentives at the Federal Level to reduce prison overcrowding, the costs of incarceration, and the reduction of repeat offenses.
Criminal Defenses for Heroin or Opioid Charges
If you, a loved one, or someone you know experiences a life threatening overdose due to heroin or other opioid, you should call #911 and seek emergency medical attention immediately. Following a potentially fatal drug overdose, moments count. Get emergency medical treatment to save a life. Criminal Charges can later be defended with good legal representation.
If you are subsequently charged or arrested of any heroin or opioid crime, you should consult an experienced drug defense attorney who will defend your charges and protect your rights. James Novak, of the Law Office of James Novak, is an experienced criminal defense trial attorney, who defends drug charges on a regular basis, and provides a strong defense.
James Novak, Attorney at Law, is a former Maricopa County Prosecutor. He has extensive training, and litigation experience defending Heroin Drug Charges, and will fight for your freedom and future. The Law Office of James Novak, PLLC serves Tempe, Mesa, Chandler, Phoenix, Gilbert, and Scottsdale AZ. If you have been arrested or charged in these cities, call today for a confidential free consultation. James Novak, criminal defense attorney will discuss you matter with you or a loved one you have designated to speak on your behalf. He will provide information regarding the criminal justice process, and your defense options.
Other Articles Related to this Topic
Often people don’t seek emergency medical treatment for themselves or others following a potentially fatal overdose of heroin, for fear of arrest or prosecution. But the greatest threat is not criminal charges, its fatality.
Combating the Heroin Epidemic: 7 Heroin Facts; Statistics; Prevention and Treatment
According to the National Centers for Disease Control (CDC), overdoses of drugs in the USA have tripled during the last 25 years and are now the Number 1 cause of deaths. In 2010, they reported 38,329 overdose deaths in the U.S.A, and according to other reports, these numbers continue to rise in epidemic proportions. Accidental overdoses now exceed auto accident fatalities, in adults aged 25 to 64.
According to a recent analysis reported by Trust for America’s Health (TFAH), drug overdose deaths have increased 100 percent in just the last 10 years. One main drug responsible for this increase includes the drug, Heroin.
According to a recent Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) Heroine remained the number one illegal drug responsible for overdoses that resulted in deaths in 2013.
FDA Approves Life Saving Proven to Reverse Potentially Fatal Overdoses
We are about to see more police being equipped with a Life Saving Drug for Heroin Overdose Treatment to save lives as first responders.
On April 3, 2014 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced its approval of a hand-held auto-injector for treatment of overdoes. The injector rapidly delivers a lifesaving drug into a victim who is suffering from a potentially fatal overdose of heroin or other opioid. It’s been approved for use by trained family members and caregivers for emergency treatment.
Evizo (naloxone hydrochloride injection) is the injector. The drug it injects is known by its brand name “Narcan”, also known as “Naloxone” by its generic name, being used by Police Agencies throughout the country.
Narcan or Naloxone is a drug that has proved to reverse heroin or opiate overdose almost immediately. Some police agencies are allowing specially trained officers to carry and administer it in several states around the country to overdose victims. One pilot program conducted by police agencies in Quincy Massachusetts, report that its’ officers administered naloxone 221 times where needed, and it reversed the overdoses 210 times, giving it a 95% earning it 95 percent success rate.
First responder police recently began administering the drug in the field as a result of the soaring numbers overdose casualties. Generally, an opioid or heroin overdose causes a person’s breathing to stop. Narcan in many cases will revive the patient, if it’s administered early enough. The drug is said to keep the patient alive until paramedics arrive or until the patient can get the specialized medical assistance needed to treat the overdose symptoms.
Narcan has proven to be effective for heroin and other opiate overdoses only. It has not been effective t in reviving patients who have overdosed on other drugs such as cocaine or ecstasy.
Naloxone delivery system is through either inhalation, by inserting it into the nasal passage, or injection into the patient. The risks and adverse side effects are said to far outweigh the advantages or benefits of its use following a potentially fatal heroin or opioid overdose.
The FDA warns that Evizo is not a substitute for immediate medical care, it’s simply temporary until paramedics arrive, or until the patient can be taken to the Emergency Room or hospital for further care.
Common side effects include dizziness, weakness, skin flushing, and agitation. Reportedly rare and severe side effects include heart disturbances, neurological damage, lung fluid build-up, seizures, coma and death.
