Year: 2011

Flagstaff lawyer discusses Arizona criminal arraignments

Flagstaff, Arizona

So you got charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, now what? Your first real court hearing, except for a possible Initial Appearance where your bond and release conditions will be set, is called an Arraignment.

You’ll be informed of the charges against youThere are several things that happen at an Arraignment, including the following:

  1. You’ll get a copy of the Complaint if you don’t have one
  2. You’ll be informed of your constitutional rights
  3. You’ll learn about possible immigration consequences
  4. The judge can answer certain questions you may have (but not about the facts of your csae)
  5. You’ll enter a plea of Not Guilty
  6. Your next Court date will be scheduled. Be aware that Arizona law generally requires courts to set cases out a few weeks to give the prosecutor (e.g., the Flagstaff City Attorney or the Coconino County Attorney’s Office) enough time to obtain police reports and other evidence in your case, to get your motor vehicle records, to contact alleged victims in your case, and to obtain restitution information.
  7. Lastly, the Court will address your release conditions, which can include a bond, jail, no contact with victims, no drinking alcohol, and various other requirements.

You have very important constitutional rights which you’ll be informed of at your Arraignment as well:

  • You have the right to remain silent and not to incriminate yourself.
  • You have the right to be represented by an attorney at all proceedings in your case and to have an attorney appointed to represent you if you are eligible.
  • You are presumed innocent unless and until the State can prove you guilty by a standard called “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
  • You have the right to have a trial in which the State must present evidence against you and at which time you may confront and cross-examine any witnesses against you.
  • You have the right to have the Court issue subpoenas free of charge to compel witnesses of your choosing to appear and testify.

If you have hired a lawyer, you can waive your Arraignment, meaning you don’t have to show up, sit around, wait to see the judge, and go through the cattle call process.

If you’ve got an Arraignment coming up in Arizona, call me today. Time is of the essence and getting a lawyer prior to an Arraignment can help your odds in your criminal case in many ways.

Gilbert Felony Defense Lawyer discusses fraud and the recent indictment in Gilbert against car auction owner

Gilbert, Arizona –

According to a recent news article, Maricopa County prosecutors say a 101-count indictment charges Stanley Dean Torgerson of fraud and theft for allegedly selling vehicles for customers and failing to give them the proceeds.

Fraud statutes are located at Arizona Revised Statutes, section 13-2201 et seq. Fraudulent activities can be misdemeanors or felonies. The allegations in the case against Mr. Torgerson involve felony fraud counts. Prosecutors may be seeking a punishment authorized by special sentencing provisions in the Arizona statutes. Prosecutors are threatening a life sentence in this case. That may be a bit extreme, as they are suggesting he would have to be convicted of all 101 counts and sentenced to consecutive aggravated prison terms. Such a claim by prosecutors ought to be shot down immediately by Mr. Torgerson’s attorney and a much more lenient resolution to this case should be sought.

Flagstaff marijuana lawyer discusses federal threat against Arizona marijuana users…

Flagstaff, Arizona –

As I’ve written about before, when Proposition 203 passed last November, Arizonans said “YES” to the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, which allows those who have a doctor’s recommendation and a state-issued card to purchase, possess and use up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana every two weeks. But under federal law, marijuana remains a big no-no, and the U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona is making his marijuana fears known.

The Arizona Department of Health Services instituted the Arizona Medical Marijuana Program (website) in order to carry out the will of the Arizona people, who voted to pass the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act.

But here’s a word to the wise: just because something is legal under state law doesn’t mean it’s legal under federal law. Dennis Burke, the top federal prosecutor in Arizona, wrote a letter to Will Humble, Arizona’s state health director, saying in the letter:

“The public should understand, however, that even clear and unambiguous compliance with the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act does not render possession or distribution of marijuana lawful under federal statute.”

That is a threat, plain and simple.

“This compliance with Arizona laws and regulations does not provide a safe harbor, nor immunity from federal prosecution,”

Burke wrote.

