Before 1990, DUI was little more than a serious traffic ticket. But then, legislators began passing sweeping new anti-DUI laws, and police departments developed new tools to enforce these laws. Courts endorsed the laws and practices almost every step of the way.
So, DUI is now one of the most serious and most commonly-charged misdemeanors in Maricopa County. The harsh consequences endure even after the case is over, in many cases. Drivers’ license suspension and sky-high auto insurance rates are two good illustrations.
Fortunately, the breath or blood tests that police use to establish intoxication are not infallible. Furthermore, the field sobriety tests officers use, like the walking-a-straight-line test, are based on shaky science.
Because of flaws like these, an attorney can often either engineer a very favorable out-of-court settlement or obtain a not-guilty verdict at trial.
The war against drugs has been going on even longer than the war against drunk drivers. Initially, this effort focused almost exclusively on drug traffickers who dealt in hallucinogenic “street drugs,” like LSD and cocaine.
Police and prosecutors still aggressively target these individuals, but the drug crime dragnet has expanded. Prescription painkiller cases, such as unlawful possession or altering a prescription label, now crowd the dockets in Maricopa County drug courts. Methamphetamine prosecutions are common as well. Many meth ingredients are legal to purchase and possess. Finally, marijuana is still illegal in Arizona. And, the Grand Canyon State’s marijuana possession laws are some of the harshest ones in the country.
Drug trafficking prosecutions often have lots of moving parts. As a result, procedural flaws, like invalid search warrants, are often an issue.
Furthermore, simple possession cases are far from simple, at least as far as prosecutors are concerned. In court, prosecutors must establish more than mere proximity. They must establish every element of possession beyond a reasonable doubt. Typically, that’s an extremely daunting task.
In many cases, assault prosecutions come about after a passionate argument got slightly out of hand. Continuing a familiar theme, Arizona’s assault laws are very broad. The defendant need not cause an injury to be tried for, and convicted of, assault in Maricopa County. Furthermore, in aggravated assault cases, the defendant need not use a knife, gun, or other traditional weapon.
Assault sentences are very harsh as well. The potential jail or prison time is much more than a brief “cooling off” period. These cases also involve lengthy court supervision that is laden with classes to attend and other burdensome features.
There are a number of defenses available in these cases. For example, Arizona is a “stand your ground” state where it is easier to establish self-defense or defense of others.
Much like DUIs, domestic violence prosecutions have both direct and collateral consequences. In many ways, the collateral consequences may be worse than the direct consequences, and that is saying a lot.
Domestic violence assault cases are still a political hot button, so Maricopa County prosecutors pursue them more aggressively than any other type of misdemeanor. Additionally, these convictions have significant collateral consequences. Domestic violence is one of the few misdemeanor convictions which can eliminate your right to own a gun. Additionally, these criminal prosecutions often involve protective orders and other parallel proceedings. Finally, a domestic violence conviction haunts people in family court, even years or decades after the case is over.
Self-defense is an excellent defense in domestic violence cases. There may be some other defenses as well, such as a lack of evidence. As mentioned, the defendant need not cause injury to be convicted of assault. However, non-injury assaults are more difficult to prove in court. And, the state must prove every element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt.
Continuing a familiar theme, few prosecutions combine direct and collateral consequences more than sex crimes. This broad umbrella term includes a wide array of cases, from indecent exposure and pronography possession to extremely violent sexual offenses.
Direct consequences, such as prison time and high fines, are incredibly harsh, but they soon pass. The collateral consequences, however, may continue for a lifetime. Sex offender registration laws have been continually refined and updated since the mid-1990s. As a result, even the most intrusive laws routinely survive constitutional challenges. So, an offender might be branded for life. The personal consequences, in many cases, are too significant to quantify here.
Some defenses to sex crimes include law enforcement entrapment. A reasonable belief about the alleged victim’s age or status, while not an outright defense, is definitely a mitigating circumstance.
In terms of confrontational sex crimes, alleged victims are often mistaken. Typically, they only see the actor for a moment under poor conditions. Additionally, though it is extremely rare for alleged victims to fabricate such stories, these incidents do happen.
Theft is an extremely broad crime as well. The defendant does not have to “steal” something to be charged with, and convicted of, a theft offense. Depriving the owner of the use of the property, including something like returning a rental vehicle past the due date, could qualify as theft. So could possession of stolen property.
There are collateral consequences here as well. Any theft case, even issuing a bad check, is a crime of moral turpitude. Such a conviction could follow the defendant almost literally for life and derail many future job, educational, and career opportunities.
Typically, if the defendant makes restitution and has no criminal record, prosecutors will dismiss the case after the defendant jumps through a few legal hoops. As a result, the defendant has no theft conviction record. That’s a significant plus, especially in future years.
Theft cases are unique in that they almost completely rely on the alleged victim’s testimony. If the owner is unavailable to testify, the case usually collapses. Many times, if the theft prosecution drags on for several months or years, listed owners lose interest in the case and refuse to cooperate with prosecutors. If that happens, a very favorable outcome is almost guaranteed.
Contrary to popular myth, there is no separate list of juvenile crimes. Children can be charged with, and convicted of, the same crimes as adults. Also contrary to popular myth, juvenile convictions do not automatically fall off people’s’ records when the individuals turn 18.
Many juvenile crimes involve allegations of gang activity. In criminal organization prosecutions, the lowest-level gang member can often be charged with offenses committed at the highest level, even if the defendant did not fully know about or participate in the alleged crime.
These prosecutions may have collateral consequences as well. When prosecutors file charges against a juvenile, they often file charges against the parents as well for contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
While there is no substantive difference, juvenile crimes in Arizona are procedurally different. There is a presumption that incarceration is not the best outcome in these cases, unless the juvenile has a long criminal record and/or directly committed a violent offense. A DUI attorney Tempe can often leverage this presumption into a favorable out-of-court settlement which, in many cases, allows the child to remain at home.
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