In response to the drug overdose fatality crisis, Evizo was granted “Priority Review” under the FDA’s Priority Review Program. This review is granted where the need is critical; and for those drugs that are proving to be effective, safe solutions, where no other alternatives exists. The benefits of the new drug should be far more significant than existing treatments in place. The product was granted a fast-track designation, and expedited processing by the FDA as they worked with closely with The White House White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy’s National Drug Control Strategy since 2012.
The device is scheduled to be made available mid-June 2014 due to expedited processing, and will be available in pharmacies which will dispense by prescription.
7 Heroin Facts
Heroin is classified by the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as a Schedule I drug, out of five distinct categories. Schedule I drugs carry the highest potential for mental and physical addiction. They are considered the most dangerous classification of drugs. Heroin is identified by the DEA as having no current legally accepted medicinal use, and possessing a high risk of substance abuse and addiction. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) classifies Heroin addiction as a chronic brain disease.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Heroin is an “Opioid” and a depressant. It is made from Morphine alkaloid in opium, and is considered to be far more potent and addictive and dangerous than Morphine. The drug impacts portions of the brain and body that depress perceptions of pain, and which also impact vital life functioning such as blood pressure, alertness, and respiration. This is why overdosing frequently involves fatality. Overdoes of the drug can suppress or halt the critical breathing processes in body.
(3) How it’s used:
It may be needle injected, inhaled, or smoked. All 3 delivery methods of heroin to the brain are fast, which contribute to its addicting nature, which causes changes in the brain that result in an uncontrollable dependence.
(4) Impacts of heroin on the body
Users who inject heroin, users report feeling a rush at first. Then it is followed by dry mouth, skin flushing, a feeling of heaviness of the arms and legs, confusion, and an alternate wakeful to drowsy state. Habitual users experience brain function changes, which include tolerance. This causes more of the drug needed to experience the euphoric state, and to avoid adverse withdrawal symptoms. Effects associated with Heroin include fatal overdoes, infectious diseases such as HIV, and hepatitis, collapsed veins, heart lining infections, abscesses, GI problems, liver, and kidney diseases, pulmonary collapse, pneumonia, and other respiratory disorders, causing permanent damage or fatality.
(5) Appearance, consistency and street names
Pure Heroin is a white powder, but is often cut with other illicit substances giving it a brownish tint. Another form of Heroin is known as “black tar” which is of sticky or tar-like consistencies, and varies in color from dark to black. Street names include but are not limited to “brown sugar”, “Smack”, “black tar”, “smack” or “junk”.
(6) Signs and Police Drug Testing for Heroin
Detection of Heroin in the body can be revealed by a urinalysis, for up to 24 hours after use. It can be detected by a blood test for up to 72 hours following use of the drug.
Environmental signs of possible use include injection supplies, or paraphernalia such as needles, cotton, towels, spoons, matches, bottle caps other equipment or supplies to heat the drug.
Physical signs include but are not limited to restlessness, drowsiness, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, chills, involuntary movements of extremities, behavior changes, hyperactivity, disorientation, weight loss, marks, bruising, or scarring of arms and legs, and continued respiratory symptom.
(7) Long Term Treatment for Heroin or Opioid Addiction
Specifically, heron and opioids require medication-assisted treatment (MAT) programs. One of those most effective MAT assisted drugs is buprenorphine used both in a specialty and noni-specialty treatment setting. Traditionally, effective treatment indicated for heroin or opioid addiction required in-patient specialty treatment and counseling.
But since 2011, years specialty in-patient hospital admissions had declined sharply due to a spike in increased outpatient treatment alternatives now available. Out-patient settings are less costly, and more convenient for patients. In 2012 it was reported that accredited physicians treated almost 900,000 patients on an out-patient basis with a combination of buprenorphine/naloxone therapy, in non-specialty treatment settings.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services (SAMHSA) oversees compliance of heroin and Opioid Treatment Programs (OTPs), provides certifications to operate. They work with state, local and federal agencies including the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to accomplish their goals. There are currently 1,311 Specialty Opioid Treatment Centers (OTP) in operation in the USA.
