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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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gunIn an unpublished Arizona appellate decision, a defendant appealed his convictions and the related sentenced for aggravated assault and armed robbery. The case arose when he came up to a cash register in a liquor store in 2012 and demanded money while threatening the clerk with a handgun. He got more than $450 and started to go. The clerk picked up a baseball bat and told him to stop, and in response, the defendant fired his gun at him, barely missing. He fled.

The police didn’t find the defendant right away. However, a few days later, the clerk was working nearby and saw a customer who looked like the defendant. He called the police, and when an officer looked at the surveillance video, he told the officer he wasn’t sure it was him. The detective decided that the customer in the video wasn’t the defendant.

Based on the clerk’s description, the police later identified two other people of interest, neither of whom had previously committed a robbery. An anonymous tip turned up the defendant. The officer showed the victim a six-photograph photographic lineup. The victim had no problem identifying the defendant.

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bulletsIn a recent unpublished Arizona appellate opinion, the defendant appealed a conviction for aggravated assault, for which he was sentenced to a term of 8 1/2 years imprisonment. The case arose when the defendant’s brother rode a bike to their mom’s house, where his brother lived with the mom. The brother had previously had fights with the defendant. When he came up to the gate, he found it was locked. He realized his mother wasn’t going to come out, so he started to ride off on his bike. His brother fired a gun at him twice, hitting him in the right leg.

The weapon wasn’t located, but police found a bullet in the defendant’s pocket and a bullet in a bag he was carrying right after the shooting. A detective met with the victim in his hospital room and saw a circular wound that looked like a gunshot wound on the victim’s leg. He also observed an x-ray that showed a bullet inside his leg. The victim told the detective that “Cotton” shot him—Cotton was the defendant’s nickname. The defendant was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, which is considered a dangerous offense.

In jail, the defendant called six family members, asking to make sure his brother wouldn’t come to trial to testify against him. He told his mother, sister, niece, and brother the date of the trial and said that if his brother didn’t show up, he wouldn’t be convicted. He also asked his mother to schedule a family meeting with the brother so that she could remind him that if he testified, the defendant would miss family Christmases. He also asked his niece to tell his brother that he would be disowned if he testified. His sister told the defendant that she talked to the victim, and the victim wasn’t going to be a problem. The defendant made many other efforts to get the victim not to show up at trial.

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a-crack-in-the-ground-1630956-1-e1485294664299In the unpublished opinion State of Arizona v. Scott, an Arizona appellate court considered the defendant’s conviction for disorderly conduct with a deadly weapon. The case arose when the victim and the defendant, who were married, got into a physical altercation. The husband was indicted for two counts of misconduct involving weapons and two counts of domestic-related aggravated assault.

The husband admitted that his wife was hurt and that he used a firearm during the incident. The wife suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and was medicated for it. She admitted on the stand that she’d been previously arrested for aggravated assault against her husband, that she’d previously been committed to a mental institution, and that she was susceptible to memory loss.

The husband alleged she attacked him, and he was simply defending himself. He was allowed to testify about his wife’s prior attacks and descriptions of having violent content of voices in her head, as well as his knowledge of her mental health diagnosis and medications.

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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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Tempe criminal defense lawyerArizona Among Highest Increases in Fatal Alcohol-Related Accidents

The good news would be that the East Valley Tribune reported on January 8 that driving under the influence (DUI) arrests in Arizona decreased 14 percent from 2014 to 2016. The bad news, however, is that CBS News reported on December 26, 2016, that 2016 could go down as one of the worst years for drunk driving deaths.

The 10,265 people killed in alcohol-impaired crashes in 2015 was an increase of nearly 300 from 2014, and 2016 was shaping up to be even deadlier. Mark Rosekind of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) told CBS News that the agency was seeing increases it had not seen in 50 years.
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How High is Too High to Drive?

Marijuana DUIIn November 2016, Arizona voters rejected a measure to legalize recreational marijuana, with many people citing concerns about a possible increase in driving under the influence (DUI) violations as being the reason behind their opposition. Appellate courts in Arizona, however, have made a number of decisions in marijuana DUI cases that make it more difficult for prosecutors to convict registered qualifying patients under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA).

