Category: News Blog

Flagstaff Lawyers for NAU Students

(Updated: May 10, 2014)

Summer is here! We wish all of the NAU students a happy, healthy, and fun summer. Unfortunately, when NAU students stick around for the summer, so does the Flagstaff Police Department. Here are our top 5 safety tips for NAU students living in Flagstaff for the summer:

(1) Alcohol and Marijuana – The police in Flagstaff, including NAUPD, are always on the lookout for DUI’s due to alcohol and/or marijuana consumption. If you drink, or plan to drink, or think you might drink, don’t drive your vehicle. Get a cab. Get a friend to be a designated driver. If you’re a designated driver, that means you don’t drink anything that night, not even one beer. If you get pulled over, and are worried about a DUI, remember that Field Sobriety Tests (FST’s) are voluntary and, although your refusal can be used in court against you, you still don’t have to agree to do the FST’s. Breath tests are different, so listen to what the officer tells you. And always, always, always, consult with a Flagstaff DUI defense lawyer before you do anything in a DUI case. We give free consultations on all DUI cases, and we are happy to offer a discount to NAU students.

(2) Bike Safely – We cannot emphasize enough that the Flagstaff roads are dangerous for bicyclists if you’re not paying attention. Follow all traffic signals. Never assume that a driver can see you or can predict where you are going. A vehicle-on-bicycle accident is always extremely serious. We have lost several NAU students in the last several years due to vehicles hitting bicyclists (even when the bicyclist had done nothing wrong). So, be careful out there. If you are injured on a bicycle in Flagstaff, call us right away to make sure you get the best insurance payout possible, and to make sure you don’t end up with medical bills, collections, and liens against you.

(3) Campus Safety – The NAU campus is overcrowded on a typical school day. Drivers try to negotiate their way through thousands of students walking on streets, in parking lots, and on sidewalks. Pedestrian zones are safe if used correctly. Never assume a vehicle can see you. Always try to make eye contact with the driver. If you are involved in a vehicle accident, especially a vehicle-on-pedestrian accident, and you are injured, call us right away for a free consultation. Again, don’t get stuck with a bogus insurance payout, medical bills, collections, and liens against you.

(4) Underage Alcohol Consumption (Minor In Consumption or “MIC”) – When the police are on the prowl, underage consumption of alcohol is one of the top citations given in Flagstaff and on the NAU campus. If you’re underage, be careful, be smart, and don’t be obvious. Anyone who is at a party, or hosting a party, should avoid underage alcohol consumption. You should always assume that the police might show up. And you can get in serious legal trouble if you are hosting an underage drinking party. If you live at The Grove, remember that the police station is just across the street. Hundreds of students living at The Grove get cited every semester by the police. See the Arizona Daily Sun articles like this one. We defend all criminal charges in Arizona state, federal, city, and tribal courts. Call us for a free consultation.

(5) Sexual Offenses – Everyone be careful, be smart, and respect one another. Each year, we see allegations of sexual crimes, sexual offenses, sex abuse, or sex assault happening in Flagstaff, and sometimes on the NAU campus. Sex crimes are extremely serious under Arizona law. What may start out as a fun night can end up a disaster. If you drink, stay with friends you can trust. If you’re on a date, be smart and make sure everything you do is consensual in nature. We are Flagstaff’s sex crime defense law firm. If you’re being investigated, or charged, with a sex offense, call us immediately. Time is of the essence.

We hope NAU has a wonderful summer. Be careful out there and enjoy beautiful Flagstaff! To reach our law firm, don’t hesitate to use the Free Contact Form or call us at the phone number at the top of the screen.

Flagstaff DUI Lawyers: Basic Principles

In the heat of battle on DUI cases, we often interview and cross examine police officers. After one such interview in a DUI case, in Northern Arizona, an officer told me, “Nabbing your client was like shooting fish in a barrel.” I asked what he meant by that. He said, “Your client had no idea what he was doing. I had the upper hand the entire time.”

That hit close to home for me. After hearing the same story over and over again, from officers who employ aggressive investigation tactics to clients who don’t know their rights, it’s clear that most people don’t know what to do when they get pulled over for a DUI investigation. Here are some of the most common complaints – and our thoughts.

