Articles Posted in Criminal Defense

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A defense attorney’s job is to vigorously fight for the rights of his client, and, ultimately to do what is in his client’s best interest. At the same time, any seasoned Arizona criminal defense attorney knows that not every case can result in a “Not Guilty” verdict.

Plea BargainIn some cases where there is a concern about an unfavorable verdict, pre-trial motions can be litigated in hopes of creating a more favorable scenario. For example, a pre-trial motion to suppress physical evidence or a motion in limine to preclude certain harmful testimony may make a defendant’s case much stronger. However, in situations where these pre-trial motions are denied or where the prosecution’s case against the accused is exceptionally strong, an experienced Arizona criminal defense attorney should discuss the idea of a negotiated guilty plea, or a plea bargain.

Plea bargains get a bad rap. However, tens of thousands of Arizona criminal defendants accept plea bargains to resolve their cases each year. This is because Arizona plea deals are the product of significant negotiation and take into account several factors. Most notably, when a defendant accepts responsibility for a crime, the prosecutor is able to divert scarce resources elsewhere. Thus, a prosecutor is motivated to resolve cases through negotiated plea bargains in order to focus on other, potentially more serious, cases.

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taxisIn a recent Arizona gun crime decision, a man was indicted for two misdemeanors and three felonies after discharging a firearm. The victim was a cab driver who stopped the man and his friends to ask if any of them had called for a cab. A friend told the driver they only called Uber. The driver and the defendant spoke to each other. The victim drove away but came back and got out of his cab. The defendant pulled a gun out of his back pocket and fired at the cab before running off.

The defendant was indicted for aggravated assault, illegal discharge of a firearm, discharge of a firearm at a non-residential structure, criminal damage, and weapons misconduct. The defendant argued that the prosecution had presented false testimony and had not properly advised the grand jurors on self-defense. His motion was denied, and he followed up with a special action.

On appeal, he argued the lower court had made a mistake because the prosecution had not presented a fair and impartial case, and he was therefore denied a substantial procedural right.

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old carIn a recent Arizona criminal case, a police officer answered a check vehicle call after police got reports of a white truck that was parked in a lane of traffic. The officer turned on his overhead lights and pulled up behind the truck. He came up to the driver’s window and tried to talk to the truck driver. He saw three young kids in the car, who seemed to be sleeping. The truck driver asked to see his identification twice. He told her he was a police officer and pointed at his badge and at the police car’s emergency lights.

The police officer believed that it was necessary to check on the kids, due to the totality of the circumstances. He asked her to unlock the doors to check the kids’ welfare and tried to open the doors. She drove up about 100 yards, ignoring his requests to stop, and went into a parking lot.

He followed and pulled his police car behind the truck to effectuate another stop. She backed the truck toward his patrol car. He pulled into a bank drive-through and headed in through the exit. The officer followed her and tried to contact her to ask her to stop the truck. Rather than comply, she drove the truck right at the officer. He pointed his gun at her, and she accelerated. He ran out of the way. She hit his car and drove back into traffic for 50-60 feet. He stopped again in a lane of traffic.

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blood drawIn a recent Arizona homicide case, the defendant appealed a conviction for negligent homicide. He argued that the lower court should have suppressed the blood alcohol content evidence, and he challenged whether the evidence was sufficient for a conviction.

The case arose in 2012 when the police responded to a single-vehicle crash caused by the defendant. The officer found the defendant in the car’s driver’s seat and a woman who was his passenger slumped in the passenger’s seat. The woman was dead. As the officer went with him to a police car for safety, he noticed that the defendant smelled like alcohol. He asked whether the defendant had been drinking alcohol, and he said no. No field sobriety tests were conducted.

He left the defendant and started directing vehicles and spoke to witnesses. The witnesses said that the defendant was going downhill when he seemed to make a lane change to pass a vehicle, but there was no vehicle to pass. He went over the double yellow line and collided with a culvert. There were no skid marks, but the car had damage on it. The officer was knowledgeable about accident reconstruction, and in his opinion, the damage showed an impact speed of less than 35 mph.

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fireIn a recent Arizona arson case, the defendant was convicted of arson of an occupied structure and criminal damage. He was sentenced to concurrent prison terms, and the longer term was 10.5 years.

The appellate court explained that in 2013, the victim’s neighbor called 911 due to the house next to his being on fire. The victim was a family trust, and the defendant was staying there while renovating it. The carport was involved in the fire, and a truck was destroyed.

While putting out the fire, the firefighters found other fires had been started in the house. The truck was blocking the door, and the front door was blocked, so the firefighters pushed into the house. It seemed nobody was inside, but in a second search, a firefighter saw that a bathtub full of water had a hose pushing out from the water in a nearby window. This seemed strange, so the firefighter put his hand in the black, smoky water. The defendant jumped out.

