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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.

The Differences Between a Misdemeanor and a Felony

June 23, 2016 Criminal Defense Lawyer in Tucson, AZ

Crimes are divided into several categories, which depend upon the severity of the crime. When you are accused of a crime, its category will determine the type of punishment or other consequences you may face if convicted. While infractions are considered minor crimes typically punishable via fines or other minor consequences, misdemeanors and felonies are more serious crimes that may be punishable with time spent in jail, making it essential to understand the charges you are facing.

Misdemeanor Crimes

Misdemeanors are less serious crimes than felonies; these crimes may be met with punishments that include fines, jail time, or a combination of both. In most cases, the punishment associated with misdemeanors is flexible, allowing for the consequences to fit the crime; however, in Arizona, all misdemeanors are punished with a jail sentence of six months or less. Misdemeanors can be associated with fines as low as $500 and as high as $2,500. There are several classes of misdemeanors defined under Arizona law, including prostitution, intentionally exposing others to infectious disease, and using others to obtain alcohol if you are under the age of 21.

Felony Crimes

Felonies are crimes for which the accused will receive one year or more in a state prison facility. Like misdemeanors, there are several classes of felonies defined under Arizona law, including murder, the production of child pornography, many forms of assault, and the cultivation of drugs such as marijuana. The jail terms served for felonies range from two years to life in prison, and fines associated with felonies can range up to a total of $150,000. Furthermore, felonies are divided into aggravated and mitigated terms; individuals charged with aggravated felonies face more severe consequences.

If you have been charged with a crime in Tucson, Janet Altschuler, Attorney at Law can help. Ms. Altschuler has more than two decades of experience in the field of criminal defense, and can help you understand the consequences you are facing and your legal options to reduce or eliminate them. Please visit us online or call (520) 247-1789 for more information or to schedule a free consultation.

Preparing for a Domestic Violence Hearing

June 19, 2016

Domestic violence is a serious charge that can carry with it consequences that follow an individual for life. When you are charged with domestic violence, you will attend a hearing to determine whether legal action should be taken to address the situation. If you are preparing to attend a domestic violence hearing, hiring an experienced defense attorney is the best way to ensure your rights are upheld during this process.

Know the Purpose of a Domestic Violence Hearing

Domestic violence is a serious charge that can have long-lasting consequences for both the accused and the petitioner. Thus, it is important to determine the validity of any domestic violence claims, as well as assess the situation and take action if there is risk to the partner, spouse, or children involved. If the judge determines that there is a danger to the petitioners, actions such as child custody arrangements or issuing an Order of Protection may be taken.

Understand What You Will Do During a Domestic Violence Hearing

If you have been accused of committing domestic violence, you will be asked to describe your side of the story during a hearing. Depending upon the situation, you may want to challenge your partner’s description of your actions, or admit to the actions you have taken. Prior to the hearing, you should find a criminal defense attorney with experience in the field of family law. Discussing your situation with your attorney and truthfully describing the actions or incidents that have led to the hearing will help your attorney develop the best strategy to take during the hearing to either dismiss or minimize the consequences of the charges you are facing.

You deserve the support and assistance of an attorney who will work with you and for you during your domestic violence hearing. Janet Altschuler, Attorney at Law understands the severity of a domestic violence charge and can help you fight this accusation. If you have questions about any criminal charges you may be facing, please contact us online or call (520) 247-1789 for help.

