Drug Dogs & Searches in Arizona

In recent weeks in Northern Arizona, we have seen a surge of constitutionally questionable dog sniff cases, or “drug detection canine” cases.

The common scene is a person driving on I-40 or I-17 near Kingman, Seligman, Williams, Flagstaff, Winslow, or Holbrook (major target areas for drug dog cases). The officers pull the person over for trivial traffic violations, such as: illegal lane usage, speeding (sometimes 1 mph over the speed limit), unsafe following distance, or other trivial Arizona traffic law that is rarely enforced. The officers make the driver get out of the vehicle. The officers issue a “warning” for the bogus traffic violation and begin asking questions about drugs and illegal activity. The officers note nervousness or other “indicia” of drug trafficking. The officers then make the driver wait while they run a drug detection canine around the vehicle. The canine will breath heavily, snap its head around, bark, or claw. And with that, the cops grab your keys, open up your vehicle, invade your privacy, and pour through every personal item in your vehicle. If they find any contraband, you’ll be arrested on the side of the highway and jailed. This police process is ripe with constitutional violations.

And we love to fight back. Here are some things you should know.

Practical tip from Griffen & Stevens Law Firm, PLLC: If you are stopped for a trivial traffic violation, be polite, having your ID, registration, and insurance ready, and don’t be nervous. If the officer writes you a ticket or a warning, do not agree to speak about anything. Remain silent, but be cooperative. Do not agree to answer any questions about drugs or illegal activity. Once you have your ticket or warning and/or your ID back, ask the officer, “Am I free to leave?” If you are, then go. If he says no, exercise your right to remain silent. Do not consent to any search of your person or your vehicle.

A “sniff” by a drug detection canine of the air outside of a vehicle is not a search for purposes of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. United States v. Place, 462 U.S. 696 (1983). Nevertheless, Arizona prosecutors still have the burden of establishing probable cause for the warrantless search and seizure.

In another major drug dog case, Illinois v. Caballes, 125 S.Ct. 834 (2005), the Supreme Court held that the sniff of the exterior of a vehicle by a “well trained” drug detection canine during a “legitimate” traffic stop does not constitute a constitutionally cognizable intrusion upon legitimate privacy interests. But is the dog reliable? Why is a dark barking sufficient reason for the government to invade your private world against your will? Well, the State has to prove the dog is reliable and that the dog actually alerted to contraband. We have won “canine sniff” cases on several bases, including: handler cueing of the dog, bad alert, insufficient reliability of the dog, residual odor alert (which does not establish probable cause), lack of record-keeping on the dog, and many other factors.

Officers in Arizona cannot use dogs as a “free pass” to search any vehicle they want. But that’s what they are doing. To stop this unconstitutional behavior, we fight the validity of the traffic stop (bogus traffic violation), we demand information about the accuracy of the dog, and we challenge the actual dog alert and search in the court of law. The constitution may mean nothing on the side of the highway, but in court, your rights rule the day. And we’ll keep it that way.

Can Lance Armstrong and Barry Scheck Coexist?

Written by Bruce S. Griffen

For more than 30 years, I have been an in-the-trenches criminal defense lawyer. For more than 30 years, I have also participated in triathlons. I guess the connection is that competing in athletics was a way of relieving the stress of being a trial lawyer. I am not much on heroes. But I have had one in each of my passions. In the criminal defense world, it was lawyer Barry Scheck.

It was Barry Scheck because of the Innocence Project.

As most, both within and without the law know, the Innocence Project was, when really distilled down, a marriage of law and technology. We took technological/scientific advancement, DNA, and retroactively applied it to certain criminal convictions. DNA testing was able to be conducted on old forensic samples and, in case after case, proof secured that the individual was falsely convicted. This was great cause for celebration. It demonstrates that new technology can go back and correct fundamental injustice. (The Innocence Project is alive and well in Flagstaff at the Northern Arizona University Department of Criminal Justice.)

In my triathlon world, my obvious hero choice was Lance Armstrong. His talent, his cancer, his comeback, and his dedication to curing cancer, certainly makes for hero worship.

And then Barry Scheck nailed him.

The Innocence Project worked in reverse when it comes to Lance Armstrong. We took new technology, applied it to old blood samples, and were able to prove not innocence, but rather guilt. Seems to me this is a first: technological advancements reaching back, not to clear, but rather to convict. I’m not sure there’s ever been a time when DNA testing was conducted on an old case where someone was cleared rather than convicted. How would we feel about that? Is it okay, both socially and legally, to employ technology in that way?