Why More Users Do Not Seeking Long Term Treatment Options
U.S. Health and Human Services reported that in 2012 only 10.8 percent of individuals suffering from alcohol or drug abuse including heroin or opioid users, received specialty medical facility known to effectively treat their condition. Other studies showed that 94.6 percent of those who needed treatment did not receive because they refused it or denied their need for the substance abuse treatment. Another 3.7 percent felt they needed it, but did not seek it, due to affordability, lack of insurance or other barrier. Of some of the respondents who reported they needed it but did not seek it, 17.4 percent were worried about negative impacts such as fear of arrest and prosecution, negative impacts on their job, family, transportation, and the inconvenience.
Criminal Defense Attorney for Heroin or other Drug Charges in Phoenix East Valley AZ
Immediate medical attention is critical, and every moment counts. The number one priority following an overdose is to seek immediate medical attention, and to call #911 if you feel a person has taken a potentially fatal overdose. If criminal charges are brought against you, they can be dealt with after the ordeal.
Heroin and Narcotic charges carry some of the most severe penalties of all drug crimes under Arizona laws. All heroin charges are brought as felonies.
If drug charges are brought against you, or you are arrested, you can then consult an experienced criminal attorney to defend the charges and protect your rights. In some cases a person may qualify for a drug treatment program in order to reduce the charges from a felony to a misdemeanor or to avoid incarceration. Not everyone qualifies, and it is not automatic. Your attorney will assist in the process if you meet the criteria. If you do not qualify for the program, other defenses may apply to your case that you may not be aware of.
If your rights were violated, or if the evidence against you is weak or unjust, it may lead to a dismissal of charges. The Law Office of James Novak, PLLC defends Heroin and other serious drug charges on a regular basis. James Novak is an experienced drug defense attorney, and former prosecutor. If retained, he will tailor a defense that best fits your circumstances and that has the potential for the most favorable outcome. Call today for a free consultation. James Novak, DUI and Criminal Attorney to discuss you matter in confidence and to obtain your defense options, if you have active charges in Phoenix, Mesa, Tempe, Chandler, Scottsdale, or Gilbert AZ.
Arizona DUI Arrest Statistics
In looking back over the last six years of DUI arrest statistics released by the Arizona Governor’s Office on Highway Safety (AGOHS), we see an alarming trend in DUI arrests with Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) at the “Extreme” levels, which is 0.15 percent or higher. In 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013 the average Blood Alcohol Content has been over 0.152 percent. Initial reports released for the first quarter of 2014 are showing relentlessness in this trend. Drinking in excess of the extreme impaired driving laws has evidently become the norm, rather than the exception.
The legal limit for driving under the influence of alcohol in Arizona is 0.08 percent. However, a motorist may still be arrested if they are driving under the influence with a BAC lower than 0.08 percent if they are found to be driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle while “impaired to the slightest degree”.Extreme DUI BAC in Arizona is .015 percent; and Super Extreme BAC is .020 percent or greater.
Causes of Extreme DUI
According to the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) binge drinking is the most common form of excessive alcohol consumption. In general, binge drinking is defined as a person drinking 4 to 5 spirituous alcoholic beverages on one occasion; usually during a short period of time. One drink is measured as a 12 ounce glass of beer or wine cooler 5 ounces of wine; or 1.5 ounces of 80 proof distilled spirits or liquor.
The practice of excessive or binge drinking increases a person’s chance of physical harm due to alcohol poisoning, being involved in a serious or fatal impaired driving crash, and being arrested for Extreme DUI.
Interestingly, the CDC reports that most people who engage in binge drinking are not alcoholics and are not alcoholic dependent. We seem surprised when we hear of police officers and judges being arrested for drunk driving. But the fact is that people in all walks of life may be the subject of an Extreme DUI arrest. This includes young adults as well as senior adults, teens, parents, teachers, nurses, pilots, celebrities, professional sports players, legislators, trucker drivers, doctors, lawyers, farmers, military personnel, or faith ministry leaders. Being aware of causes and what factors increase the risk of excessive BAC levels, can help prevent extreme or any other impaired driving arrests.
The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) identified other factors that contribute to higher BAC levels. These include but are not limited to the following:
- Increasing the number of drinks per hour
- Higher strength proofs of alcohol
- Lower body weights and builds
- Drinking on an empty stomach
- Low metabolic rate
- Alcohol combined with medications
- Female’s usually reach higher BAC levels than men, given the same amount of liquor during the same amount of time, due to stomach enzyme differences and lower water content in their bodies than males.