The Justice System

May 23, 2016
CaptureJustice
Look at this cartoon. It is funny but it also illustrates a common issue. People don’t know the process of the criminal system. Unless you or a loved one is charged there may be no reason to know it. But you should, just like the political process, this is where pur rights are and it is important to know when we vote for local officials like judges and prosecutors.
From my perspective, it is important because there are things I can do, actions I can take during the charging phase of a case that can help a client tremendously, especially if they are charged with a DV offense.
This article describes procedures unique to Pima County, AZ. Other AZ counties may or may not operate this way. Counties in other states are unlikely to operate in exactly the same way as Pima County.
Now, here are the specifics: If you are charged with a felony offense, the person who starts the charging process is a cop. He or she, no matter how inexperienced, gets to bring felony charges against you and potentially take you to jail to await the resolution of the case. You will see a judge within 24 hours of being taken to jail. It is usually 12 hours not 24. Judges see arrested people in Pima County at 8: 00 AM and 8:00 PM over video at the Pima County Jail facility on Silverlake Rd. You can go the jail and see your loved one and speak on his or her behalf to get him or her out of jail.
Judges can set bond or release people. Bond and release will be the topic of another blog coming soon.
Let’s say the judge sets a huge bond for you and there is no way you or your family can come up with the money. You will sit in jail for at least 10 days. Why 10 days? That is the time allotted to the state to charge you or dismiss the case and release you. If the case is dismissed and you are released, please know the state has seven (7) years to re file.
If the state decides to move forward and charge you, the state, via the county attorney (they are called District Attorneys on TV), the prosecutor, has to decide to have a preliminary hearing or take the case to the grand jury. It is the state’s choice. The defense has no say in which way they go.
What are these things? Preliminary hearings and grand juries? They are screening systems to ensure there is enough to go forward with a felony charge. It is possible that a case can die and be dismissed at these pretrial stages. An experienced attorney knows how to work these screening systems to your advantage if at all possible. The disadvantage of a court appointed attorney is that these screening systems often occur well before the lawyer even knows he or she has you as a client.
A preliminary hearing consists of a judge-not the judge who would hear your case if you went to trial, but a different judge. In Pima County, the judges who hear preliminary hearings are at the justice court at 240 N. Stone.  At the preliminary hearing, an accused person, a defendant, will have a lawyer, and the state will put on “some evidence.” This does not mean a full blown trial. This usually means a case detective will read from his report that a crime was committed and that the accused is the person who committed the crime and here is why he or she is coming to that conclusion.
For example, in a DV case, a detective can testify in a preliminary hearing that Ms. A told him that she was beaten by her husband, Mr. B, and her arm appeared to be broken. The detective can further state that he/she went to the hospital with Ms. A and spoke to the doctors and the doctors indicated the arm was indeed fractured. Mr. B’s lawyer can question the detective. For example, the lawyer could ask the detective, “the doctor told you that while Ms. A was being treated, she said she fell down the stairs at home…” Then, Ms. A will be called to testify and she too can be crossed examined.
The judge or magistrate hearing the witnesses testify can determine if there is enough to move forward with the case. The standard is probable cause. If there is not, then some or all of the charges can be dismissed. If there is enough then the felony court process will begin.
The Pima County Attorney’s office usually takes DV cases to a preliminary hearing. They reason that the alleged victim’s testimony will be preserved under oath should the victim decide to recant or change his or her story by the time trial rolls around months or years later.
The preliminary hearing is ripe ground for making good deals with prosecutors. Maybe they are overwhelmed and want to get rid of a case where the facts aren’t so good for them. You must always try to get a favorable resolution.
If the state chooses to have a grand jury hearing rather than a preliminary hearing then the state likely believes the alleged victim isn’t going to change his/her story at trial. This means, the state believes it has a rock solid case and they won’t bother to preserve under oath testimony.
In a grand jury, a group of people, jurors, from around the county are chosen, just like people get chosen for jury duty. They sit at a table and there is court reporter there taking down all that is said. The accused is not invited, nor is his or her attorney. However, an accused can ask the grand jury if they want to hear testimony from him or her. The grand jury can say “yes” or “no.”  But the defense attorney cannot be in the room with the accused during the grand jury proceeding. This can lead to a lot of in and out while the accused asks his/her attorney questions about what to say and do.
The case detective and prosecutor are in the room with the jurors. The detective testifies and the attorney/prosecutor asks questions. The court reporter takes it all down. The presentation is supposed to be fair but sometimes it isn’t. If there was something helpful to the accused that was left out then the defense attorney can file a motion asking for the case to be dismissed and presented to a new grand jury. A defense attorney can get charges dismissed and reduced at this part of the case.
If you are charged with a felony offense, seek the advice of a caring competent criminal defense attorney who help you try to understand the process and use the process to your advantage.

Update Your Goofy Laws, Pennsylvania!

May 31, 2016

Pennsylvania holds a place of high esteem in America’s history. This state was one of the country’s 13 founding colonies, as well as the site of the drafting of the Declaration of Independence and United States Constitution. However, even a proud state such as Pennsylvania is not without its own set of goofy, outdated, and just plain ridiculous laws.