1. The officer ordered me out of my car… he can’t do that!

Wrong. He or she can do that. The police officer can order a driver to get out of their vehicle for any traffic stop, even a civil traffic violation like Arizona Revised Statutes section 28-701(A), or a stop sign violation, or even a “failure to produce evidence of financial responsibility” situation. The officer can have a driver get out and walk back to the patrol vehicle. This can be for further investigation of the traffic violation or for police officer safety.

2. The officer started questioning me about contraband and drugs… he can’t do that!

Partially right and partially wrong. Arizona law provides that a police officer may stop and detain a person “as is reasonably necessary to investigate an actual or suspected violation of any traffic law committed in the officer’s presence. . .” A.R.S. section 13-3883(B). The stop and detention must not extend beyond what is reasonably necessary to investigate an actual or suspected violation of Arizona traffic law. A police officer can extend a traffic stop to a more significant criminal investigation if the officer has reasonable suspicion that criminal activity is afoot. Or, the officer can complete the traffic stop and ask the driver if the driver would answer some more questions. Most drivers don’t know that they can say no. So, the conversation becomes a “mere encounter” or “consensual encounter” and the officer is free to keep asking questions.

3. The officer never told me that I could leave… he has to tell me when I’m free to go!

Wrong. The ability to leave is based on a totality of the circumstances analysis. For the officer to detain a person for further investigation beyond the traffic stop, the totality of the circumstances must give rise to a particularized and founded suspicion that a motorist is engaged in criminal activity. State v. Acosta, 166 Ariz. 254, 801 P.2d 49 (App. 1990). If you want to leave, and want to stop answering questions, then say to the officer (politely), “I do not want to answer any more questions. Am I free to leave?” If you are free to leave, then go. If you are not free to leave, then ask, “Why am I being detained?” But at that point, if you are detained, do not answer any more incriminating questions.

4. When an officer asks me if I drank alcohol, I have to answer.

Wrong. Nobody has to make any self-incriminating statements. That’s why you have the right to remain silent.

5. When the officer made me do Field Sobriety Tests (FST’s), I had no choice.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. In Arizona, an officer cannot force you to do FST’s. In fact, all FST’s are voluntary. Officers don’t tell you that when you’re on the side of the road. They usually say, “I need you to do some tests for me.” But you can politely decline. This includes the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN), or what is also referred to as the “eye test” or “pen test.” FST’s can also present a risk of harm to you, which is another reason you can decline (e.g., if you have a prior head injury or leg injury).

6. The officer made me do a breath test at the scene, called a Portable Breath Test (PBT)… he can’t do that!

Right. The officer cannot force you to submit to a PBT. But, the Intoxilyzer 8000 is another story.

7. The officer took me to the station and told me that my driving privileges will be suspended for 12 months if I refuse to blow into the Intoxilyzer 8000… he can’t do that!

Wrong. If the officer has probable cause that you are driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the officer does have the power to ask you to provide a breath, blood, or urine sample for scientific testing. This situation is covered by Arizona’s admin per se / implied consent laws. And yes, if you refuse, you’ll get a 12 month suspension of your driving privileges in Arizona. Remember, the privilege to drive is exactly that—a privilege—not a constitutional or fundamental right.


These are only some of the issues we routinely find in DUI cases in Flagstaff and across Northern Arizona. If you get pulled over for a DUI, you should be polite and respectful. But you don’t have to give the officer incriminating evidence for no reason. You can decline FST’s, decline to answer interrogation questions, and decline a PBT. If you get arrested, then that means the officer still believes that he or she has sufficient probable cause that you are driving under the influence.

For a free DUI or criminal defense consultation for any case in Northern Arizona, call us today or use our free Contact Form at the top of the page.

Criminal Defense: Flagstaff Municipal Court

This article is part of our “Criminal Defense in Northern Arizona Courts” series.

Because we travel to nearly every court across Northern Arizona, we know the different jurisdictions, courts, judges, and prosecutors. Here in Flagstaff, our local city-operated court is the Flagstaff Municipal Court. We handle all types of cases, ranging from DUI to shoplifting, to trespass, to minor in consumption (MIC) underage drinking, and to every other criminal case in Flagstaff Municipal Court – even dog bite cases.