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marijuana plantIn a recent Arizona marijuana case, the defendant appealed after being convicted of selling marijuana and weapons misconduct. The case arose when two detectives had a confidential informant conduct a controlled buy. The detective searched the informant to make sure he didn’t have money, drugs, or paraphernalia. The detectives photographed a set of $20 bills to be used to purchase drugs and set up the informant with a recording device.

They followed the informant in cars to the target’s home. After going in, the informant returned to his car, accompanied by the target and a woman. The three went to the gas station, and the detectives followed. The target got out and went up to a white car that was parked at the gas station. He got inside and then went back to the informant’s car. They returned to the home, followed by the police. The informant dropped off the target and passenger. He met the detectives to be debriefed and searched. The detectives found a plastic baggie containing marijuana.

Meanwhile, a detective asked a patrol officer to follow the white car and stop it if there was any traffic violation. The patrol officer followed the car after it left the gas station and pulled him over for speeding. The patrol officer saw there was a handgun on the seat, and it was in a firing position. He asked the driver for the gun, which the driver gave him. He also smelled marijuana, and the driver admitted she had marijuana in a paper bag. She consented to a search. Inside, there were bags of marijuana and brownies and a set of $20 bills. She had a medical marijuana card, so the officer determined there was no basis to believe she’d broken a drug law. The officer photographed the money and drugs before letting her leave.

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syringeIn a recent appellate case based on an Arizona drug crime prosecution, an Arizona Court of Appeals considered a conviction for possession of a dangerous drug. A police officer had been conducting surveillance on a residence when a blue car approached. The car’s passenger entered the home and then went back to the car two times. Each time, he was carrying something in his hands. Another officer followed him after he left the home, and he stopped the car for a traffic violation.

The officer got identification from the driver of the car and a passenger. He checked for warrants, and there were none. Other officers came to the scene, and one of the officer’s drug detection dogs conducted a sniff of the outside of the car.

The officers asked the driver and the passenger to get out of the car. The officer asked the passenger if he had weapons. When the officer conducted a pat-down of the passenger’s waist to make sure he didn’t have weapons, the passenger ran away. He took off his jacket and dropped it while running. The officer followed and arrested him.

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stop signIn a recent unpublished Arizona DUI decision, the defendant was convicted of second-degree murder, DUI, and extreme DUI. He was sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment for the murder charge. His DUI sentence was suspended, and he was put on two five-year probation terms set to start after he served his prison sentence.

The case arose shortly after 2:00 a.m. in 2014 when the defendant drove his car at between 73 mph and 93 mph into the back of the victim’s car at an intersection where the speed limit was 35 mph and there was a stop sign, which caused the victim to die of multiple blunt force injuries. The defendant had been drinking vodka at his friend’s apartment about a mile from the accident, and he couldn’t remember what happened between drinking the first drink and sitting at the accident scene.

The officer who was dispatched saw that the defendant was flushed with watery eyes and that his breath smelled like alcohol. Several officers saw six out of six cues on a field sobriety test, and when they told the defendant he would be charged with second-degree murder, he laughed and said okay. His alcohol level was tested three times and averaged .223.

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gunIn a recent Arizona appellate case, a jury convicted a man of two counts of aggravated assault and two counts of murder. He was sentenced to concurrent terms, with the longer one being 13 years. The victims were two men who were shot and killed and one man who was wounded outside a party at a home. The defendant was convicted as the lone shooter involved.

The surviving victim had come to the party to serve as a deejay, and he knew the defendant from a social media website. Shortly after the victim arrived, the defendant told him that he was carrying a 9 mm pistol. Many witnesses saw him with a black gun that night.

Four or five of the men at the house party argued. The parties agreed there was bad blood between the defendant and one of the victims, based on a fight between the defendant and the victim’s brother. The defendant and the men got into a fistfight. Many people saw the defendant show his gun while they were inside the home.

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carYou should be aware that allowing your vehicle or license registration to expire may provide police officers with a reasonable suspicion to stop you while driving in Arizona. Under A.R.S. section 28-2153, you cannot operate a motor vehicle that has not been registered with the department.

In the unpublished opinion of State v. Avalos, the defendant appealed after being convicted of aggravated DUI and aggravated driving with a blood alcohol content of .08 or more while his license was restricted, revoked, or suspended. He had been sentenced to concurrent terms of 10 years in prison.

A Tucson officer stopped the defendant after the officer checked the records and found the registration for the defendant’s car had expired eight days before. The officer approached the car, and the defendant got out and handed him his keys, saying he knew that the officer would tow the car. The officer took him back to the car and saw open beer bottles on the floor of the car at the driver’s seat.

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