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Trial by Jury, a Hallowed American Right, Is Vanishing

August 16, 2016

The criminal trial ended more than two and a half years ago, but Judge Jesse M. Furman can still vividly recall the case. It stands out, not because of the defendant or the subject matter, but because of its rarity: In his four-plus years on the bench in Federal District Court in Manhattan, it was his only criminal jury trial.

He is far from alone.

Judge J. Paul Oetken, in half a decade on that bench, has had four criminal trials, including one that was repeated after a jury deadlocked. For Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, who has handled some of the nation’s most important terrorism cases, it has been 18 months since his last criminal jury trial.

“It’s a loss,” Judge Kaplan said, “because when one thinks of the American system of justice, one thinks of justice being administered by juries of our peers. And to the extent that there’s a decline in criminal jury trials, that is happening less frequently.”

The national decline in trials, both criminal and civil, has been noted in law journal articles, bar association studies and judicial opinions. But recently, in the two federal courthouses in Manhattan and a third in White Plains (known collectively as the Southern District of New York), the vanishing of criminal jury trials has never seemed so pronounced.

The Southern District held only 50 criminal jury trials last year, the lowest since 2004, according to data provided by the court. The pace remains slow this year.

In 2005, records show, there were more than double the number of trials: 106. And decades ago, legal experts said, the numbers were much higher.

“It’s hugely disappointing,” said Judge Jed S. Rakoff, a 20-year veteran of the Manhattan federal bench. “A trial is the one place where the system really gets tested. Everything else is done behind closed doors.”

Continue reading the main story.

Having just finished a jury trial in Marana Municipal Court and my client was not guilty, I was shocked to learn this was the first trial the court had had in years. It isn’t just federal criminal charges. It appears to be everywhere that people are not going to trial. Surely the budget constraints of state and local courts prevent the appointment of attorneys but you can always call me for a free consultation to review your case and determine the risks and benefits of a jury trial.

If you have been charged with a crime and don’t know which steps to take next, please visit our website or call our office at (520) 247-1789 for the experienced legal counsel and representation you need to prevent this charge from becoming a serious conviction

What’s Not OK in Oklahoma

August 26, 2016

Oklahoma may be known for its wide open skies and golden fields of wheat, but it’s also known for a few strange and downright ridiculous laws. Since its admission into the United States in 1907, this state has passed some legislation that’s difficult to believe.

Getting a Tattoo

Although this law is no longer in effect, you might be surprised to learn that tattoos were illegal in Oklahoma for over 40 years. In 2006, Oklahoma became the last state to legalize tattoos, overturning previous legislature passed in 1963 that banned this type of body art. Previous attempts had been made to overturn the ban on tattoos, but had all been defeated based on arguments related to public health and morality.

Letting Your Farm Animals Wear Your Boots

One crazy law still in Oklahoma’s books states that it is “illegal to have the hind legs of farm animals in your boots.” It’s unclear why this law came about, or even why it was necessary, given that refraining to share your boots with your animals is likely just common sense. Additionally, it’s unclear whether the law holds if an owner were to buy a pair of boots exclusively for an animal’s use, rather than sharing his own.

Supporting the New York Jets

The city of Ada, OK, apparently has a bone to pick with the city of New York. Buried in this Oklahoma city’s legislature is a law stating that wearing New York Jets clothing is a punishable offense—anyone caught supporting the New York Jets in this city will shortly find himself in jail.

Oh, Oregon! Are You Serious?

August 19, 2016

Oregon began as a territory established in 1848 and was later admitted into the United States as the 33rd state in 1859. Although Oregon boasts a diverse landscape that spans several different types of terrain, it also boasts a diverse range of seriously silly laws.

A door on a car may not be left open longer than is necessary.

Oregon clearly does not believe in silly indulgences, such as leaving your car door ajar a single second longer than necessary. The state’s laws contain several clauses regarding the “improper opening or leaving open of a vehicle door,” which is considered a Class D traffic violation. While this law likely originated following public safety concerns related to open car doors blocking sidewalks or roadways, the fact that leaving the door open too long is illegal seems like taking this concept a bit too far.