- Persons who are ill, under a great deal of stress, or drowsy will rise to a higher level of BAC than if those factors are not present, given the same amount of alcohol
Level of Driving Impairment for Extreme DUI levels
The degree of a driver’s impairment is usually judged by the investigating officer at the DUI stop. The police use a series of roadside tests in combination with questions and observations of the driver before, during, and after the stop.
NHTSA research has concluded that drivers with a 0.15 percent or higher BAC level will experience “substantial impairment in vehicle control”. This includes impairments in attention and tasks necessary to drive, including visual and auditory abilities.
At the extreme level, the driver will experience far less muscle control, major loss of balance, and vomiting if the BAC is reached within a short periods of time.
Extreme DUI Laws in Arizona
A person is in violation of A.R.S. §28-1383 and Extreme DUI laws if they are found to be driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or spirituous liquor with:
- A Blood Alcohol Content of .15 percent through .1999 percent – Extreme Influence
- A Blood Alcohol Content of .020 percent or greater – Super Extreme Influence
Both Extreme and Super Extreme DUI offenses are Class 1 Misdemeanors, in absence of “Aggravated Factors”.
However, even though the charges are classified as misdemeanors, the criminal penalties are severe, and the higher the BAC, the more harsh the penalties.
Extreme DUI Penalties for first time conviction:
Penalties for first offense DUI 0.15%, but less than 0.199% or greater (Extreme):
- 30 consecutive days in jail;
- $2,500.00 in fines, fees, costs, and assessments;
- Ignition interlock device (IID) for 1 year;
- Alcohol or drug education, counseling, or treatment program;
- Driver’s License suspension for at least 90 days;
- Possible Community Service and/or restitution
Penalties for first offense DUI 0.20% or greater (Super Extreme):
- 45 consecutive days in jail;
- $2,750.00 in fines, fees, costs, and assessments;
- IID for 18 months;
- Substance abuse counseling, or treatment program;
- Driver’s License suspended for at least 90 days;
- Possible Community Service and/or restitution
Penalties for DUI BAC 0.015% to 0.199%- 2nd Extreme Violation within 7 years:
- 120 days jail with 60 consecutive;
- Fines, fees, costs, assessments up to $3,250.00
- Driver’s license revocation for at least 1 year;
- IID 1 year (after driver’s license is reinstated)
- At least 30 hours of community service
- Drug or Alcohol Education Classes or Counseling;
- Possible Community Service and or restitution
Penalties for DUI BAC 0.020% or greater – 2nd Super Extreme Violation within 7 years:
- 180 days jail with 90 consecutive;
- Fines, fees, costs, assessments up to $3,750.00
- Driver’s license revocation for at least 1 year;
- IID 2 year years (after driver’s license is reinstated)
- At least 30 hours of community service
- Substance abuse counseling or treatment;
- Possible Community Service and or restitution
Penalties for Third and Subsequent Impaired Driving Convictions (Extreme and Super Extreme)
Impaired driving offenses of any kind, including those under those under the extreme level, are considered “Aggravated DUI” felony charges. Penalties include but are not limited to at least:
- 4 month prison terms for the third offense;
- 8 month prison terms for any subsequent offense thereafter.
- $4,000.00 fines, fees, and assessments;
- License revocation one year;
- IID 2 years;
- Possible forfeiture of vehicle;
- Restitution or community service;
- Felony Criminal Record;
- Loss of some civil rights including right to vote and right to possess firearms.
Defenses for Extreme and Super Extreme Impaired Driving Charges in Arizona
Any kind of impaired driving charge in Arizona is serious. Higher BAC levels and repeat offenses carry the highest punishments. If you have been arrested, you have the right to hire an attorney to defend you against your charges.
Often people think that because their BAC was to the extreme there is nothing an attorney can do to help them. To the contrary, it is even more important to retain a qualified DUI lawyer to defend their charges and protect their rights.
Defenses are multifaceted for impaired driving charges. An experienced criminal defense attorney will protect your rights, evaluate your case and tailor a defense that has potential to obtain the most favorable outcome in your case.