The most such recent decision came from Division One of the Arizona Court of Appeals. On December 22, 2016, the Court of Appeals vacated the conviction of man charged with driving while marijuana or its metabolite was in his body.

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Article Updated July 28, 2017                        “Public Health Crisis of Historic Proportions”                                                                                           


On December 6, 2016, United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Acting Administrator Chuck Rosenberg announced results from the 2016 National Drug Threat Assessment (NDTA), the comprehensive annual assessment providing “a national-level perspective of the illicit and remarkably dangerous drug threats facing the United States.” In a DEA press release, Rosenberg said that the report reconfirmed that opioids such as heroin and fentanyl are killing people in the country at “a horrifying rate.” Rosenberg said the country faces “a public health crisis of historic proportions.”

According to the NDTA, heroin overdose deaths more than tripled between 2010 and 2014. The 2016 NDTA found that Mexican transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) continue to act as the biggest criminal drug threat to the United States and are the primary suppliers of heroin as well as cocaine and methamphetamine.

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Proposition 205 Results for Legalization of Marijuana 

Marijuana Plant
In the November 2016 election, five states including Arizona, had legalization of recreational marijuana on the ballot for voters.  Of those, it passed in four states. But Arizona was not one of them.

Proposition 205 gave Arizona voters the opportunity to legalize recreational use of marijuana for individuals 21 or older, failed in Arizona.

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Arizona’s Proposition 205 -Legalization of Marijuana 

Arizona-Marijuana-Laws-1-300x201If Prop 205 passes, marijuana does not become instantly legal statewide. Sales of cannabis could begin as soon as March 1, 2018. The proposition establishes the creation of a Department of Marijuana Licenses and Control that would be responsible for licensing and regulating retail stores as well as entities involved in growing, manufacturing, distributing, and testing marijuana products. The governor would appoint the director as well as the seven members of the Marijuana Commission—four of whom would have no financial stake in a marijuana establishment and three with a “controlling” interest in a marijuana establishment.

Cannabis would only be sold at shops licensed by the state, and the number of licensed marijuana retail stores would be capped at 10 percent of the number of Series 9 liquor store licenses. Localities would have the power to impose limits on where and when marijuana businesses are allowed to operate. People could also give marijuana to other people, provided that the amount involved is not more than one ounce, there is no money exchanged, and the gift is not publicly advertised.

Prop 205 would also implement a 15 percent tax on retail marijuana sales. While tax revenue will go to the Department of Revenue to fund the implementation and enforcement of regulations, 80 percent of the additional revenue would be allocated for the Department of Education (half of which would be for school construction, maintenance, and operating costs, and the other half for full-day kindergarten programs) and 20 percent would be allocated to the Department of Health Services for public education efforts.

Arizona has seen aggressive campaigns both in support of and against Prop 205. The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), a national marijuana policy reform organization, has been the primary funder for the legalization campaign while business groups like the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry and other organizations have supported anti-Prop 205 campaigns.

Marijuana Arrests Under Current State Law in Arizona

If Prop 205 passes, it will not make marijuana usable in public. Passage would, however, presumably lead to a significant reduction in the number of cannabis-related arrests in Arizona. According to annual reports compiled by the Access Integrity Unit of the Arizona Department of Public Safety, thousands of people have been arrested for marijuana offenses every year over the past decade:

Year Marijuana Possession Sale or Manufacturing of Marijuana
2015 15,291 1,071
2014 16,177 1,416
2013 16,656 1,580
2012 15,001 1,499
2011 16,416 1,756
2010 18,076 1,659
2009 20,378 1,608
2008 18,689 1,413
2007 17,887 1,645
2006 16,767 1,476

Legalizing recreational possession of up to one ounce of marijuana would help numerous people avoid what can be significant potential consequences under current state law. Right now, alleged offenders who are accused of certain crimes involving one ounce or less of cannabis can face the following charges under Arizona Revised Statute § 13-3405:

  • Possession of Marijuana — Class 6 felony punishable by up to two years in prison;
  • Production of Marijuana — Class 5 felony punishable by up to 2.5 years in prison; and
  • Transportation or Importation of Marijuana for Sale — Class 3 felony punishable by up to 8.75 years in prison. 

