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The Guilty Except Insane Defense in Arizona

Legal News GavelIn 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.

He called for backup, and deputies answered. She drove again and ignored efforts to stop her. There was a police chase, and eventually the officers deployed stop sticks. These flattened one of her tires, but she continued driving, crashing through two security gates of a residential community. More stop sticks were used to disable her truck tires, but she kept driving on wheel rims. An officer put her SUV in front of the truck and tried to slow it down by decelerating and driving so that the truck couldn’t pass. The driver hit the SUV twice. Finally, the truck driver drove into a ditch, and she got out. The officers tried to stop her, but she didn’t follow their directions. Even after a Taser was used, she kicked and flailed.

Police officers restrained her and took her to jail, where she kept being combative. Officers had to use more restrictive ways of restraining her. They tried to make a blood draw but weren’t successful because she kept struggling. Three weeks later, she had a hair follicle test, which was negative for drugs.

At trial, her defense was pursuant to A.R.S. section 13-502(A). This defense requires you to prove that at the time of a criminal act, you were afflicted with a mental disease that was so severe you didn’t know a criminal act was wrong. The defendant in this case claimed to have suffered from brief psychosis during the incident. Psychologists performed guilty except insane evaluations of her. They testified she’d become delusional two days before the arrest. They also concluded she wasn’t under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the incident.

The prosecution presented a neuropsychologist, who found she didn’t suffer from any mental illness, including a brief psychotic disorder. He testified he thought the hair follicle test was less reliable than a blood draw.

The jury rejected the defendant’s defense and found her guilty of aggravated assault, resisting arrest, and endangerment. They found an aggravating circumstance. The defendant argued on appeal this was contrary to the weight of the evidence.

The appellate court agreed with the defendant that the trial judge sits as a 13th juror and has to be convinced the evidence supports the verdict. However, it also found that the lower court did weigh the evidence and witness credibility, which was shown by its ruling on mitigating circumstances. It stated it took the psychiatric evidence into account. It affirmed the convictions.

If you are charged with disorderly conduct or a related crime in Tempe, Chandler, Gilbert, or Scottsdale, consult criminal defense attorney James E. Novak. As a former Maricopa County Prosecutor, he’ll use insights obtained as a prosecutor to evaluate whether any of your constitutional rights was violated and develop an approach to your defense. He offers a free initial consultation for people facing active criminal charges in his area. If you have been charged with a crime, call or contact The Law Office of James Novak at (480) 413-1499 and speak directly with Mr. Novak.

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