Month: August 2012

Holbrook Defense Lawyers Fight Drug Stops

Criminal defense attorneys Bruce S. Griffen and Ryan J. Stevens defend major felony cases in Navajo County Superior Court located in Holbrook, Arizona. Drug charges often arise after drug trafficking stops on I-40 which often include “drug detection” canine sniffs or searches of vehicles.

Practical tip from Griffen & Stevens Law Firm, PLLC: We are a regional law firm with a strong presence in courtrooms all over Northern Arizona. We aggressively defend major felony cases, including transportation of drugs for sale and drug trafficking charges, in Navajo County Superior Court, and all other counties in Northern Arizona.

The members of the Griffen & Stevens Law Firm, PLLC have noted an increase in traffic stops on I-40 between Winslow and Holbrook and between Holbrook and the Arizona border to New Mexico.

Drug Detection Canine Sniffs Can Be Legal

According to the U.S. Supreme Court, a canine sniff of the exterior of a person’s vehicle is not a “search” under the Fourth Amendment search and seizure laws. But not all drug dog sniffs are legal. At the Griffen & Stevens Law Firm, PLLC, we challenge K9 drug sniffs based on many factors, supported by Arizona criminal drug case law, including: unintentional or intentional cueing by the K9 officer, residual odor, false alerts by the dog, lack of reliability of the dog, and lack of probable cause to search a vehicle.

We use cutting edge legal research to develop and argue the best legal defenses to all vehicle searches in Arizona drug cases.

Traffic Stops Are Often Pretext Stops For Drug Investigations

Police officers across northern Arizona, including Flagstaff and Holbrook, are initiating traffic stops on unsuspecting drivers, usually those traveling west from California, for bogus reasons like: GPS device on windshield, unsafe following distance, illegal lane usage, speeding 1 or 2 mph over the limit, and endless other pretexts for pulling someone over. Then the officers can ask a driver to get out of their vehicle, wait by the police car while the officer issues a “warning” and begins interrogating that person about drugs and other illegal activity. The officer tries to look for indicia of criminal activity and drug trafficking, and will often utilize a drug detection dog. Ultimately, the officer wants to pressure you to consent to a search of your vehicle.

Practical tip from Griffen & Stevens Law Firm, PLLC: Do not ever consent to a search of your vehicle. Even if you do not have any contraband, or think you do not, you may be surprised that a friend or former occupant of your vehicle left some marijuana in the vehicle. Make the police establish sufficient proof of probable cause! That is where the strongest legal challenges exist. If you consent to a search, we cannot argue the probable cause issue later in Court when you are facing drug transportation charges.

Flagstaff Accident Lawyers Discuss Injury Law

In recent years in Flagstaff, we have seen an increase in vehicle accidents, car rollovers, and bicycle collisions causing serious injuries to the victims.

As Flagstaff injury lawyers and attorneys, the members of the Griffen & Stevens Law Firm, PLLC fight hard – days, nights, and weekends – for accident victims and families of wrongful death victims. We are Flagstaff’s law firm for serious car and vehicle collisions and injuries. Many of our clients are out-of-state and were simply visiting Flagstaff as tourists.

  • We fight hard for all of our personal injury clients, whether you are local, or from outside of Flagstaff.
  • We begin with a thorough investigation.
  • We do interviews and collect police reports and data.
  • We talk to victims and medical providers.
  • We contact insurance companies and research insurance policies (oftentimes there are multiple insurance policies available to Flagstaff injury victims).
  • We pursue every legal avenue to go after the insurance companies involved in the situation.
  • We provide clients with high quality advice, including updates to Arizona personal injury laws in 2012.
  • We negotiate harder than anyone else for the highest settlement available through one or more insurance policies at play.
  • We negotiate down liens with medical providers in order to increase the compensation to those who matter most: our clients.

The process of handling a personal injury case should be handled by the experts at the Griffen & Stevens Law Firm, PLLC. We handle every aspect of your case, and comfort you throughout the entire process. You’ll never be left in the dark about our progress. And you will personally see how hard we work for you. We take great pride in our client care. We offer high quality free consultations on all Flagstaff injury cases, including car accidents, wrongful death, dog bites, and medical malpractice. Simply call us at the number at the top of this screen.

Arizona’s New DUI Laws: Update

Arizona’s driving under the influence (DUI) laws are the most commonly updated criminal laws in Arizona. Here are some notable aspects of the current status of Arizona’s DUI laws.

Simple DUI: Impaired to the Slightest Degree

The “simplest” version of an Arizona DUI is called “impaired to the slightest degree.” See A.R.S. section 28-1381(A)(1). What does it mean? It is very simple, actually. It means that a person is driving or in “actual physical control” of a vehicle in the State of Arizona while “impaired to the slightest degree” by alcohol or drugs.

This law comes down to a simple proof issue: Can the prosecution prove impairment? The types of evidence that the prosecutor and the police will use to try to prove “impairment” include: poor performance on field sobriety tests; red/watery/bloodshot eyes; poor “divided attention” skills; slurred speech; traffic violations; odor of alcohol; and several more.