It is important to remember that despite its medicinal benefits for people suffering from certain ailments, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I controlled substance under the Controlled Substance Act (CSA). Schedule I controlled substances are supposedly drugs, substances, or chemicals that are defined “as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” People facing federal charges related to marijuana offenses in Arizona can be subject to even longer prison sentences and bigger fines.

Arizona Medical Marijuana Laws

Medical-Marijuana-300x200Arizona is among the half of the states in the nation that have legalized cannabis for medical use. In 2010, voters approved Proposition 203, more commonly known as the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA). Under AMMA, approved patients can purchase up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana from a state-licensed dispensary every two weeks and possess up to 2.5 ounces at any time. Certain approved patients are allowed to grow up to 12 marijuana plants or find a caregiver to grow the cannabis for them.

Medical conditions that qualify patients for medical marijuana include:

  • Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS);
  • Agitation of Alzheimer’s disease;
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS);
  • Cancer;
  • Crohn’s Disease;
  • Glaucoma;
  • Hepatitis C;
  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV); or
  • A chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition or the treatment for a chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition that causes cachexia or wasting syndrome, severe and chronic pain, severe nausea, seizures (including those characteristic of epilepsy), or severe or persistent muscle spasms, including those characteristic of multiple sclerosis.

If Prop 205 passes on November 8, the medical marijuana program would continue as is. Responsibility for regulation of the program, however, would shift from the Arizona Department of Health Services to a new department in September 2017.

What to Do if You are Arrested for Marijuana in Arizona 

handcuffs-Arrest-Mesa-AZ1-294x300If you are arrested for any kind of cannabis-related offense in Arizona after the Prop 205 vote, you should not say anything to authorities without legal representation. Many drug-related crimes involve violations of alleged offenders’ constitutional rights to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Marijuana arrests may stem from routine traffic stops in which alleged offenders allow police officers to search their vehicles. The discovery of even a small amount of cannabis can lead to people facing felony charges. The amount in question plays an important role in determining the severity of the criminal charges.

Under state law in Arizona, the “threshold amount” for marijuana is two pounds. Any amount exceeding the threshold can be legally presumed to be intended for sale. When the element of an intent to sell marijuana is added to criminal charges, it not only leads to more serious criminal charges but also more aggressive prosecution.

Alleged offenders who have no previous convictions for drug-related offenses may be eligible for deferred prosecution in marijuana possession cases. With deferred prosecution, alleged offenders who successfully complete all terms of the probation they are placed on may be able to have the criminal charges dropped.

On the other hand, alleged offenders who have been previously convicted of drug-related offenses will typically face felony charges that carry steep consequences. In addition to possible prison sentences and orders to pay significant fines, felony convictions can carry lifelong consequences. People convicted of felony offenses can experience enormous difficulty obtaining employment, housing, or professional licenses.

Criminal Defense Lawyer for Alleged Marijuana Crimes in Mesa, AZ

James-Novak-Criminal-Defense-Attorney-Mesa-AZ-300x236It is in the best interest of any person arrested for an alleged marijuana crime to immediately retain legal counsel. The Law Office of James E. Novak aggressively defends clients throughout the greater Maricopa County area.

James Novak is an experienced criminal defense attorney in Mesa who has handled these types of cases on both sides of the aisle. As a former prosecutor in Maricopa County, he can identify the weaknesses in a prosecutor’s case and fight to possibly have criminal charges reduced or dismissed.

The Law Office of James E. Novak is committed to helping people charged with possession, sale, or cultivation of marijuana achieve the most favorable outcomes to their criminal cases. Our lawyer represents clients in Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe, Gilbert, Mesa, Chandler, and many surrounding areas of Maricopa County.

You can have our attorney provide an honest and thorough evaluation of your case as soon as you call (480) 413-1499 or complete an online contact form today to schedule a fee, confidential consultation.

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