Examples of some common impaired driving defenses include, but are not limited to the following:
- Constitutional Rights violations;
- Unlawful stops by police;
- Improper field sobriety test administration (FST);
- Unreliable or invalid FST results;
- Inaccurate breath tests results or readings;
- Lack of calibration, maintenance or maintenance records for breath machines;
- Breath results inaccurate due to contamination, other external, or medical factors;
- Discrepancies in police DUI chemical testing results to independent results;
- Mishandling, improper processing, or storage of chemical evidence
These are just a sample of some common areas where defenses may apply to a particular case. Successful challenges of weak evidence can lead to dismissal, reduction of charges, mitigation of penalties, and other favorable outcomes in DUI cases.
DUI Attorney in Tempe, Arizona
If you have been charged with any DUI in Tempe, Mesa, Phoenix, or other East Valley Cities, contact the Law Office of James Novak, for a free consultation to discuss your matter and defense options.
Safety Messages; and Overview of Impaired Driving Laws and Penalties in Arizona
One of America’s most popular days of the year for sports, Super Bowl Sunday, is also one of the most dangerous. This is due to the incidents of impaired driving, and other crimes that historically increase on game day including under age 21 drinking, assaults, disorderly conduct and domestic violence.
Advertising for liquor specials, great places to eat, have fun, and watch the game are everywhere. But as a criminal defense attorney, dealing with the aftermath of a DUI and criminal arrests every day, I see the consequences it has on those who have been arrested and their families, as well as victims and their families. To make sure you have fun, and your event or celebration ends safely, I urge everyone not to let the excitement and festivities distract you from making wise judgment decisions. You can do this by planning ahead for a ride home; knowing your limits even if you are not driving; and looking out for others safety as well as your own.
In the spirit of safety, I’m sharing formal messages from National Centers for Disease Control, Arizona Department of Public Safety, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and Mothers Against Drunk Driving; as well as providing information on Arizona DUI laws, and penalties.
The Arizona Department of Public Safety (ADPS) just announced its plan to increase DUI enforcement for Super Bowl Sunday. Saturation patrols are scheduled to begin Sunday February 2, 2014 and continue through February and continue through Monday, Feb, 3, 2014. A large number of officers are expected to participate in the saturation patrols. A command post will be set up in Phoenix and mobile patrols will be present on freeways and other high traffic areas. Their message was simple but clear, “Drivers have a choice to not drink and drive” and reminded people that there are usually always alternatives.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that most alcohol impaired driving charges are the result of binge drinking, which is the result of having 4 or more drinks within a short time period. Binge drinking may result in alcohol poisoning and in some cases can be fatal. The CDC urges everyone this year to “Call a time-out on alcohol”. This includes selecting a designated sober driver; not drinking and driving or allowing others to drive impaired; and for hosts to remind their guests of the same as well as offering alcohol-free beverages as an alternative.
Mothers against Drunk Driving (MADD) organization encourages party goers to arrange for a designated sober driver to take you home as part of your plan preparations, and well before the game and festivities begin. MADD encourages football fans “to play the most important position in the NFL: the designated driver.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that 43 percent of all auto collision fatalities occurred on Super Bowl Sunday the morning hours that followed on the following Monday last year, as a result of impaired driving. Their theme in a Consumer Advisory released January 31, 2014, was my This was my personal favorite “Fans Don’t Let Fans Drive Drunk. Before choosing to drink, choose your team’s MVP”. Of course, when they refer to MVP, they are referring to the section of your designated driver.
Last year there were over 525 impaired driving arrests in Southern Arizona alone. Violations of Impaired Driving under Arizona law includes driving impaired to the slightest degree due to alcohol, or driving under the influence of drugs or their metabolites under A.R.S. 28-1381.
A Car Accident alone involving a serious injury is traumatic on everyone involved. Being arrested for DUI charges is a serious crime. An impaired driving arrest involving a serious injury or fatal crash is overwhelmingly tragic ordeal. It can take lives, and forever change the lives of the survivors.
A few days ago a young Tempe woman was reportedly arrested on six counts of endangerment, aggravated assault, leaving the scene of an accident, and DUI charges in violation of Arizona’s Super Extreme DUI Laws which is .20 Blood Alcohol Content (BAC). In the incident 5 vehicles were damaged, and a pedestrian taken to the hospital, after the driver allegedly damaged two vehicles at a Tempe intersection, left the scene, and ended up slamming into vehicles in a crowded parking lot.