Another threat. Essentially, Prosecutor Burke is saying he can, and perhaps will, swoop in and arrest and prosecute people who are in full compliance with Arizona law. Why? Because the federal government is, as usual, decades behind the times and has not yet legalized marijuana. The biggest threat, in my opinion, is to those who grow, cultivate, and producte marijuana for the State of Arizona.

Even if issued appropriate state authority to grow marijuana, the cultivator is in grave danger of a federal swoop-in for several reasons. Not only will there be a federal criminal prosecution (e.g., it would start at the Federal Magistrate Court in Flagstaff), but then the feds will probably try to apply Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO” as we know it) and steal the cultivator’s property — tools, equipment, vehicles, buildings, real estate, etc.

According to Burke, even those on the periphery, including property owners, landlords and organizations that finance dispensaries, risk not just federal criminal prosecution but also having the assets seized. The federal message from our fearless U.S. Attorney: don’t touch marijuana, not even with a stick, because the feds will prosecute you (and seize your stick while they’re at it). In response to hearing about Burke’s letter, Arizona governor Jan Brewer took Prosecutor Burke to task. “You know what I would say to Dennis Burke?” she said. “Why don’t they enforce their immigration laws?”

Of course Brewer was making a point on her own politically-hot topic, but in doing so, she makes a great point for Arizonans altogether, not to mention all American citizens. Let’s here it for states’ rights. Charged with a marijuana crime? Call Griffen & Stevens Law Firm, PLLC now.

Flagstaff Lawyer explains Minor in Possession (MIP) or Consumption of Alcohol by a Minor (MIC) Arizona laws…

Flagstaff, Arizona –

Alcohol crimes are particularly detrimental to young people: teenagers, students, and young adults looking to make a living. When you’re under 21 and busted for an alcohol-related offense in Flagstaff or anywhere in Northern Arizona, you’re looking at potential jail time of up to 6 months and a $2500 fine.

In this article, I’ll address the different levels of misdemeanors that an Arizona minor can be convicted of when dealing in alcohol, such as consuming alcohol, possessing alcohol, furnishing alcohol to a minor, and driving with alcohol in the minor’s body (separate from an Arizona DUI).
First, a person (whether a minor or not) cannot provide alcohol to a minor. Here is what the Arizona statute says about that:

“It is unlawful…for a…person to sell, furnish, dispose of or give, or cause to be sold, furnished, disposed of or given, to a person under the legal drinking age . . .”

Arizona Revised Statutes, section 4-244(9).

Second, a minor cannot possess or consume alcohol:

“It is unlawful . . . for . . . a person under the legal drinking age to buy, receive, have in the person’s possession or consume spirituous liquor.”

Arizona Revised Statutes, section 4-244(9).

Third, a minor cannot drive a car with any alcohol in his or her body.

“It is unlawful . . . for or a person under twenty-one years of age to drive or be in physical control of a motor vehicle while there is any spirituous liquor in the person’s body.”

Arizona Revised Statutes, section 4-244(34).

Also be aware that a minor (or person under 21) can get a DUI under Arizona’s regular DUI laws, including DUI – Slightest, DUI – 0.08% or More, DUI – Extreme, DUI – Super Extreme, and even Aggravated DUI (a.k.a. felony DUI).

Even if a person under 21 years old is at a 0.01% BAC, they can be convicted of driving with alcohol in his or her body. The minor need not even be impaired by alcohol to be convicted!

Fourth, in addition to consuming alcohol, a minor cannot even have alcohol in his or her body. (How it would have gotten there without consuming it is beyond me.) “It is unlawful . . . for a person under twenty-one years of age to have in the person’s body any spirituous liquor.” See Arizona Revised Statutes, section 4-244(41).

What Level of Offense Are Minor-Alcohol Offenses?

To get that answer, we have to look beyond the “Unlawful Acts” section of the alcohol chapter of the Arizona statutes. The answer is found in A.R.S. section 4-246, which reveals that all violations of Title 4 of the Arizona Revised Statutes are class 2 misdemeanors, EXCEPT certain offenses are class 1 misdemeanors and a very few of them are class 3 misdemeanors. A prime example of a class 1 misdemeanor is when a person sells, furnishes, or gives alcohol to a minor. Another class 1 misdemeanor occurs when a minor possesses or consumes alcohol.