Babies may not be carried on the running boards of a car.

Public safety appears to be of paramount importance in Oregon, including the safety of its babies. State law expressly forbids carrying babies on the running board of a car, as well as a car’s hood, fender, or any other external feature. People caught committing this crime will face a Class B traffic violation—but only so long as they are driving on a highway. The law appears to hold no such consequences for carrying babies on the running boards of cars on residential roads.

Shoelaces must be tied while walking down the street.

The city of Portland is also a firm proponent of personal safety, going so far as to make it illegal to walk down the street with one’s shoelaces untied. Fortunately, this law doesn’t appear to extend beyond the street, meaning you are apparently allowed to duck into a storefront or stop in the park to tie your shoes and avoid prosecution.

What to Do If You’re Charged with Domestic Violence

August 12, 2016 Tucson, Arizona sex crimes lawyer.

Domestic violence refers to any type of aggressive, violent, or threatening behavior within the home; this type of behavior may be exhibited by spouses, family members, or even unmarried partners. A domestic violence conviction carries with it serious consequences that can be difficult to escape, even years after you have completed any required punishment. Thus, if you are charged with domestic violence, it’s essential to fight this charge with the help of an experienced criminal attorney to prevent conviction or minimize the consequences you may face.

Domestic Violence Offenses

There are several types of actions which are considered domestic violence under Arizona law. If you are found or suspected of committing one of these actions, you may be arrested and charged with domestic violence. It’s important to note that while many of these behaviors are physical actions that threaten another’s safety or property, some types of verbal abuse are also considered domestic offenses. These actions include assault, kidnapping, harassment, disorderly conduct, criminal damage to property, and threatening.

Domestic Violence Defense

If you are charged with a domestic offense, your very first step should be to contact a criminal defense attorney with experience in the field of domestic violence. Because the state of Arizona often pursues criminal convictions in cases involving domestic abuse more aggressively than other types of offenses, the help and support of an attorney is vital during this time to ensure you understand the charges and develop a solid plan of action to either refute the charges or minimize the consequences you will face. Your attorney will assess the situation thoroughly and make recommendations based on your individual case, the charges you are facing, and the consequences that a conviction will carry.

Janet Altschuler, Attorney at Law can help you fight charges of domestic violence in Tucson. If you have been charged with a crime and don’t know which steps to take next, please visit our website or call our office at (520) 247-1789 for the experienced legal counsel and representation you need to prevent this charge from becoming a serious conviction.

Different Types of Assault Charges

August 5, 2016

While assault may seem like a straightforward term, the legal definition of assault is broad and varied. Assault can range from causing physical harm to another person to making threatening comments regarding violent acts, even if you never commit any actual violence. Because assault charges are serious and complex, you should never try to represent yourself in an assault case—your best defense against any assault charge is to work with an attorney to reduce or dismiss the charges.

Simple or Misdemeanor Assault

The state of Arizona defines simple or misdemeanor assaults as behaviors that include knowingly causing injury to another person or touching an individual with the intent to harm or provoke them. Simple assault can also consist of recklessly causing harm to an individual or causing them to fear for their safety through words or actions. This type of assault charge can be further broken down into three classes: Class 1 assault must cause actual physical injury, Class 2 assault may include the threat of injury even if no harm is incurred, and Class 3 assault includes any type of touch that is meant to provoke or injure another.

Aggravated Assault

Aggravated assault is a more serious charge that is considered a Class 3 or Class 4 felony. This type of assault charge often requires serious physical harm or disfigurement to occur, and also covers assault with any deadly or dangerous weapon, including automobiles. Furthermore, aggravated assault includes assault cases in which the defendant is 18 or older and the victim is 15 or younger, as well as assault committed against certain individuals, such as police, firefighters, teachers, healthcare workers, and prosecutors.  

