The New Early Disposition Court

Yavapai County’s “early disposition court” (EDC) has been overhauled. New rules, new times for hearings, new ideas. The concept remains the same: substantively address felony cases at the preliminary hearing stage and try to resolve certain cases without expending unnecessary resources. The risks associated with this concept include not treating defendants fairly, putting undue pressure on defendants to accept a plea, limiting the time for the defense to investigate, develop strategy, and possibly crack a case wide open. Once you take a plea deal in early disposition court, you can’t retract it, except under very rare circumstances.

The new EDC rules allow for the defense to spend more time reviewing the police reports and developing a defense strategy while still in early disposition court (preliminary hearing stage). The old rules would limit a defendant’s ability to accomplish much work while still in the preliminary hearing stage. As a result, defendants used to waive preliminary hearings and proceed to the Yavapai County Superior Court more quickly. Now, however, cases are more likely to be resolved while in the early disposition court, without a defendant having to step foot into a Yavapai County Superior Court courtroom. The new rules also affect whether a defendant appears at the 8:00AM docket or the 1:00PM docket.

There are numerous options still available at an early disposition court proceeding: waive a preliminary hearing, continue the early disposition court to a new date, request a preliminary hearing (which is likely to trigger a grand jury indictment proceeding), take a plea, make a counter offer, and potentially more. All of these options should be discussed with a qualified criminal defense attorney. You are also entitled to receive the initial disclosure (police reports, etc.) at the early disposition court stage. The dangers of early disposition court are high: felony convictions, prison, probation, probation violations, parole violations, and more. Don’t fall for the trap of feeling pressured to take a plea deal. Make sure you are certain, with the assistance of legal counsel, that any plea agreement you accept is an appropriate resolution to your case.

At the Griffen & Stevens Law Firm, PLLC, we are honored to represent defendants in the early disposition court on a regular basis. We know the new rules. We know the new risks. We can protect your rights.

Injured in Northern Arizona? A legal strategy.

Northern Arizona has some of the most dangerous roads. Whether it’s a high-speed road through Indian Country, a crash on I-17 or I-40 in Northern Arizona, or a country road on the way to the Grand Canyon, or a dangerous intersection in the City of Flagstaff, accidents happen. Injuries happen. Negligent (i.e., bad) driving happens. Vehicles hit pedestrians and cyclists. All of these types of events can cause serious or fatal injuries. And very few people know how what to do if it happens to you or someone you know.

First, get medical help immediately. At the Griffen & Stevens Law Firm, PLLC, we sometimes see injury cases where the injured person refuses medical care, or is afraid to seek medical care due to the cost of an ambulance or treatment. It is incredibly important to get good quality medical care as fast as possible. Let us guide you through Arizona law as it relates to medical bills and liens later.

Second, call the police to make a report and ensure that a proper investigation is performed. In a motor vehicle accident, or MVA, it is appropriate for the police to review the accident scene, view the injuries, reconstruct what happened, and file a ticket or complaint against the negligent driver (if there is one). Detailed accounts of what happened are necessary to the proper handling of a personal injury case.

Third, when you feel ready, and medically stable, contact us for a free consultation. There are several reasons to do that. You may have a right under Arizona law to be reimbursed for your damages (bills, pain, suffering, etc.). You also may need advice and guidance on how to handle your medical bills, bill collectors, liens, subrogation claims, and pushy insurance adjusters. We do all of those things – diligently and professionally – for our clients.

Fourth, consult with us before you make any agreements with an insurance company or insurance adjuster. While they may seem nice on the phone (sometimes), you may not realize that you are getting a bad deal or unfair settlement. You should review any settlement offer with a lawyer. We do free case reviews in that regard. If you’re getting an unfair deal, we may be able to help you get substantially more money for your damages.

In addition to all of those things, you may also be faced with complicated issues involving medical liens, subrogation claims by insurance companies, lawsuit, mediation, arbitration, and more. If the insurance company for the negligent person that injured you cannot cover all of your damages, call us for more information about underinsured motorist coverage and/or uninsured motorist coverage. We would be honored to consult with you.

At the Griffen & Stevens Law Firm, PLLC, we professionally handle all personal injury claims with the utmost professionalism and diligence. We are trial lawyers, unafraid to fight insurance company lawyers in the courtroom. We go the distance to show those insurance companies that we will not back down and accept an unfair settlement, just to avoid litigation. We do the work. You get the results.

Flagstaff’s Criminal Courts Explained

Over 5 million people visit Flagstaff and Northern Arizona each year. Whether it’s a visit to Northern Arizona University (NAU) or the Grand Canyon, or perhaps to ski at Snow Bowl in the winter, Flagstaff welcomes tourists and travelers every day. With that many people, not to mention all of the NAU students who live here, people who work in town, and visitors from the Reservation, it’s no surprise that Flagstaff police, DPS, and the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office stay busy with arrests and citations. This article is part of our “Criminal Defense in Northern Arizona Courts” series. Here, we’re going to explain the differences between the criminal courts located in Flagstaff. Believe it or not, there are five (5) different criminal courts in Flagstaff alone!