What is a municipal court in Arizona?

The term “municipal court” includes “city or town magistrates’ courts and all other courts established by law in incorporated cities and towns.” See Arizona Revised Statutes, Section 22-401. Flagstaff Municipal Court has what is called “concurrent jurisdiction” with the Flagstaff Justice Court over all criminal cases that arise out of events occurring within the limits of the City of Flagstaff. The Flagstaff Justice Court is a county court, under the authority of Coconino County.

What is concurrent jurisdiction?

Concurrent jurisdiction, put simply, means that both the Flagstaff Municipal Court and the Flagstaff Justice Court have jurisdiction over the criminal case. That means you can be prosecuted in either court system – county or municipal. However, generally speaking, all misdemeanor crimes that are charged inside of the city limits of Flagstaff will be filed and prosecuted in the Flagstaff Municipal Court. And, again generally speaking, all felony cases occurring in Flagstaff city limits will be filed in the Flagstaff Justice Court or the Coconino County Superior Court.

Does the Flagstaff Municipal Court collect fines on criminal cases?

Another purpose of the Flagstaff Municipal Court is to make money for the City of Flagstaff. All money collected as a “fine” gets paid to the Flagstaff city treasurer! See Arizona Revised Statutes, Section 22-404. If you are convicted of a crime, there will be a fine. Rarely does the Court waive a fine. According to Arizona law, a municipal court may enforce the collection of monies owed to the municipal court for “delinquent fines, fees, sanctions, penalties and restitution” through execution or another appropriate process. See Arizona Revised Statutes, Section 22-405.

What rules apply to the Flagstaff Municipal Court?

All municipal courts must operate under the same rules of procedure as the Superior Courts (e.g., the Coconino County Superior Court), which is the Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure. See Arizona Revised Statutes, Section 22-423.

If I get arrested in Flagstaff, Arizona, will I get a bond?

The Flagstaff Municipal Court has the power and authority to order a bond, or hold a person in custody. This is a very important power. The Flagstaff Municipal Court can determine whether someone should have a high, low, or no bond. The Court can release a person on his or her own recognizance. Or, the Court can issue a high bond, making it harder for the person’s family to bond them out. For the purpose of bond, the Court is required to put together a bond schedule. See Arizona Revised Statutes, Section 22-424.

Can there be a jury trial in Flagstaff Municipal Court?

Yes. Most misdemeanor cases do not allow for a jury trial. “In the trial of offenses for violation of ordinances of cities or towns of such a nature as by the common law were not triable before a jury, no jury trial shall be granted.” See Arizona Revised Statutes, Section 22-425. The one unusual misdemeanor is Driving Under the Influence (DUI, Extreme DUI, etc.). A person charged with DUI has a right to demand a jury trial, even in Flagstaff Municipal Court. Therefore, DUI cases do allow for a jury trial in a municipal court. Flagstaff Municipal Court cases are prosecuted by the Flagstaff City Attorney.

At the Griffen & Stevens Law Firm, PLLC, we defend all criminal charges in Flagstaff Municipal Court. We appear before the local judges and magistrates every week. We fight cases through trial, when appropriate, and in many cases we can obtain a fair resolution through negotiation. We know the system; we know the players. Call us for a free consultation on any criminal or personal injury case in Flagstaff, Arizona. Our phone number and free consultation form are at the top of the screen.

Criminal Defense: Flagstaff Justice Court

This article is part of our “Criminal Defense in Northern Arizona Courts” series. We decided to publish this series because Northern Arizona is extremely diverse. And the courts of Northern Arizona are similarly diverse. Each court has different judges, prosecutors, rules, culture, bond schedules, and procedures.