It is illegal to have over 16 women live in a house together

Large families should be a source of pride—however, they can also be a source of legal trouble as well. In the state of Pennsylvania, it is illegal for more than 16 women to live in a single house together. This silly law was drafted to prevent the creation and maintenance of brothels, but the letter of the law appears to say nothing about the ages or relationships of the women, potentially turning a loving family home or even a college dorm into a brothel in the eyes of Pennsylvania’s lawmakers.

It is illegal to sleep on top of a refrigerator outdoors

It’s admittedly slightly unclear why Pennsylvania felt the need to create a legal barrier to sleeping atop a refrigerator outdoors. Perhaps the state simply realized that this is not a valid way to stay cool during a warm, humid summer night. While Pennsylvania appears to ban this type of behavior outdoors, this silly state law at least implies that if you must sleep on top of your refrigerator, you may legally do so inside your own home.

You may not catch a fish by any body part except the mouth

Pennsylvania appears to have strangely strict laws about the catching of fish throughout the state. Fishermen must limit their fish-catching techniques to strategies and tools that catch the fish by the mouth only, as catching a fish by a fin, tail, or any other body part is deemed illegal. Given this type of fishing restriction, you may not be surprised to discover that an additional state law specifies that “dynamite is not to be used to catch fish.”

Silly Laws from South Carolina

May 26, 2016

South Carolina has suffered a bit of a checkered past—less than 100 years after its admission into the United States in 1788, it was the first state to secede from the Union in 1860, prior to the Civil War. The state was readmitted in 1868 and is today considered one of the country’s most beautiful eastern states; however, it is not without its silly state laws.  

A person must be eighteen years old to play a pinball machine

In South Carolina, “children” and “juveniles” are defined under the law as any individual less than seventeen years of age. The state maintains several “status offenses” for juveniles, which are behaviors that would not be considered illegal if committed by an adult, but which are not permissible for juveniles—chief among these is “playing a pinball machine.” This law remains in effect even today as part of the South Carolina Code of Laws under the state’s Juvenile Justice Code.

If a man promises to marry an unmarried woman, the marriage must take place

Not only does South Carolina seem to take juvenile behavior very seriously, the state also takes marriage proposals seriously as well. By law, any male over the age of sixteen who promises to marry a woman as part of a deception and does not carry through with this promise is guilty of a misdemeanor. However, if the male marries the woman in question, either before or after his conviction, he is absolved of guilt.

Railroad companies may be held liable in some instances for scaring horses

A spooked horse is no joke, and South Carolina recognizes the severity of this situation. This is why state law specifies several requirements for railroad operators, which can be found liable for damages and subjected to a fine if any employees are found guilty of violating statutes put in place to prevent scared horses. These statutes require the use of electric hand lanterns when switching or moving trains, as well as govern the removal and operation of hand cars from the tracks to avoid approaching trains.

What to Do If You Suspect Domestic Violence

May 19, 2016

Domestic violence is defined as any type of aggressive or violent behavior that occurs within the home. This type of violence is most often instigated by a partner or spouse, and can include both physical and verbal abuse. In the state of Arizona, it is estimated that an individual dies every three days as a result of domestic violence, and many of these deaths are preventable—keep reading to find out the steps you can take to help neighbors, friends, and even family members if you suspect they may be the victim of domestic violence.

Take Notice of the Signs

In the vast majority of cases, domestic violence deaths do not occur without warning. There are often several warning signs noticeable to outsiders, including screaming, threatening comments, and even noticeable bruising or other injuries. The key to preventing serious injuries or deaths related to domestic violence is to take notice of these signs, rather than ignoring them or convincing yourself they are a normal part of a relationship or a marriage—while arguments are natural, violence and abuse are not.

Act on Your Instincts

Friends and neighbors of domestic violence victims often say they knew something was wrong, but never took action for fear of appearing controlling or nosy. However, it is this failure to act that so often results in the serious consequences of domestic violence and abuse. If you suspect that someone you know is a victim of abuse, don’t be afraid to speak up—if you feel comfortable confronting the individual, ask if they are all right and if they need help. Alternatively, you can call the police when fights occur or contact a local or national crisis hotline for advice on the steps to take if you aren’t comfortable approaching the situation directly.

If you need help handling domestic abuse, Janet Altschuler, Attorney at Law can offer experienced legal counsel and support. Please call our Tucson law office today at (520) 247-1789, or visit our website to learn more about domestic violence and how it is handled in Arizona.

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