Month: October 2012

Arizona Injury Law: Bouncers and Employees

“Never was anything great achieved without danger.” – Niccolo Machiavelli

Arizona police officers, bouncers, and security guards do not have the right to injure you, except under very specific circumstances. In this article, we share some insight into what happens when a person is injured by an employee of a business.

One of the most common “intentional tort” scenarios is when a security guard or a bouncer injures a customer or patron, or a police officer employed by a law enforcement department. A bouncer at a nightclub or bar does not have the right to injure people. Security guards do not have the authority to physically harm you. Bouncers and security guards may get a power trip as they attempt to control difficult situations. However, power trip or not, bouncers and security guards are not legally entitled to hurt you just because you are a patron of their business, even if you are causing some trouble. In rare circumstances, bouncers and security guards can use physical force upon you if it falls under a “justification” legally permitted in Arizona.

We can review your case to determine if the use of physical force against you was justified. In some cases, bouncers cause serious injury to customers and patrons. In those situations, you may be entitled to obtain money damages from the business for their employee’s (i.e., the bouncer’s) actions. In Arizona, if you are injured by an employee of a business (e.g., a restaurant, grocery store, Wal-Mart, bar, or nightclub), you may be able to recover damages from the business instead of the actual individual that harmed you.

This theory of liability is called respondeat superior liability.

Practical tip from Griffen & Stevens Law Firm, PLLC: If you are injured by an employee of a business, it is very important to make a good report of what happened. If the police or an ambulance are needed, utilize these services. Get all of the medical help you need. Find out who the witnesses are and make sure photographs are taken. Do not consent to an interview with the business owner or any representative of the business until you have a lawyer. Make an independent report with law enforcement (if appropriate), and contact us immediately so that we can get our investigators to work on your behalf.

Here is what respondeat superior liability means. An employer is responsible for the actions of its employee if the employee was acting within the scope of his or her employment. To win a personal injury case based on the theory of respondeat superior liability, under Arizona law, you must prove that:

  1. The act was the kind that the employee was employed to perform;
  2. The act occurred within the time and space of the employment; and
  3. The act was motivated at least in part by a purpose to serve the employer.

There are two ways an employee and/or business can be responsible for harming a customer: intentional acts and negligence. Here we will discuss intentional acts that cause harm to another person. These are called intentional torts. The most common examples in our scenario of a bouncer attacking a patron at a bar or nightclub are the Arizona civil torts of “assault” and “battery.” To win a personal injury case involving assault or battery, under Arizona law, you must prove:

  1. The person intended to cause harm or offensive contact with you or to cause you to suffer apprehension of an immediate harmful or offensive contact;
  2. The person caused you apprehension of an immediate harmful or offensive contact or actually caused harmful or offensive contact; and
  3. You suffered damages as a result.

Practical tip from Griffen & Stevens Law Firm, PLLC: If you are injured by an employee of a business, such as a bouncer at a nightclub, contact us right away. We aggressively represent injured people and fight for justice. You shouldn’t have to pay your own medical bills when someone intentionally hurts you without justification. You are also entitled to compensation for pain and suffering.

We aggressively pursue personal injury cases in Flagstaff, Sedona, Prescott, Williams, Winslow, Holbrook, Kingman, and all across Northern Arizona.

Arizona Medical Marijuana’s Day In Court

Medical marijuana is legal in the State of Arizona. But the federal government’s archaic drug laws may undermine Arizona’s authority to permit the production, distribution, and/or use of medical marijuana.

Background

At the federal level, the drug cannabis (marijuana) is classified as a “Schedule I” substance under the federal Controlled Substances Act. See 21 U.S.C. § 801 et seq. By their legal definition, Schedule I substances are deemed to have a high potential for dependency. Therefore, according to federal law, a controlled Schedule I substance has no medical use. A significant number of physicians, however, disagree with Congress on this issue.

Arizona voters passed the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act in 2010, permitting the use of medical marijuana within the State of Arizona. See A.R.S. § 36-2801 et seq. This law has no impact on the federal Controlled Substances Act. Instead, the law contradicts, for the most part, the federal law. However, Arizona citizens are not without support.

In October of 2009, President Obama’s Administration released a memo to its federal prosecutors encouraging them to not prosecute people who distribute marijuana for medical purposes in accordance with their state’s laws.

Arizona’s Medical Marijuana: Day In Court

Because Congress has been dragging its feet, there has been no amendment to the Controlled Substances Act. The possession and distribution of marijuana is a federal offense. So how can Arizona citizens pass a law saying otherwise? Well, that issue is being briefed and argued in Maricopa County Superior Court. See the article in the Arizona Daily Sun by clicking here.

You might be thinking… federal law is supreme… of course it supersedes Arizona’s wimpy state law… Well, think again. Actually, take a look at the U.S. Constitution. How often do you hear people talking about “free speech”, “freedom of religion”, and “search and seizure”? Those are all derived from the language of the Bill of Rights. But there is one very important amendment – the Tenth Amendment – that deserves serious consideration. “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” That said, the U.S. Supreme Court has rarely declared a law unconstitutional on the basis of the Tenth Amendment. See, e.g., New York v. United States, 505 U.S. 144 (1992).

In the modern era, the Court has only done so where the federal government compels the states to enforce federal statutes. The basic rule is: Congress cannot directly compel states to enforce federal regulations. Can we extend that to say that neither Congress, nor the Department of Justice, can compel the State of Arizona to honor, or not interfere with, the Controlled Substances Act? Does Arizona’s medical marijuana law actually “interfere” with the federal law at all? Why can’t the State of Arizona legalize marijuana and therefore not criminally prosecute anyone in the state court system for marijuana offenses?

That is essentially what is happening now. You can lawfully possess marijuana in Arizona under state law, but if you do, you are not immune to federal prosecution. But we all know the feds do not have the resources to target, arrest, and prosecute you for a small quantity of marijuana. We anxiously await the outcome of this overly dramatic legalization process. In the meantime, if you are arrested or charged with an Arizona or federal drug offense, call us today for aggressive and experienced criminal defense representation.

Flagstaff Underage Drinking & Drugs

The Flagstaff Police Department came out swinging in a headline newspaper article in the Arizona Daily Sun. (Read the entire article by clicking here.)

Sgt. James Jackson of the Flagstaff Police Department is quoted as saying, “The residents in this city are done being up all night . . . There’s gonna be strict enforcement on these violations of the quiet and peacefulness of a neighborhood.”

But what about your constitutional rights? What about the “right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures”? Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Flagstaff police have been accused of over-broad, sweeping arrests of innocent people at these so-called “loud” parties. The police have been showing up with spotlights, paddy wagons, and have even gone so far as to obtain a search warrant to smash down the front door of a “party” house in full SWAT gear and then attack and arrest all of the partygoers. They spend hours arresting and booking these young adults into our jail. They cost taxpayers a fortune every weekend. And they make students out to be criminals.

In one case, the police officer arrested a person walking down the sidewalk who was not involved in any party. That is an unacceptable, inexcusable violation of that person’s constitutional rights. Meanwhile, somewhere else in Flagstaff, a person is dealing methamphetamine, cocaine, and heroin. But where are the police? They are busy doing “strict” enforcement of petty offenses.