These are very serious criminal charges. Even a first time conviction for Super Extreme DUI in violation of A.R.S. 28 – 1382 calls for a 45 day jail term; fines, fees, and assessments of $,750.00; license revocation for one year; use of Ignition Interlock Device (IID) for two years after driving privileges are restored; substance abuse counseling and treatment; probation, and community service.
In Arizona, when a serious injury results from a DUI, the charges are elevated to a Felony DUI in violation of A.R.S. 28 – 1383, Aggravated Assault, and Endangerment A.R.S. 13- 1204. These felony charges expose a person to harsh punishments including prison terms of at least 1.5 years to 15 years or more in prison depending on mitigating, and aggravated factors that surrounding the incident; large fines, fees, and restitution; and other severe punishments. A Serious Injury caused by an impaired driver, or wrongful death of a victim, will also expose a driver to civil litigation against them by the victim or their surviving families.
Most impaired driving crashes and arrests can be prevented by planning ahead. But mistakes and error in judgment can easily happen. If you are arrested for drunk driving, impaired driving or any felony charges, your future and freedom are at stake. Being arrested does not necessarily mean you will be found guilty. By law you are entitled to retain an attorney to defend your charges, and protect your constitutional rights. A person facing drugged or alcohol impaired driving charges, should always consult an experienced criminal defense attorney before pleading guilty to Drunk or Impaired Driving charges. James Novak provides a free consultation, and a strong defense for those arrested in Phoenix, Mesa, Tempe, Chandler, Gilbert, or Scottsdale Arizona.
Other Articles of Interest:
Putting Statistics into Perspective; Arizona Felony Assault laws; Overview of City, State and Country-wide violent crime trends
On New Year’s Day two “Good Samaritans” stopped their vehicle in Arizona to help a victim being assaulted, after they reported it to the police. The Good Samaritan told the dispatcher that help could not wait. He jumped out of his vehicle to aid the victim of the assault. As soon as he did, the aggressor attacked him as well. The passenger of the Good Samaritan’s vehicle also got out. But during the attack, the assailant got behind the wheel of the Good Samaritan’s car; and used the vehicle as a deadly weapon to hit all three people. The initial victim being assaulted died at the scene. Both of the Good Samaritans were rushed to the hospital. One remains in critical condition with life threatening injuries.
I read of the events surrounding this tragic and disturbing incident, moments before I heard the good news about violent crimes statistics being down in Mesa AZ. I was still jarred by the first events, while I read the Mesa AZ media release. Suddenly I felt compelled to share it as illustration that even in light of lower crime rates, violence continues to exist and should “remain cause for vigilance” no matter where we live.
In this discussion we’ll cover the following topics:
- City of Mesa AZ’s recent announcement about decrease in violent crimes;
- Factors credited to the historic lows in violent crimes;
- Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) city and state violent crime statistics;
- FBI Uniform Crime Results (UCR) Overview of Violent Crimes in the USA;
- Arizona Aggravated Assault Laws, and Penalties
Factors credited to historic lows in crime rates in Mesa AZ
The City of Mesa AZ ranked the third lowest in violent offenses and property crimes in 2012 according to recent statistics released by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) of populated with 400,000 or more.
The City of Mesa hit the lowest violent crime rates they have seen in 50 years. Mesa Police attribute this largely to increased police efforts, technology, and active community partnerships. .
Violent Crimes Remain Cause for Vigilance in Arizona
While this announcement should be perceived as a good thing, at the same time, improved safety statistics, can often leave us with a false sense of security. Common sense tells us we still lock our doors, close our windows, and remain attentive to our surroundings as we return to our vehicles in a dark parking lot. No one is immune to being a victim of violent crime, matter where they may be. Prudence tells us to remain aware of their surroundings, and take safety and security measures to protect themselves, their loved ones and property.
Looking back on the Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) Statistics, the Mesa Police Department reported 1,804 violent crimes in 2012; while the 2013 statistics are apparently still being gathered.
The State of Arizona reported a total of 25,902 crimes statewide with 10.3 percent of them being categorized as violent crimes. Of the violent crimes Aggravated Assault crimes accounted for the largest number of all violent crimes with 16,579 incidents, representing 64 percent of all violent crimes. Statewide, this is just one percent higher than the national average of 65 percent.