Flagstaff Justice Court is located at 200 N. San Francisco Street in downtown Flagstaff, Arizona. The Flagstaff Justice Court has two courtrooms on the first floor of the Coconino County Superior Court. Flagstaff Justice Court handles both misdemeanor and felony cases. If a felony case is in the Flagstaff Justice Court, then it is in the Preliminary Hearing stage. Once a Justice of the Peace, or a Grand Jury, finds that probable cause exists in a felony case, the case will be transferred out of the Flagstaff Justice Court and up to the Coconino County Superior Court for further prosecution. Misdemeanor cases can be resolved in the Flagstaff Justice Court. Even a jury trial can take place in Flagstaff Justice Court, so long as it is a DUI case. Typically, the prosecutors and the defense attorneys will meet at Pre-Trial Conferences (PTC’s) to negotiate a non-trial resolution. If a case is not resolved with a plea agreement, the case will either be dismissed or will go to trial. If it’s a non-DUI misdemeanor case, the trial will be called a bench trial, which means that the Justice of the Peace will be the fact-finder (i.e., the Justice of the Peace will determine your guilt or innocence, much like a jury does in a felony case or a misdemeanor DUI case).

Who are the Justices of the Peace in Flagstaff Justice Court?

There is one publicly elected Justice of the Peace and one appointed Justice of the Peace Pro Tempore in Flagstaff Justice Court. The elected Justice of the Peace is the Honorable Howard Grodman. The Justice of the Peace Pro Tempore is the Honorable Erika Arlington. Judge Grodman was with the Coconino County Public Defender’s Office when he ran and was elected in 2010, replacing the retiring Judge Brian Kolb. In late 2012, Judge Arlington, whose prior experience includes prosecution and criminal defense, was appointed as the Justice of the Peace Pro Tempore.

Both Judge Grodman and Judge Arlington can preside over criminal cases, felony preliminary hearings, initial appearances (where an initial bond will be set on in-custody defendants), misdemeanor trials, and other civil proceedings.

According to Arizona Revised Statute (A.R.S.) section 22-201: B. Justices of the peace have exclusive original jurisdiction of all civil actions when the amount involved, exclusive of interest, costs and awarded attorney fees when authorized by law, is ten thousand dollars or less.

Flagstaff Justice Court can also hear forcible entry and detainer actions, landlord-tenant disputes, and other civil actions, as dictated by Arizona statutes.

The Griffen & Stevens Law Firm, PLLC handles all criminal cases in Flagstaff Justice Court, whether it’s arguing for release from confinement, a DUI trial, or a preliminary hearing in a major felony case, we have the experience to get the best results. If you have a case in Flagstaff Justice Court, contact us right away for a free consultation.

Flagstaff Car Accident Lawyers Discuss Insurance

In recent days, we are saddened to report that there have been two fatal accidents on the interstates near Flagstaff, Arizona. Interstate 40 saw the loss of life of a Flagstaff mother who was only 27 years old.* Interstate 17 was the scene of an accident in which a man was pronounced dead by authorities just south of Munds Park, which is in Coconino County.** These horrific accidents are shocking and upsetting. And they are a powerful reminder of the dangers of high speed travel and the various road and weather conditions in Northern Arizona.

At the Griffen & Stevens Law Firm, PLLC, we remind everyone to be alert and drive safely. As the weather gets nicer, we see more car accidents and serious injuries on our roadways. Yes, winter weather is the cause of many wrecks. But we all know Flagstaff is one of the nicest places to spend those beautiful summer days. Nearly 5 million people visit the Grand Canyon each year. Flagstaff is the gateway to the Grand Canyon. We have tourists, athletes, students, workers, Phoenix residents escaping the heat, and all kinds of additional traffic in the warm spring and summer months near Flagstaff. We are at the heart of the I-17 and I-40 intersection. We want to take a moment to talk about insurance policies as they relate to car accidents. As Flagstaff’s car accident law firm, the Griffen & Stevens Law Firm, PLLC litigates all aspects of car insurance policies. There are often misconceptions about insurance policies, so we want to share some insight.

In order to keep my costs down, is it okay to purchase minimum coverage?

We understand the difficult economy of today. Times are tough, and we know that. That said, insurance policies are not always the best way to save money. We all hope we are never going to be in an injury-involved car accident. So why pay more for insurance? Well, it comes down to this. The required coverages in Arizona are called “Bodily Injury” and “Property Damage.” Under Arizona personal injury law, the minimum required limits are as follows:

  • For bodily injury: $15,000 per person and $30,000 per accident.
  • For property damage: $10,000 per accident. If a person is injured in a car accident, and medical bills are $50,000, the $15,000 limit for bodily injury will not be enough.