The Lance Armstrong situation could, and perhaps should, create some debate. Die hard Lance fans have cried foul. They assert there exists a “statute of limitations” and that more than enough time had passed to leave Lance alone. Essentially, they claim that the reverse innocence project, which brought Lance down, was unfair and untimely. (The statute of limitations, for example, in an Arizona felony case is 7 years, except for very serious crimes the statute of limitations does not exist.)

We have legal concepts that help analyze this debate. We have ex post facto laws. Those are laws unfairly applied retroactively. But in this case, it was not a law that was applied retroactively but a technical/scientific process. The law that was (that you can’t blood dope) still is. In Lance’s case, we were just able to prove a violation with new technology. Philosophically, perhaps there is debate that new technology should not be allowed to be used retroactively to establish guilt. Again, a legal concept (double jeopardy) could be considered.

Lance was tested (more than 500 times) and he always passed. Shouldn’t his case be res judicata? A final legal concept has commonly utilized a distinction between a procedural and a substantive change in the law to determine whether the same can be applied prospectively as opposed to retroactively. Again, Lance supporters would say that it is patently unfair to take new technology and apply it in anything other than prospectively. I would argue that whatever legal theory you try to apply to the Lance Armstrong downfall, the same all fall short. In the final analysis, there should be no other test than truth.

Whether science should be applied retroactively, to possibly undo our heroes, misses the point. Sport is not more important than science. Science and sport are not more important than the truth. There is a line here: I am totally okay with using any type of medicine, chemical, device or contraption to cure cancer and enable someone, especially with Lance Armstrong’s talent, to have another shot at life and sport. It is not alright, however, to use the same win at all costs mentality when it comes to competition. In that arena, you can’t take anything you want to make you better.

So Lance can’t be my hero anymore. No hero of mine can lie to me. To me, there is no legal theory, defense or procedure that can save Lance. He didn’t just engage in blood doping… he is a dope. But I’m no dupe.

Flagstaff Injury Lawyer to Speak at General Assembly on Navajo Nation Indian Reservation

Flagstaff personal injury attorney Ryan J. Stevens has accepted an invitation to speak at the Shonto Chapter House, located northeast of Tuba City, Arizona, at their next General Assembly meeting.

Mr. Stevens will share legal insight on personal injury law applicable to all of northern Arizona, including on the Navajo Nation Indian Reservation. Having practiced law in the courtrooms of the Navajo Nation, Hopi Tribe, Arizona state courts, and U.S. federal courts, Mr. Stevens has the range of knowledge and personal insight to bring complicated legal concepts to a welcoming stage. The American Indian reservations of northern Arizona present a complex set of state (Arizona), federal (U.S.), and tribal (Navajo Nation) laws. And the American Indian roadways often present a multitude of serious dangers that result in fatal or near-fatal motor vehicle accidents.

Law enforcement is stretched thin across the broad high plateau of northern Arizona, leaving roadways subject to people driving at high rates of speed. The most common causes of serious injuries and crashes are: speeding, drunk driving, and poor weather conditions.

Mr. Stevens will address members and non-members of the Navajo Nation from Flagstaff, Tuba City, Shonto, and more. He will discuss the ever-changing personal injury laws of Arizona, using cutting edge legal research to help bring to light the most important case law (i.e., Arizona Supreme Court and Arizona Court of Appeals decisions) of 2012.

When a person is seriously injured on the reservation, Flagstaff lawyer Ryan J. Stevens, along with experienced attorneys Bruce S. Griffen and Gunter Ziwey*, come to the aid of the injured and their families.

At the Griffen & Stevens Law Firm, PLLC, we understand the need for personalized and meaningful legal representation. We treat all people and all families with respect, dignity, and professionalism. And if someone has done wrong to you or your loved one, we aggressively pursue your claim to the maximum permitted by Arizona law. Our results speak for themselves. We pride ourselves in offering top level free consultations on all personal injury, car accidents, and wrongful death cases. We maximize results for our clients. And we comfort those in need by protecting and asserting their legal rights.

*Gunter Ziwey is admitted in Germany only.

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.

Arizona Dog Bite Laws: Strict Liability

(Last updated on August 20, 2014)

In Arizona, a dog bite can have major legal ramifications. When a dog bites a human, Arizona law immediately attacks the owner or handler of the dog – both in civil law and criminal law.