Misdemeanors are criminal offenses and can affect students, education potential, and careers. They should not be taken lightly, as their punishments can be very serious. A Class 1 misdemeanor carries a potential sentence of up to 6 months in jail as well as fines up to $2,500.
If you or someone you know has been charged with a minor in possession or minor in consumption of alcohol in Arizona, or furnishing alcohol to a minor, call today for a free consultation.

Flagstaff DUI Lawyer discusses marijuana, drugs, and your rights

One day after a methamphetamine bust in a Flagstaff motel netted 5 arrests for various drug crimes, like possession and sale of dangerous drugs, including methamphetamine, a 13 year old boy was arrested for possession of marijuana for sale in a drug-free school zone at Sinagua Middle School.

The boy had apparently hidden 5 baggies of a small quantity of marijuana under a heater in the school. A simple K-9 search revealed the drugs in the middle school on E. Butler Avenue in Flagstaff, Arizona. Under Arizona Revised Statutes, sections 13-3411 and 13-709.03(C), possessing marijuana for sale in a school zone is a prison-only offense and the prison time is increased by 1 year, generally, because it was in a school zone.

Fortunately for the 13 year old, he will be tried in the juvenile court system. An adult who commits the same crime is looking at serious prison time. What is happening? Drugs are rampantly traveling through Northern Arizona on I-17 and I-40 through Mohave, Yavapai, Coconino, Navajo, and Apache counties. Police are getting aggressive in their drug detection and enforcement of drug laws. But that’s how lines get crossed and constitutional rights get violated.

DUI In other news, DUI charges are increasing lately in Flagstaff. As the weather gets nicer, people are out longer and later, and driving home after hitting the bars and clubs. You should know that under Arizona law, there are multiple different ways to charge DUI. Here are a few:

  • DUI – Slightest — minimum 10 days jail with 9 suspended upon successful completion of alcohol screening and treatment
  • DUI – 0.08% or higher — minimum 10 days jail with 9 suspended upon successful completion of alcohol screening and treatment
  • “Extreme” DUI – 0.15% or higher — minimum 30 days consecutive jail
  • “Super Extreme” DUI – 0.20% or higher — minimum 45 days consecutive jail
  • Aggravated DUI (Felony DUI) — minimum 4 months in prison

All DUI offenses have major fines and fees, suspension of your license, and other life-changing penalties. Stay safe, and get a good a DUI lawyer if you are charged to protect your rights and get the best result in your Northern Arizona DUI case as is possible.

Flagstaff Lawyer: drug arrests in NAU fraternity house case may result in prison-only felony charges

As a criminal defense lawyer in Flagstaff, I’ve been watching the news unfold on a serious spree of crimes, including drugs and drive-by shootings, happening at an NAU fraternity house just south of downtown Flagstaff.

The Arizona Daily Sun has been reporting on the story. Flagstaff police have arrested two residents of an NAU fraternity house on drug charges as relief work soft part of an investigation into an April 2011 drive-by shooting and continuing threats with a weapon at the same fraternity house. The Flagstaff police arrested two fraternity students, charging them with Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, and charging one of them with the sale of illegal drugs. An indictment will likely come out of a Coconino Grand Jury for these felony crimes.

As a Flagstaff felony drug lawyer, I’ve written before that Possession of Drug Paraphernalia is a class 6 felony offense in violation of Arizona Revised Statutes, section 13-3415(A). The sale or possession with the intent to sell illegal drugs is an even more serious felony under Arizona law.

Depending on the type of the substance, and the amount, quantity, and weight, that crime sometimes mandates a prison sentence, meaning felony probation is not even an option for the Coconino County Superior Court judge who will be issuing the sentence upon conviction, if any. Flagstaff has seen a widespread illegel drug problem over the past few years, including methamphetamine production and sale, heroin overdoses resulting in death and near-death situations for addicts, cocaine and ecstasy deals resulting in first degree murder, and the usual culprit, marijuana possession and sales.