It won’t even be close. And that can force people in debt, collections, and ultimately bankruptcy. Therefore, to avoid the horrible circumstance of not being able to afford necessary medical care, it is important to work with your insurance company to come up with an affordable rate that provides more than the minimum coverages required in Arizona.

If I am a passenger in a single-car accident, can I recover damages for my injuries?

Yes, it is possible. It depends on the circumstances of the case, but you do not have to be driving to recover damages from an insurance company, including your own.

If I am a pedestrian, or bicyclist, and I am hit by a car, can I recover damages?

Yes, it is possible. As always, it depends on the facts of the case. But most people don’t know that they can recover damages from their own car insurance policy, even if they were not inside a vehicle at all when they were injured. At the Griffen & Stevens Law Firm, PLLC, we recently obtained a $75,000 settlement for a pedestrian who was struck by a vehicle, and some of that recovery came from the pedestrian’s car insurance policy.

If the driver at fault is uninsured or underinsured, am I out of luck?

Not necessarily. We will search for every insurance policy that could help you. We check for collateral sources of recovery. And most importantly, we will look at your policy for uninsured motorists and underinsured motorists. It is very important that you purchase an uninsured and underinsured policy. That way, if you are injured in an accident, we can push to get the maximum recovery for you.

If I take on the insurance companies by myself, will I get more money than if I hire a lawyer?

Generally, no. What we do is maximize your recovery and negotiate down your bills and liens, so that the large majority of our personal injury clients actually recover more money than if they accepted what the insurance company offered to them. Usually, the insurance companies offer very low settlements. Don’t let them trick you into giving up your legal rights. Insurance policies are complicated and adjustors never want to give you the money that you deserve.

*According to the Arizona Daily Sun article found here.
** According to the Arizona Daily Sun article found here.

Arizona Criminal vs. Forfeiture Proceedings

Have you ever seen an Arizona felony prosecutor driving around in a drug dealer’s tricked out ride? We have. Felony prosecutors all across Arizona, particularly in Flagstaff, Coconino County, can use forfeited or seized vehicles to drive to court to prosecute other people. But how is that legal? Why is the County Attorney driving around in an alleged drug dealer’s car?

Should the police and government be permitted to take your car, your money, your house, your computer, and your cell phone? Should the police and government be permitted to keep your stuff, sell it off at auction, or sell it to the county prosecutors at a reduced cost? Should you have to see a prosecutor driving a “work vehicle” with sweet gold rims that were once yours?

Here’s how it all works. Let’s say you’re driving on I-40 through Northern Arizona and you are pulled over by the Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) for going 77 mph in a 75 mph zone. (This is called a “pretext stop” that is often the result of racial or drug courier profiling by the Arizona state police.) Sure enough, the police claim they smell marijuana, citing to their olfactory prowess. You’re arrested and your car is searched. The police claim to locate some packaged marijuana in the trunk. You’re taken to jail, and your vehicle is impounded.

Days later, you’re served with a civil legal pleading called a Notice of Pending Forfeiture, in which the State of Arizona declares that they are not going to give back your vehicle, cell phone, cash, or anything else in the car they want. Without a forfeiture lawyer, which you are not entitled to free of charge, you wouldn’t know that if you fail to respond within the right time frame, your property is gone forever.

A forfeiture case is actually civil, not criminal, in nature. It is a lawsuit. It is not a criminal charge, even though it is extremely related to felony allegations (i.e., the felony charge of transportation of marijuana for sale). So while you’re thinking, “Am I going to prison for 3 to 7.5 years?” the State of Arizona is thinking, “Can we make money while we send this person to prison?”

At the Griffen & Stevens Law Firm, PLLC, we not only fight hard to keep you out of prison. We fight hard to keep your stuff, to protect your property, to fend off those greedy officers and prosecutors. We defend against forfeiture seizures. We don’t want cops and prosecutors to drive around in your car, use your MacBook Pro, talk on your cell phone, and use your cash to investigate and imprison other people.