Strict Liability for Dog Bites in Arizona

First, what is strict liability? Strict liability is a legal rule that means a person is legally responsible (i.e., “liable”) for injury, damage, and/or loss regardless of whether the person was negligent or reckless.

For example, because Arizona has a “strict liability” law for dog bites, if your neighbor’s dog bites you, then your neighbor is liable for your medical bills and damages even if your neighbor was not negligent. This means that even if the dog was on a leash, and the dog never bit anyone before, and the dog is non-violent and not a “vicious” dog, your neighbor is still liable because of one simple fact: your neighbor’s dog bit you.

Second, why does strict liability apply to an Arizona dog bite but not a car accident? The easy answer is: because the legislature says so. In Arizona, there are statutes that specifically address dog bites. Here’s what the law actually says:

A. The owner of a dog which bites a person when the person is in or on a public place or lawfully in or on a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, is liable for damages suffered by the person bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of its viciousness.
Arizona Revised Statutes section 11-1025(A).

Of course, the legislature remembered to protect government workers. So, if a police dog or military dog bites a person while a crime is being investigated, the government is not held to the strict liability standard for a personal injury claim or lawsuit.

Dog Bites and Neighbors

One of the most common questions we get asked about Arizona dog bite laws is “If my neighbor’s dog bit me, do I have to sue my neighbor in order to recover my damages?” The biggest concern is that most people do not want to sue their neighbor! Well, we have good news. You do not need to “sue your neighbor” in order to recover money after your neighbor’s dog bites you. We handle personal injury dog bite claims with professionalism and respect. We can get the dog bite victim the money they deserve without antagonizing the owner of the dog.

Damages for Dog Bites

We have seen some very serious injuries involving dog bites, including significant trauma and lacerations to the face or other area of the body. These wounds often create lifetime scarring and emotional trauma, in addition to physical pain and suffering. We make insurance companies pay you for your pain, suffering, and scars! In many cases, the dog owner’s homeowner’s insurance has coverage for these types of damages. In many cases, it is possible to obtain a full recovery without causing any meaningful personal financial harm to the actual owner of the dog. After all, the insurance company has very few defenses to a strict liability law!

Criminal Defense for Flagstaff Dog Laws

Flagstaff, and all Northern Arizona jurisdictions, have laws pertaining specifically to dogs. For example, any dog off the premises of its owner must have a collar with a securely fastened government issued dog tag which costs $10 to $20, depending on if your dog is neutered or spayed. Flagstaff’s laws even require collars! Here’s what the law says:

At all times when a dog is off the premises of its owner, said dog shall have a collar around its neck with the metal tag aforesaid securely fastened thereto. Flagstaff City Code section 6-02-1-8. Barking or “howling” dogs also create criminal liability, as follows: It is unlawful for any person owning or having the care, custody or control of any dog to permit said dog to bark, bay, howl or make any other noise, day or night, in such an unreasonable manner as to disturb the peace and quiet of any person or persons.
Flagstaff City Code section 6-02-1-11(C).

The most serious criminal (and personal injury) infractions pertain to “vicious” dogs. For example, in Flagstaff, a “vicious dog” is defined in four ways:

a. A dog that bites a human beings without provocation; or b. A dog with a known propensity, tendency, or disposition to bite human beings; or c. A dog that while at large kills or causes injury to domestic animals; or d. A dog declared to be a vicious dog by a City Magistrate after a determination at a hearing of a pattern of aggressive behavior that has caused injury, apprehension or intimidation of a person.

Basically, if a dog bites someone without provocation, you’ve got yourself a “vicious dog” that Flagstaff city law requires to be muzzled when off the premises of its owner. Flagstaff law requires it!

No person owning or having charge, care, custody, or control of a vicious dog shall permit such dog off his premises unless such dog is under the control of a competent person and is securely leashed and muzzled.
Flagstaff City Code section 6-02-1-1(B)(1).

Violating Flagstaff city dog law is criminal in nature and involves court hearings, pre-trial conferences, plea negotiations, plea agreements, criminal restitution. Worst of all: the City of Flagstaff may kill your dog. That’s right, if your dog is found to be “vicious” by the government, they can order the humane destruction of your dog. They can kill your dog.

Griffen & Stevens Law Firm Can Help You

If you have been injured by a dog bite, call us right away. We preserve evidence, investigate the scene, obtain police reports and witness statements, purchase medical records, and most importantly, we maximize your recovery. We also offer criminal defense for anyone accused of a crime in Flagstaff or Northern Arizona.