For a free consultation on any drug-related criminal case, call Griffen & Stevens Law Firm, PLLC now.

Flagstaff Felony Lawyer explains felony domestic violence in Coconino County or Northern Arizona…

Domestic violence is not a separate criminal offense in Arizona in-and-of-itself. Domestic violence is a designation attached to a criminal offense, such as assault, endangerment, criminal damage, criminal trespassing, interference with judicial proceedings, harassment, aggravated harassment, disorderly conduct, and more, when the victim of the offense meets certain criteria, explain below.

The criteria for a domestic violence designation of a Northern Arizona criminal case are as follows:

1. The relationship between the victim and the defendant is one of marriage or former marriage or of persons residing or having resided in the same household.

2. The victim and the defendant have a child in common.

3. The victim or the defendant is pregnant by the other party.

4. The victim is related to the defendant or the defendant’s spouse by blood or court order as a parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, brother or sister or by marriage as a parent-in-law, grandparent-in-law, stepparent, step-grandparent, stepchild, step-grandchild, brother-in-law or sister-in-law.

5. The victim is a child who resides or has resided in the same household as the defendant and is related by blood to a former spouse of the defendant or to a person who resides or who has resided in the same household as the defendant.

6. The relationship between the victim and the defendant is currently or was previously a romantic or sexual relationship. The following factors may be considered in determining whether the relationship between the victim and the defendant is currently or was previously a romantic or sexual relationship: (a) The type of relationship. (b) The length of the relationship. (c) The frequency of the interaction between the victim and the defendant. (d) If the relationship has terminated, the length of time since the termination.

Arizona Revised Statutes, section 13-3601(A).

If any of those criteria apply, and you commit any of the offenses listed above against such a victim, then the crime is a domestic violence offense. There is a misconception that every domestic violence case in Arizona is a felony. The truth is, most domestic violence crimes are misdemeanors. Simple assault, trespassing, criminal damage… these offenses can be misdemeanors or felonies.

However, just because they are domestic violence in nature does not elevate a misdemeanor to a felony. Aggravated Domestic Violence is a separate crime in Arizona, and applies across Coconino County, Yavapai County, Mohave County, Navajo County, and all of Northern Arizona Domestic Violence cases. Aggravated Domestic Violence occurs when someone commits a third or subsequent violation of a domestic violence offense within a period of 84 months (i.e., 7 years).

So, for example, say a Flagstaff person is convicted of trespassing into an ex-girlfriend’s apartment after he was told to leave. Such a conviction can be a domestic violence offense in Flagstaff Municipal Court. Next, three years later, while hiking just outside of Flagstaff City limits, that same person gets frustrated and grabs hold of his new girlfriend’s wrist when she tries to leave his presence after an argument. Such a simple assault is prosecuted in the Flagstaff Justice Court and is a domestic violence offense.

Then, two years later, the same person is now married and has a baby. He gets upset that the baby won’t stop crying and he breaks the baby’s bottle by throwing the bottle onto the ground. Such a criminal damage case would normally be yet another Flagstaff domestic violence misdemeanor… but this is his third domestic violence offense within 7 years, landing him in the Coconino County Superior Court on charges of Aggravated Domestic Violence, a class 5 felony, punishable by up to 2.5 years in the Arizona Department of Corrections.

As you can see, domestic violence is treated very seriously under Arizona law, especially repeat domestic violence offenders. Even if each act of domestic violence is not severe, or does not even cause personal injury to any person, a third offense within 7 years is felony domestic violence and very serious in nature. In addition, a first act of domestic violence can be a felony. For example, Aggravated Assault, or a simple assault committed by use of a dangerous instrument or deadly weapon, can be a domestic violence offense, of a “dangerous” nature, causing a prison term of up to 15 years on a first domestic violence offense.