Forfeiture proceedings come with a unique set of rules, particularly the Arizona Rules of Civil Procedure and other forfeiture statutes contained in the Arizona Revised Statutes. At the Griffen & Stevens Law Firm, PLLC, we are experts at criminal defense and forfeiture claims. Let us handle your civil forfeiture defense along with your felony criminal defense.

We offer free legal consultations on all Arizona felony drug transportation and money laundering cases in Flagstaff, Prescott, Camp Verde, Holbrook, Kingman and all over Northern Arizona – and all related forfeiture matters.

For a free consultation, call us by using the number at the top right of the screen. Or use our free contact form on the right side of the page.

Don’t let the government take your stuff. Don’t let prosecutors steal your ride.

Flagstaff DUI Lawyer: MVD vs. Court

When someone is pulled over under suspicion of a DUI in Arizona, choices must be made. Big choices with big consequences. In this article, we’re going to discuss the practical application of “Admin Per Se” and “Implied Consent” in the Arizona DUI laws.

You may be innocent of a DUI (in criminal court), but you can still have your drivers license suspended by the Arizona Motor Vehicle Department (MVD).

The first set of choices involve field sobriety tests (FST’s), answering questions, horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN), and other voluntary decisions that a driver can make – or refuse to make – when a police officer investigates a driver for DUI. Police officers don’t tend to inform drivers that the decisions are voluntary… but we’ll write another article on that issue later.

The second set of choices can greatly affect a person’s driving privilege. Let’s start with a question:

Can a sober driver get their license suspended for a year during an Arizona DUI investigation, even though the driver is completely sober?

Answer: You bet. Here’s why. If a police officer is mistaken about your sobriety, and thinks that you have been drinking, you will be arrested for DUI. All that the police need to investigate you for a DUI is reasonable suspicion – a low standard of proof. Once you are brought to the police station, you will be advised of your Admin Per Se / Implied Consent rights. In a Flagstaff DUI case, the arrested person will be brought to the Coconino County Detention Facility, where they have two Intoxilyzer8000 machines. This is a critical juncture in every DUI case. Do you agree to provide a breath or blood sample? (Yes, the officer can decide to ask you for a blood sample instead of a breath sample.) Are you deathly afraid of needles? Too bad, says the law.

Option #1: You agree to provide the sample of breath or blood. Phew… you can’t get your license suspended as long as you cooperate, right? Wrong. If your breath sample is 0.079%, your license cannot get suspended. But if you provide a sample of 0.080% or more, your drivers license must be suspended. If the officer believes you are impaired by alcohol, and they take a blood sample, and that blood result is not available, the officer can still suspend your driving privileges.

Option #2: You do not agree to provide a sample. This is called a refusal. If you refuse to provide a blood, breath, or urine sample, your drivers license will be suspended for 12 months! You cannot get a restricted license. And this law applies, even if you are sober, as long as the police officer can identify the grounds upon which he or she believed you to be impaired by alcohol or an illegal drug. Of course, the best advise is: do not drink and drive. If you had any alcohol, avoid driving. You can be charged and convicted of a DUI – Slightest Degree even if your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is under 0.08% in Arizona. So don’t take the risk. But if you are investigated for DUI, you do have choices. Do you want to comply with FST’s and potentially give the officer more evidence to use against you? (Even a sober person would not perform FST’s perfectly.) Do you want to agree to submit to HGN? Do you want to agree to a breath or blood sample? Do you want to refuse? The silver lining here is that if you do get your license suspended pursuant to an Admin Per Se / Implied Consent law, we can help you challenge it.

Time is of the essence. Once you let fifteen (15) days pass, you waive your right to have a lawyer challenge your suspension, whether it’s for a BAC of 0.08% or more or a refusal. Get help now.

Contact us immediately using the free contact form or call us at the number at the top of the kamagra online

Flagstaff Injury Lawyers Discuss Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage

What is underinsured motorist coverage in Arizona? How about uninsured motorist coverage? And why is it so important?

Defining Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage

Uninsured motorist insurance provides protection for personal (bodily) injuries caused by a negligent driver in northern Arizona with no insurance, such as broken bones, lacerations, organ damage, head trauma, back or neck pain, and more.