Intersection: Arizona Criminal and Injury Laws

We defend the accused in criminal courts. We seek justice for the injured in the personal injury arena. Let’s talk about what the two have in common.

First, we are trial lawyers. What distinguishes the Griffen & Stevens Law Firm, PLLC from a standard run-of-the-mill law firm is that we have extensive jury trial experience – and success. A trial attorney must have sharp skills, advanced legal research capabilities, negotiation expertise, and of course, the knowledge and common sense to win over jurors and obtain justice – even if it’s against all odds.

Second, we have experience with the police. In criminal defense, police involvement is obvious. In personal injury, we often deal with the same police officers and police reports. When there is a car accident, and someone is hurt, the police are critical to establishing a record of what happened: police reports, accident reconstruction, cell phone triangulation, photographs, videos, and testimony. We understand the law enforcement system and community, and we utilize their fine work to obtain justice for our clients.

Third, the laws that apply to criminal defense often apply to personal injury cases. For example, if a bicyclist is struck by a car in Flagstaff, the first question is: Did the driver commit a traffic violation that caused the accident? If the answer is yes, the driver is negligent. Bicyclists often suffer serious injuries after being struck by a vehicle. Mr. Griffen and Mr. Stevens are avid cyclists and runners.

We understand athletes and those injured either while on a bike or as a pedestrian. Perhaps, for example, a driver failed to yield to a pedestrian. When there is a cross-walk with no traffic signal,

…the driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way, slowing down or stopping if need be in order to yield” to any pedestrian in a cross-walk.
See Arizona Revised Statutes, section 28-792.

Or, perhaps a driver made a right turn into a business and failed to yield to a bicyclist in a designated bike lane.

A person shall drive a vehicle as nearly as practicable entirely within a single lane and shall not move the vehicle from that lane until the driver has first ascertained that the movement can be made with safety.
See Arizona Revised Statutes, section 28-729(1).

Or, the most obvious example, a person may simply be cited for failing to control the speed of his or her vehicle to avoid colliding with any object, including a person (pedestrian or cyclist), in violation of Arizona Revised Statutes, section 28-701(A). Or, what if the driver was intoxicated in violation of Arizona’s DUI laws? See Arizona Revised Statutes, section 28-1381 et seq. In that situation, the driver is negligent for causing injuries to another person (driver, pedestrian, or cyclist).

The driver will also be charged with serious felony crimes including Aggravated Assault in violation of Arizona Revised Statutes, section 13-1204, or even homicide or attempted homicide.

Regardless of the situation, if you are injured by another person, we will fight hard to obtain every penny you deserve. We take on insurance companies, corporations, and people who have done wrong. In the criminal courts, we defend those charged with actual crimes.

Ultimately, we are good at what we do. We fight hard to minimize the impact of a criminal charge on your life. We fight hard to obtain money for the injured. In every criminal and personal injury case, we offer free consultations.

Felony Defense in Arizona

We defend all types of criminal offenses in Arizona state, federal, and tribal courts. But what does it take to aggressively defend a felony charge? And what is a felony? Here’s how it works.

Felonies are distinguished from misdemeanors on a very simple basis. A felony is any crime punishable by time in the Arizona Department of Corrections – prison. Misdemeanor offenses cannot land you in prison, but they can land you in the county jail (e.g., the Coconino County Detention Facility on Sawmill Avenue in Flagstaff, or the Yavapai County Jail in Camp Verde, or the Navajo County Jail in Holbrook). Felony cases range from a few months in prison (think: Aggravated DUI) to an entire lifetime behind bars (think: murder cases), or even a death sentence.

Felony defense is a major component of our work at the Griffen & Stevens Law Firm, PLLC. Here’s how we do it.

First, we prioritize. If our client is in custody, sitting in the county jail awaiting prosecution, we fight to get them out. We want our clients out of jail to not only be free, but to assist us in developing our defense. Getting our felony clients out of jail is our immediate top priority. There are many ways to accomplish this goal, ranging from Pre-Trial Services release, to bond reductions, to secured bonds, to unsecured bonds, to mental health or substance abuse treatment furlough, to work furlough, to own recognizance (O.R.) release, and to jail breakouts. (Kidding about the jail breakouts, but the other ones are real.) The point is: we need our clients out and we fight to get them out of jail. See Rule 7.4 of the Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure.