Domestic violence is a serious crime. It has broken apart Flagstaff families, ruined children’s lives all across Northern Arizona, broken people’s spirits, caused suicide and depression, and sent thousands of offenders to jail and prison. People who commit domestic violence often need help themselves, which is why if you are convicted of your first domestic violence offense as a misdemeanor, you are required to attend a domestic violence offender treatment program. See Arizona Revised Statutes, section 13-3601.01(A).

If you or someone you know has been accused of domestic violence, you need a lawyer who understands the complicated domestic violence laws, had experience dealing with the criminal justice system as it relates to domestic violence, and who is familiar with treatment programs in Northern Arizona. Call today for your free consultation.

Flagstaff felony possession lawyer discusses possession of marijuana (and other drugs) intended for sale…

Possession for sale, trafficking, transporting for sale, and similar felony offenses in Northern Arizona, often occurring on I-40 and I-17 in the Flagstaff vicinity, or in Yavapai County, or Mohave County, or Navajo County, all come with serious consequences. Possession for sale charges are much more serious and are always charged as felonies. In Arizona, arrests are made and felony drug charges are filed when there is probable cause to believe the person has the intent to sell the drugs, the weight the drugs in your possession is over the threshold amount or a sale of drugs was made (for money or as a trade, such as marijuana for ecstasy).

A conviction of possession for sale charges results in mandatory prison sentences. It’s very important that you have an aggressive and well-trained lawyer if you’re charged with felony drug possession, and especially any Arizona drug crime involving the intent to sell, or sale of, illegal drugs. Transportation of drugs for sale is another extremely serious felony offense in Arizona. Much like possession of drugs for sale, transportation of drugs for sale charges are felony charges and often result in serious mandatory prison sentences if the weight of the drugs exceeds the threshold amount. Here, once again, are the “threshold amounts” defined by Arizona statutes:

  • Marijuana – 2 pounds
  • Methamphetamine – 9 grams
  • Amphetamine – 9 grams
  • Cocaine – 9 grams (powder form); 750 milligrams (rock form)
  • Heroin – 1 gram
  • LSD – ½ milliliter (liquid form); 50 dosage units (blotter form)
  • PCP – 4 grams or 50 milliliters

So why do the threshold amounts of drugs matter in Arizona? The possession of drugs at or above the following threshold amounts requires a mandatory sentence in the Arizona Department of Corrections. This means that probation is not available. If convicted, you go to prison. The judge has no other options. The prosecution presumes that when a person has the threshold amount of drugs in his or her possession that the drugs are for sale, even if in reality they were not. Felony drug carges in Flagstaff, Coconino County, Yavapai County, or anywhere across Northern Arizona, are very serious in nature and deserve the attention and expertise of an agressive criminal defense lawyer.

Man jumps off of rim of Grand Canyon while fleeing from the police

Terrance Black was wanted in connection with a possible Texas murder of his ex-girlfriend. When police spotted him, he took off running, and jumped off the south rim. He fell 25 feet. He survived and is recovering in the Flagstaff Medical Center… under police security.

Black had an arrest warrant out for him. So police were permitted to arrest him as soon as they spotted him and confirmed it was him. When Black took off running, they chased. Black’s flight from the police could be a separate felony charge here in Arizona (in federal court because it was in the Grand Canyon National Park).

Flight can also be used as evidence of guilt, if this case proceeded to trial. Flight from police is never a good idea because it can be a crime and it will be used against you in your criminal case as evidence of guilt

Flagstaff’s weekend lawyer gears up for the April 23-24 weekend

Northern Arizona’s beautiful warm spring weather has broken through.  We’re looking forward to Grand Canyon trekkers, Snow Bowl hikers, soon-to-be NAU graduates, and everyone else who enjoys Flagstaff, Sedona, Prescott, Camp Verde, Cottonwood, Page, and all of Northern Arizona!

We hope everyone stays safe and enjoys the April 23-24 Easter weekend.  Flagstaff’s weekend lawyer will be on call, ready for consultations on all criminal and DUI cases.

NAU students: if you run into some legal trouble this time of year as the celebrations begin, call me for aggressive legal representation.

Stay safe, and if you need a criminal or DUI consultation, or any pressing legal matter, call me or email me using the form to the right.