Underinsured motorist coverage provides you with financial protection if the negligent driver has some, but not enough, liability insurance to pay for your injuries, including bodily injuries and pain and suffering, lost income, and more.

Arizona’s Minimum Car Insurance Coverage

The required coverages in Arizona are called “Bodily Injury” and “Property Damage.” Under Arizona personal injury law, the minimum required limits are as follows:

For bodily injury: $15,000 per person and $30,000 per accident

For property damage: $10,000 per accident.

Practical tip from Griffen & Stevens Law Firm, PLLC: The minimum coverage, while cheaper to purchase, are never enough in serious motor vehicle accidents in northern Arizona. The results of minimum coverage in a serious injury accident in or around Flagstaff are devastating. It means that someone will not be able to pay their medical bills, or be compensated for pain and suffering, lost income, and other compensatory damages.

How to Protect Yourself and Your Loved Ones

So, for example, how can you keep yourself safe if a motorist negligently crashes into you and your medical bills are $100,000 or more? The answer is simple. You should invest – right now – in both uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. And make sure to get the highest limits available to you. Hopefully you will never need to use it, but if you do, you will be grateful that you have it.

If you get hit by an uninsured motorist, and that person has insufficient cash or equity to pay your medical bills (the usual situation), and you don’t have uninsured motorist coverage, you simply won’t get compensated. If you have uninsured motorist coverage, you can receive money from your own insurance company! (And no, that does not cause your limits to go up, unless the accident is your fault.)

The other example is underinsured motorist coverage. What if a person with the Arizona minimum coverage negligently hits you while you’re on a bicycle, and your medical bills are $50,000? The driver’s policy limits will only allow you to recover $15,000, leaving you in $35,000 of medical debt (and no compensation for pain and suffering and lost income). But if you have underinsured coverage, say, up to $250,000, then you can recover $15,000 from the other driver’s insurance company, another $35,000 from your own (to cover medical or “special damages”), and potentially more money for pain and suffering. Would you rather be in $35,000 medical debt or be free and clear of debt with a lump sum of cash still in the bank?

As Flagstaff personal injury lawyers, we see the ill effects of minimum coverage every day. We strongly believe that investing in underinsured and uninsured coverage is a wise decision for you and your family.

The Advantage of Medical Payments Coverage

Under Arizona personal injury law, medical payments coverage, or “med pay” coverage, can be very helpful. Medical payments coverage provides coverage for necessary and reasonable medical and funeral expenses incurred as the result of an automobile accident up to the limit stated in the policy for you or passengers in your vehicle.

Free Personal Injury Consultations in Northern Arizona

We offer no-cost consultations to personal injury victims all across northern Arizona, including Flagstaff, Sedona, Verde Valley, Prescott, Williams, Winslow, Holbrook, Kingman, and all across the Navajo Nation and other reservation lands.

Flagstaff Car Accident Lawyers

Motor vehicle accidents, or MVA’s, are among the most serious types of accidents that can happen. Getting injured in a car accident is extremely traumatic – physically, emotionally, and financially. Medical treatment should begin immediately. But other medical conditions can surface days or weeks later. You can miss family time, work, and other opportunities. You have pain and suffering. And you deserve justice. You can still be a victim even if a crime did not occur.

There are two areas of the law, generally speaking, which are: criminal and civil. A criminal case develops when someone violates a criminal statute of the Arizona Revised Statutes. The police and prosecutors must become involved for a criminal case to proceed. In other circumstances, a car accident is a civil wrong, or a “tort.”

To separate the two, consider this example. First, if you are hit by a car, and the other driver was driving drunk, then it is a crime. The crime is DUI and could be considered a felony Aggravated Assault. Second, if you are injured because a person is speeding and collides into you, there may not be a crime involved. This is a civil wrong, or a tort, for which you still deserve justice.

Fair Compensation: Pain and Suffering

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), each year approximately 25,000 occupants of vehicles died in traffic accidents and an estimated 2.35 million people suffered injuries from car crashes. Injuries from car, truck and motorcycle accidents can be catastrophic. Victims often suffer broken or crushed bones, lacerations, muscle injuries, spinal cord injuries, internal organ damage or traumatic brain injuries, to name a few.