FBI Uniform Crime Results Overview of Violent Crimes in the USA
The FBI Uniform Crime Report (UCR) classifies violent crimes as aggravated assault, sexual assault, murder, and robbery. Here some additional statistics revealed in the 2012 FBI UCR statistics:
- Over 1.2 million violent crimes occurred in the USA representing a 0.7 percent increase over the prior year;
- A review of the prior five year trend shows an actual decrease of 13 percent in violent crimes;
- A total of 760, 739 Aggravated Assaults were reported, constituting 63 percent of all violent crimes in the USA;
- Offenses described as aggravated assaults include unlawful attacks on a person with the intentional purpose of inflicting severe bodily injury upon them.
- Guns were used in 69 percent of the homicides; 41 percent of robberies; and 22 percent of aggravated assaults.
Violent Crime and Property Crime Laws in Arizona
Under Arizona Criminal Code A.R.S. 13-706 “Violent” felony crimes are “serious crimes”
against victims. These include but are not limited to murder, sexual assault, dangerous crimes against children, armed robbery, and aggravated assault involving a deadly weapon, drive-by shootings, first degree burglary, and other serious offenses.
Under Arizona Criminal Code A.R.S. 13- 105 Definitions, “Crimes” are defined as any Misdemeanor or Felony involving a victim’s Personal Property. “Persona Property” is defined as meaning anything of value owned by a person. This includes tangible or intangible property. It includes offenses such as theft of property including auto theft, and non-violent burglary. These are by nature more common in most cities in Arizona.
Aggravated Assault Laws in Arizona
Assaults that are not considered to have “Aggravated” circumstances are those described under A.R.S 13-1203 and are classified as Misdemeanors. They are loosely described as offenses that knowingly, intentionally or recklessly cause physical injury to another person; or cause a victim to be provoked or compelled to have a reasonable apprehension of physical injury;
Although classified as Misdemeanors assault charges are very serious and can expose a suspect to severe penalties including jail terms, victim restitution, anger management counseling, counseling, probation, fines, fees and a criminal record.
An Aggravated Assault is a Felony. It is an Assault Charge that has been raised to the level of a felony due to “aggravated factors” as described in the term itself. These are some of the most serious criminal charges a person can face, and offense is considered a violent crime. A person may face these charges under Arizona Criminal Code A.R.S. 13-1204. There are a number of circumstances that are named as aggravated factors under the code. Just a few include:
- Causing serious physical injury to the victim;
- Assault that causes substantial disfigurement, even if temporary;
- Assault that results in impairment to bodily organ or fracture of bones;
- Use of a lethal weapon or deadly instrument in the assault;
- Assault on a police officer, peace officers or other described individuals;
- Assault by person 18 or over against a person 15 years of age or under;
- Assault while a person is restrained, bound, or physically impaired against resisting an attack.
The Arizona law is comprehensive and covers these and additional factors to a great degree.
Felony Assaults are considered serious and violent crimes against victims. They may be charged as Class 5, Class 3 or Class 2 felonies depending on the nature of the charges. They may also be combined with the most serious of charges Class 1, reserved for homicide.
If convicted of an Aggravated Assault a person may face long term or life prisons sentences. In some cases, depending on the circumstances, they may not be eligible for parole until a term of 25 to 5 years has been completed. Other penalties include exorbitant fines which range up to $150,000.00 per charge or 1 million dollars per charge for enterprises; victim restitution; prison and other assessment fees; loss of civil rights including right to possess firearms, and right to vote. A felon criminal record follows a person for many years and often even after released from prison, impacts the person’s ability to obtain a job, credit, and adversely impacts many aspects of their lives, making the transition to back into society extremely difficult.
Being charged with a felony assault puts a person’s future at great risk. The laws can be complex and the penalties extremely harsh. It’s too important of a matter to go unrepresented by an experienced and highly qualified criminal defense attorney. No matter how grim the situation may appear, or how serious the charges, the constitution affords a suspect with the right to retain proper legal representation to defend their charges, protect their rights, and tell their side of the story through the criminal justice process. If you have active felony charges in Mesa AZ, or any Phoenix East Valley Cities, contact James Novak, DUI and Criminal Defense Attorney to discuss your matter and options for defense. He will provide you with a free consultation regarding your matter, and options for defense.
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