Second, we investigate. There is no way to effectively defend a felony case if you don’t put in the work. We collect all of the prosecution’s investigation – police reports, interviews, DVD’s, CD’s, photographs, etc. We also decide which of our own defense witnesses to interview. Ultimately, we will know our client’s case as good or better than the prosecution knows it. We can force out all of the information we need from the prosecution. They can’t hide the ball from us.

Third, we analyze. Once we collect all of the evidence against a person, we make sense of it. Charts, timelines, lists, etc. – we read every word of every report. We want to know what the evidence at trial will be. Hard work and preparation will prevent surprises in Court. And it will help us develop a meaningful and cohesive defense strategy.

Fourth, we strategize. We meet with our clients regularly. We need your input to form a high quality defense strategy. We use our client’s input, our investigative work, and evidence analysis to develop the appropriate strategy to defend your case. Each case is different. Strategy is based on the facts of your particular case. We exploit all legal strategies available to your case. But we also need to develop strategies consistent with the evidence (i.e., the precise facts of your situation).

Fifth, we attack. If the case calls for it, we attack aggressively. We file motions to suppress evidence, motions to dismiss for various legal reasons, and other evidentiary attacks. In other cases, we approach the prosecution diplomatically, in order to seek a beneficial plea agreement (e.g., if a person is facing mandatory prison time, we will try to obtain a promise of probation instead of prison). For example, if a person is charged with violating Arizona Revised Statute section 28-1383 (Aggravated DUI, class 4 felony), we will want to avoid a prison term by analyzing the State’s case, fighting every legal avenue available, and in some cases, negotiating a fair resolution. Defense strategy is also dependent on you. We need your input. We keep you informed and give you quality legal advice. Then, you make the call.

If a case proceeds to litigation, we utilize Arizona Supreme Court law, Arizona statutes, the U.S. and Arizona Constitutions, the Arizona Rules of Evidence, Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure, and all other legal authority.

Ultimately, we take many cases to trial. What distinguishes the Griffen & Stevens Law Firm, PLLC from other law firms in Arizona is that we are trial lawyers. We fight cases all the way through jury trials and beyond. We don’t force clients to take plea agreements just to avoid a trial. Both Mr. Griffen and Mr. Stevens have handled major felony trials, including first degree murder, second degree murder, kidnapping, sexual assault, child abuse, transportation of drugs for sale, sexual abuse, manslaughter, and more.


Arizona Drug and DUI Traffic Stops

Happy Memorial Day Weekend! Enjoy the weekend. And be careful out there.

Arizona law enforcement has announced that they will be setting up several DUI Checkpoints in Northern Arizona, which may include Flagstaff, Sedona, Grand Canyon, Prescott, and more. In addition to checkpoints, officers will be on high alert for people traveling while intoxicated or people suspected of traveling with drugs in their vehicles. Officers will stop you for a minor traffic violation to begin an investigation into DUI or marijuana transportation.

DUI Checkpoints in Arizona

This Memorial Day Weekend, watch out for the DUI Checkpoints. Even the Grand Canyon will have DUI Checkpoints this weekend (here’s the article in the Arizona Daily Sun)! You might think that the police have absolutely no right to stop and detain you with no suspicion or probable cause of any criminal activity. Well, you’d be wrong. DUI Checkpoints are a suspension of your 4th Amendment rights. They are lowly intrusive on your freedom, and, as the courts have ruled, the public safety outweighs the minimal intrusion caused to sober drivers who have to stop and wade through a checkpoint. If you end up a DUI Checkpoint, you will be forced to speak directly with a police officer. That officer will be looking for watery bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, the odor of alcohol, open containers in your vehicle, lack of coordination, and admissions to drinking prior to driving. Do not flee from a checkpoint or try to make a U-turn and get out of there. The police will be watching for that; they will chase you; and you can be charged with separate criminal offenses. If you are at a checkpoint, do not admit to anything. Just because the police force you to stop and speak with them does not mean you have to give up your 5th Amendment and 6th Amendment rights to silence and to have a lawyer’s advice. Never admit to drinking alcohol. And never consent to a search of your vehicle. If the police tell you they are going to run a “dog sniff” or K9 search, they may only do so around the exterior of your vehicle. Do not consent to allow the dog into your vehicle. Ask the officer politely, “Am I free to leave?” If they say yes, it’s time to get out of there.