Flagstaff Lawyer: Mere Presence Defense

Written by Bruce S. Griffen, Esq.

The “mere presence defense” – ignored (by prosecutors), underutilized (by defense attorneys). But does it work for Arizona criminal defense lawyers?

In the Flagstaff, and all of Arizona, criminal defense world, there commonly are situations where the “mere presence defense” has application. Prosecutors seem to have complete memory loss when it comes to this area of law. As concerns defense lawyers, this defense appears recognized but underutilized. The more important question, however, is whether the defense works. Consider the following three fact patterns:

1. A pickup truck is stopped on the highway for a traffic violation. The two people inside consent to a search. The truck bed is closed with a hard cover. No one has keys to the locked cover. 200 lbs. of marijuana are found inside. Upon being Mirandized, one occupant clams. The other adamantly denies any knowledge of any contraband.

2. Four teenagers out late at night in a vehicle. The car has a tail light out and is stopped by the police. Upon a routine check, the car comes back as stolen that afternoon. The driver, upon questioning, admits that the car belongs to his stepmother and he took the car without permission. He tells the officer, however, that the other 3 kids in the car, all friends of his, had no knowledge that the car was stolen. Under Arizona law, every occupant is presumed guilty of joyriding.

3. College party at a friend’s apartment. Some people are drinking. Some people are openly using recreational drugs. Police get called because a neighbor complains about loud noise. Police enter and in plain view, on the kitchen counter, they observe cocaine. After questioning of three people, which produces no information regarding possession/ownership, everybody in the kitchen is arrested.

These are real, and frankly, common fact patterns that we see at the Griffen & Stevens Law Firm, PLLC. In every case, indictments were secured by the prosecutor at a grand jury proceeding. In every case, the prosecutor did not instruct the grand jury on the potential applicability of the mere presence defense.

The mere presence defense is easy to understand: it is simply a refinement of the well known “wrong place at the wrong time” dilemma. It is a classic Murphy’s law situation.

The defense technically reads as follows:

Guilt cannot be established by the defendant’s mere presence at a crime scene, mere association with another person at a crime scene or mere knowledge that a crime is being committed. The fact that the defendant may have been present, or knew that a crime was being committed, does not in and of itself make the defendant guilty of the crime charged. One who is merely present is a passive observer who lacked criminal intent and did not participate in the crime.

See Arizona Criminal Defense Jury Instructions.

So, while the prosecution doesn’t like to instruct a grand jury about the mere presence defense, the defense is absolutely available under Arizona law.

But is it viable?

Jurors, if they can relate to a defense, are more likely to accept it. For instance, entrapment, as a defense, is generally a difficult sell. Because you must concede wrongdoing in order to gain benefit of the defense, jurors seem generally predisposed against the defense. The same situation is often the case with self-defense. Even though the law may not require retreat, jurors commonly question the defense where there was a “walk away” alternative.

But haven’t we all been, at some time or another, in the mere presence scenario? Present when your brother or sister did something stupid. Your spouse didn’t clue you in on something he/she was doing wrong. Or the concerning situation where you are present when criminal conduct is ongoing (i.e., use of drugs) but you are consciously and purposefully not participating.

The point to be made is that the defense is underutilized and has a higher degree of possible success than is otherwise usually available.

Practical tip from Griffen & Stevens Law Firm, PLLC: if there is any significant fact that works against the mere presence defense, it may not be viable. For instance, your fingerprints on the marijuana packaging, in example # 1 makes the defense likely untenable. In fact pattern #2, a text message found on a passenger’s phone, which reads “I’m cruisin’ with Mike. We’re in this really sweet ride that he ripped off from his evil stepmother” certainly would not be helpful. As concerns case # 3, a positive urine test for cocaine might make the mere presence argument un-winable. So, if thorough investigation produces no factor significantly inconsistent with the mere presence defense, the defense should be viewed as one with significant upside and potential.


Carefully investigate the potential utilization of the mere presence defense. Prosecutors don’t like it because it is a jury-friendly defense… something we can all relate to.

Written by Bruce S. Griffen
Griffen & Stevens Law Firm, PLLC