(1) Coconino County Superior Court – This is Flagstaff’s adult felony court. If you have a criminal case in Coconino County Superior Court, it means you are charged with – and being prosecuted for – a felony case. A felony, by definition, is any crime for which you can be punished in excess of one (1) year in prison. Therefore, major felony cases involving life in prison, the death penalty, and decades of incarceration are heard and tried in the Coconino County Superior Court. There are four (4) main divisions that handle felony cases in Coconino County Superior Court. However, there are six (6) divisions total. This is also the location in which the DUI/Drug Court Program operates.


(2) Flagstaff Justice Court – Like the Coconino County Superior Court, this court is a county court. It is located in the same building as the Coconino County Superior Court at 200 N. San Francisco Street. Flagstaff Justice Court handles both misdemeanor and felony cases. However, a felony case cannot be resolved as a felony in Flagstaff Justice Court. This court can handle the preliminary stages of a felony case. If a felony case proceeds beyond the preliminary hearing, the case would have to be transferred to the Superior Court. But if a case is a misdemeanor – like a DUI, domestic violence simple assault, disorderly conduct, etc. – the Flagstaff Justice Court will handle it through completion. Criminal charges that arise inside the Flagstaff city limits generally are not sent to the Flagstaff Justice Court, although this court has concurrent jurisdiction with the Flagstaff Municipal Court. As a general rule, all criminal charges arising from the NAU campus are handled in Flagstaff Justice Court. Also, all criminal charges (except felonies that are indicted by a grand jury) that occur within the Flagstaff precinct of Coconino County will be heard in Flagstaff Justice Court. There are two Justices of the Peace in Flagstaff Justice Court. Both have prior experience working in criminal defense.


(3) Flagstaff Municipal Court – This court hears all misdemeanor cases that occur in the Flagstaff city limits, except those that occur on the NAU campus. This court can only hear misdemeanor cases. Because of cases like DUI and shoplifting, the Flagstaff
Court does have the authority to conduct jury trials. Other misdemeanors are tried to the judge, also called a bench trial. There are several judges that work in the Flagstaff Municipal Court, although only two are assigned to resolve the large majority of all Flagstaff misdemeanor cases.


(4) Coconino County Juvenile Court – This is the court for juvenile offenders and juvenile criminal charges (i.e., criminal charges against a minor under the age of 18). Arizona law does allow the prosecutor’s office to charge certain felony cases in adult court, even if the accused is under 18 years old. This court has one main judge. She is very experienced in juvenile law.


(5) U.S. Magistrate Court (Federal) – This is Flagstaff’s only federal court dedicated to criminal cases. This court handles misdemeanor cases through completion, and the preliminary stages of felony cases (including a preliminary hearing and detention hearing). If a felony case proceeds beyond the preliminary stages (i.e., the case is not pled down to a misdemeanor), then the case will be transferred to U.S. District Court in Phoenix. This court handles cases that arise in the Grand Canyon National Park, Glenn Canyon National Recreation Area, Lake Powell, Lake Mohave, and other federal jurisdictions. For major felony cases, as noted in the Major Crimes Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1153, that occur on the Indian Reservation, oftentimes the preliminary stages of the case will occur in this court.


We hope Flagstaff’s residents and visitors have a wonderful summer. Be careful out there and enjoy beautiful Flagstaff!

Flagstaff Lawyers Defend Grand Canyon Trespassing Cases

Here at the Griffen & Stevens Law Firm, PLLC, we are extremely disappointed in the federal government’s shutdown of our most amazing national parks, including the Grand Canyon National Park. One of the top seven natural wonders of the world, the Grand Canyon is… shut down? Closed? Prohibited from accepting visitors? It’s a sad day for our country, for our citizens, for the State of Arizona, and for all of us who have a right to enjoy our own national parks.

We are outraged by the recent news that nearly two dozen people have been cited – with criminal charges – for entering the Grand Canyon during the shutdown. For example, take a look at the USA Today article here. According to the article, there will be law enforcement patrolling the Grand Canyon National Park around the clock. If law enforcement is available to patrol the park “around the clock,” why are U.S. citizens not allowed to enjoy the park? Everyone charged with a crime in the Grand Canyon National Park will have to appear in federal magistrate court in Flagstaff, since the courthouse in the Grand Canyon National Park is apparently shut down.

We are honored to defend cases in the United States Magistrate Court in Flagstaff, Arizona. We defend federal charges of all types – trespassing, DUI or OUI, assault, sex crimes, drug cases, and murder. We are a criminal defense law firm in Flagstaff, dedicated to providing high quality legal defense to criminal charges. We take pride in defending those accused by the U.S. government of criminal wrongdoing. It was the U.S. government that caused the shutdown of the Grand Canyon and all national parks. We feel that the National Park Service, according to media reports, has been disrespectful, if not abusive, toward U.S. citizens. And we don’t believe it should be tolerated.

If you have been charged with a crime in federal court, U.S. District Court in Arizona, or the U.S. Magistrate Court in Flagstaff, please call us for a free consultation or fill out our Free Consulation Form at the top of the page.

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.

Conclusion

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.