Practical tip from Griffen & Stevens Law Firm, PLLC: If you are under investigation for DUI, you can limit the amount of evidence of impairment against you by respectfully declining to perform FST’s, respectfully declining to consent to a search of your vehicle, asserting your constitutional rights to remain silent and to enjoy the assistance of a lawyer, declining to waive any constitutional right, not “confessing” or “admitting” to any alcohol or drug consumption (think: remain silent), and being polite toward the police officer(s) at all times. Knowing the law and understanding “impaired to the slightest degree” can help you defeat a DUI charge.

Penalties for a conviction of DUI – Impaired to the Slightest Degree in Arizona include, at a minimum, the following:

  • Approx. $1,510 in fines and fees, plus the “cost of incarceration”;
  • 10 days in jail, 9 suspended upon successful completion of alcohol screening and assessment and recommended counseling (you must serve “one day” of jail)*;
  • Home detention and continuous alcohol monitoring may be available for any time in jail in excess of one day;
  • Probation up to five (5) years long and costs associated therewith;
  • Alcohol and/or drug screening and assessment and counseling;
  • Community service hours are possible;
  • Cost of incarceration can be reduced or eliminated;
  • SR22 insurance is possible;
  • Ignition interlock device is required for one (1) year but can be reduced to six (6) months and/or eliminated for medical or employment with continuous alcohol monitoring; and
  • Other MVD penalties on your driving privileges (see below).

*Practical tip from Griffen & Stevens Law Firm, PLLC: Always use an Arizona MVD certified counselor!

Some of the new laws for Arizona DUI’s include home detention, continuous alcohol monitoring, reduced jail in favor of ignition interlock devices, one day of jail instead of 24 consecutive hours, jail instead of prison for aggravated DUI probation cases.

DUI by Blood Alcohol Concentration: 0.08%, 0.15%, and 0.20%

Another type of DUI in Arizona is not based on whether the prosecution can prove impairment. Rather, it is based on the existence of alcohol in your system by way of scientific testing. There are three (3) threshold amounts of alcohol by law: 0.08%, 0.15%, and 0.20% or more. First, a DUI – 0.08% or More charge is based on scientific testing of your blood. If you are arrested on suspicion of DUI, the police will request from you one of the following: blood, breath, or urine. (A urine test is more common in drug cases than in alcohol cases.) Under Arizona’s Admin Per Se / Implied Consent laws, you are required to provide the sample of your blood, breath, or urine. If you refused to provide a sample, your driving privilege will be revoked for one (1) year, even if you are not guilty of a DUI! Plus, the police can still obtain a search warrant, strap you down to a chair, and withdraw your blood without your consent.

Practical tip from Griffen & Stevens Law Firm, PLLC: You have a legal right to request that an independent sample of your blood, breath, or urine be preserved for future testing by a scientific expert of your choice! The results of an independent test can sometimes dispute the veracity of the government’s test results.

Penalties for DUI – 0.08% or More convictions are identical to the penalties for a DUI – Impaired to the Slightest Degree (see above). Penalties for a DUI – 0.15% or More conviction are higher. Check out the DUI section of our website for more information. Penalties for a DUI – 0.20% or More conviction are even higher. Check out the DUI section of our website for more information.

DUI by Drugs: Strict Liability

DUI cases are not always about alcohol. Sometimes, a DUI charge is for having an illegal drug in your system. The most important thing to understand about DUI – Drugs cases is that proof of impairment is not required! That’s why I refer to DUI – Drugs cases as “strict liability” cases. If you have THC (active ingredient of marijuana) in your system (including in your urine), or any metabolite of THC, and you are driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle, you are guilty of a DUI. You do not have to be impaired. In fact, even if you have an illegal drug in your system that improves your driving, you are still guilty of DUI. Why? Because impairment is not an element of the DUI – Drugs crime under A.R.S. section 28-1381(A)(3). DUI – Drugs cases also have similar penalties to DUI – Impaired to the Slightest Degree, although there are some variations, most notably a more severe suspension of your driving privileges.

Non-Criminal Penalties: MVD and Your Drivers License

If you think the criminal system is all you have to worry about in a DUI case, think again. The Arizona Motor Vehicle Department, or MVD, is going to attack your driving privileges. If you test positive for a BAC greater than 0.08% or any illegal drug, your driving privileges will be suspended for at least 90 days. If you are convicted of DUI – Drugs, your driving privileges are revoked for 1 year. If you are under 21 years old, your consequences are far more severe. There are several complicated statutes that allow for variations of suspensions, including shorter suspensions, restricted driving permits, ignition interlock device requirements, and more.

How We Help Our Clients

Our legal services cover everything in your DUI case. We handle all criminal court proceedings, negotiations with prosecutions, constitution challenges, and we represent you in your MVD proceedings. MVD proceedings are non-criminal, often referred to as “civil” or “administrative” proceedings.

However, you still retain many important rights in those hearings – rights that we vigorously protect. Perhaps most importantly, prosecutors in Arizona know that we are trial lawyers. We don’t just show up, beg for a plea offer, and give up on your case. We educate our clients about their choices, obtain the best possible resolution for them, and ultimately, if the case is worth challenging, we go to trial. We have serious jury trial experience in cases involving criminal charges of murder, sex crimes, major drugs charges (transportation/sale), aggravated assault, aggravated felony DUI, misdemeanor DUI, and more.

We offer free (no cost, no obligation) consultations on all criminal cases. For more information about our DUI defense services, visit the DUI section of our website.