Tips to Avoid a DUI or Drug Conviction in Arizona

1. Do not drive or be in actual physical control of a vehicle. If you drink alcohol, don’t drive until you’re sober. Meaning, 0.00% blood alcohol concentration. If you decide to sleep in your vehicle, be very careful! If you sit in the driver’s seat and turn the vehicle on, you will be in “actual physical control” of the vehicle – you can be convicted of a DUI before you even put the car into drive! So, if you sleep in the vehicle, don’t sit in the driver’s seat and leave the keys in the back of the vehicle, away and out of your reach. You don’t want to be accused of being in “actual physical control” of a vehicle. That’s the same as driving drunk under Arizona DUI laws.

2. Watch out for the driving “cues” of impairment. The police are trained to recognize “cues” of possible impairment that can justify a DUI investigation. Don’t give them the chance. There are several categories of cues with subcategories that are used in Arizona courts to justify a traffic stop and DUI investigation or drug courier investigation. Here is the breakdown:

Problems Maintaining Proper Lane Position

  • Weaving
  • Weaving across lane lines
  • Straddling a lane line
  • Swerving
  • Turning with a wide radius
  • Drifting
  • Almost striking a vehicle or other object

Speed and Braking Problems

  • Stopping problems (too far, too short, or too jerky)
  • Accelerating or decelerating for no apparent reason
  • Varying speed
  • Slow speed (10+ mph under limit)

Vigilance Problems

  • Driving in opposing lanes or wrong way on one-way
  • Slow response to traffic signals
  • Slow or failure to respond to officer’s signals
  • Stopping in lane for no apparent reason
  • Driving without headlights at night
  • Failure to signal or signal inconsistent with action

Judgment Problems

  • Following too closely
  • Improper or unsafe lane change
  • Illegal or improper turn (too fast, jerky, sharp, etc.)
  • Driving on other than the designated roadway
  • Stopping inappropriately in response to officer
  • Inappropriate or unusual behavior (throwing, arguing, etc.)
  • Appearing to be impaired

3. If you get stopped by the police… Avoid making the many mistakes that the police are looking for.

First, have your insurance, registration, and driver’s license ready to hand to the officer before he or she even makes it to your window.

Second, don’t fiddle around with your window or open your door. Have your window rolled all the way down before the officer gets to you. Do not open your door. Wait until the officer asks for your papers, and then promptly and smoothly hand the documents to the officer.

Third, make sure your music is turned off and that your car looks neat and clean. Do not leave trash, especially beer or alcohol containers, anywhere in plain view of the officer.

Fourth, keep your discussion with the officer to the minimal amount required. Do not tell the officer if you drank alcohol. Do not agree to answer questions about impairment or drugs. Do not consent to a search of your person or vehicle. Do not agree to a PBT (portable breath test). Do not agree to perform Field Sobriety Tests (FST’s) no matter how kindly the officer asks you. Simply do the minimums and be cooperative, polite, and nice.

4.If you are arrested for drugs or DUI…Lawyer up. Ask the police to let you speak to a lawyer. If the officer reads you the Admin Per Se / Implied Consent and demands a breath, blood, or urine sample, generally you can agree to perform the test. Otherwise, your driving privileges will be suspended for 12 months and the officer will still get your bodily fluids by way of a search warrant. So that’d be a lose-lose for you. Ask the officer to allow you to collect an independent sample of your breath, blood, or urine for future testing by your defense team.

Northern Arizona Drug Transportation Cases

Many DUI stops or investigatory stops based on poor driving (see the “cues” above) are actually drug transportation stops. The police won’t tell you this, but they aren’t stopping you just to give you a ticket for having a GPS device on your windshield. They will force you get out of the vehicle. They will talk to you and observe signs of impairment or nervousness.

They will ask you to allow them to search your vehicle. They will use scary words like: “I’m going to keep you here for a while if I have to go get my drug dog to sniff your car. So you should just tell me right now where you have marijuana, cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamine, okay?” They will say, “Can I take your pulse? You sure look real nervous.”

Just stay calm, respectfully decline to allow any search of your person or vehicle, and make the police officer do their job thoroughly. It’ll give us much more to work with in your defense. A “bad” search (i.e., constitutional violation) is priceless in a drug transportation case because we can push it all the way to dismissal in certain cases.

Drive safely if you’re visiting the Grand Canyon, or driving through our neck of the woods on I-17 or I-40 (Kingman, Seligman, Williams, Flagstaff, Winslow, Holbrook). Call us if you need help. We do free consultations on all criminal and DUI cases. And we’ve got 35+ years of combined experience.