Have you been charged with assault in Tucson or do you have questions about your rights in an assault case? Please call the law office of Janet Altschuler, Attorney at Law by phone at (520) 247-1789 or contact us online for help handling your situation. You can also take a look through our blog for more information on Arizona law and the steps to take if you are charged with assault or a crime.

What Constitutes Assault?

July 25, 2016

In the past, assault and battery were considered two different situations, as well as two separate charges. However, in today’s legal system, assault has come to mean both the threat of physical harm and the actual act of physically harming another person. Understanding the different types of assault and the consequences associated with assault in Arizona is essential if you are facing these charges in court. Your defense attorney will evaluate your case and your side of the story to determine the best legal defense against these charges.

Reasonable Threats of Harm

A physical altercation does not need to occur for an individual to be charged with assault. According to the law, assault can be any intentional act that causes another person to fear for his safety, including verbal threats or threatening actions, even if no physical contact occurs. However, assault must be considered a reasonable threat to an individual’s harm—simply worrying that someone may harm you does not constitute assault, but a verbal threat or the brandishing of a weapon or fist can be used to make a charge of assault.

Bodily Harm

If you have committed and act that injured another person, either by striking them physically, detaining them, or through the use of a weapon, you can be charged with assault. The charge of assault is often broken down further into simple and aggravated assault. Aggravated assault often involves assault with a weapon, assault when an individual is trespassing on private property, sexual assault, or assault committed by individuals in certain public positions, such as police officers, firefighters, teachers, and medical care providers.
Janet Altschuler, Attorney at Law, is a criminal defense attorney serving Tucson with more than 20 years of experience. You can find out more about Ms. Altschuler’s services and how she can help if you are charged with assault or any other crime when you visit our website or call (520) 247-1789 to request a consultation.

Gun Violence in Arizona

July 10, 2016

In 2015, the state of Arizona received two number one rankings related to gun ownership. While Guns and Ammo magazine ranked Arizona as the best state for gun owners, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence also called Arizona the best state for criminals to get access to guns. Understanding how these rankings relate to gun violence is a step toward understanding the rates of gun-related crimes and deaths in the state, particularly when compared to the rest of the nation.

Gun-Related Deaths in Arizona

A recent U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report on firearms-death statistics noted 933 firearms-related deaths in the state of Arizona in 2010. Over the course of a calendar year, this number is equivalent to just over two and a half gun-related deaths each day. However, the deaths reported by the CDC included suicides, accidental shootings, and law enforcement-related shootings—when considering gun-related violence in Arizona, the CDC reported 271 firearms-related homicides in the state during 2010, equating to 0.74 gun-related deaths per day over the course of a year.

Arizona Gun Violence and the National Average

A Kaiser Family Foundation study found the gun-death rate in Arizona to be 14.6 deaths per 100,000 individuals in the state. When compared with the rest of the United States, Arizona ranks eighth-worst in the country in terms of gun violence and gun-related deaths, as compared with the national average of 10.1 gun-related deaths per 100,000 individuals.
While Arizona maintains relatively lenient gun ownership regulations, the consequences for a conviction related to a gun crime can affect your right to own a gun in the future. If you are facing legal action associated with gun-related crime, it’s essential to contact an experienced criminal attorney for the legal representation you deserve. You can reach the law office of Janet Altschuler, Attorney at Law by phone at (520) 247-1789 for the legal help you need today, or click through our website for more information about Arizona gun laws and their consequences.

What Happened in the Recent Supreme Court Decision About Domestic Violence?

July 7, 2016

Victim

The Supreme Court recently decided a case in which the issue of gun rights and domestic violence offenders were involved. In Voisine v. U.S., a Maine resident, Mr. Voisine was investigated for shooting wildlife illegally. During the course of the investigation, law enforcement discovered Mr. Voisine had multiple domestic violence misdemeanor convictions. Law enforcement and prosecutors believed Voisine should not have been allowed to have a gun and was a prohibited possessor.

A set of federal laws makes it a crime for certain people to possess firearms and ammunition. The people are convicted felons and convicted domestic violence offenders. The primary statute prohibiting people with domestic violence convictions from owning guns and ammunition is the 1996 Lautenberg Amendment. The Lautenberg Amendment prohibits people from owning guns and and ammunition if they have been convicted of a domestic violence offense which, ” has as an element, the use or attempted use of physical force, or the threatened use of a deadly weapon. . .”

The definition of the disqualifying conviction leaves open room for people convicted of domestic violence offenses that seemingly have nothing to with the use or attempted use of physical force. So, for example, criminal damage or violating an order of protection by calling someone on the phone, or criminal trespass where a person is asked to leave and they don’t at first but eventually do leave. What about folks convicted of these kind of seemingly non violent offenses?

Voisine’s lawyer argued that the is a hierarchy of abusive behavior in which some actions should count as domestic violence while others should not and those that do not should not trigger a gun ban. More specifically, the litigants in the case argued that their convictions were for mere reckless behavior and were not the result of intentional behavior and such reckless behavior should not trigger a gun ban. Reckless here means they did it in the heat of the moment and the offense was not planed out and done with a specific planned purpose.

The Supreme Court decided that Voisine should have a gun ban and his distinction between reckless and intentional behavior did not matter when it came to prohibiting owning weapons.

Kansas: Dumb Laws from the Sunflower State

June 30, 2016

The Midwestern state of Kansas is home to the rolling Great Plains and a thriving aviation and agriculture industry. Despite its reputation as a down-to-earth state, Kansas is also home to some dumb laws you might be inclined to disbelieve.

Persons may not “screech” their tires while driving

Not only does the state of Kansas value its wide open spaces, it also values its peace and quiet. This concept is the only possible reason why it is still illegal to “accelerate or speed a vehicle in such a manner or to turn a corner in such a manner as to cause… tires to screech” on city streets within the state. Those who violate this silly law are guilty of committing a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500, 30 days in jail, or a combination of both.

You must keep your yard in shape

Hand in hand with Kansas’ pride in its natural landscape are several variants on laws stating that residents must keep their yards in good shape. Such laws, which are common in cities throughout the state, typically make it unlawful to allow weeds to remain in residential yards because they are considered a nuisance. These laws require homeowners, landlords, and tenants to comply with weed removal regulations on both public and private property.

It is illegal to spit on a sidewalk

Not only must residents of Kansas keep a tight rein on the weeds in their yard, they must also respect public property. It is expressly forbidden by law to spit on the sidewalk in several cities, including Topeka and Dodge City. Furthermore, these laws often forbid spitting not only sidewalks, but in alleyways, on streets, and even on the floors of public buildings as well.

Are You High, Colorado? 3 Trippy Laws from the Centennial State

June 27, 2016

Also known as the Centennial State, Colorado is famous for its mountain terrain and its legalization of marijuana possession. However, Colorado is also known for several crazy state laws meant to protect its citizens and property from some rather strange types of harm.

One may not mutilate a rock in a state park

Colorado takes its state parks seriously, going so far as to have passed a law that makes it illegal to mutilate or mar rocks in any state park. This law actually goes on to include trees, shrubbery, wildflowers and all other state park “features” as well; while this law does in fact make sense in terms of preserving state parks’ natural beauty from vandalism, it certainly could have benefitted from improved wording.

It is illegal to ride a horse while under the influence

Drinking and driving is a serious crime throughout the country; however, the state of Colorado considers riding a horse while intoxicated just as serious an offense. Though this law just sounds silly, it is in fact enforced, as demonstrated in the case of Patrick Neal Schumacher, who was arrested in Boulder in September of 2013 for being too drunk to ride his horse.

It is illegal to permit one’s llama to graze on city property

Colorado takes the protection of city property just as seriously as the protection of its state parks. In the city of Boulder, it is illegal to knowingly permit domesticated animals—including llamas—to graze on any property that belongs to the city. The list of prohibited domesticated animals also includes burros, mules, pigs, horses, goats, cows, and sheep.

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