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Can I Be Charged with a Violent Crime if the Weapon Was Fake?

November 6, 2020

In the heat of the moment, one person may pull out a fake, yet realistic-looking weapon in an attempt to scare another individual. Although you might think that brandishing a fake weapon is harmless, the law doesn’t share this point of view. In fact, a person can be charged with a violent crime even if no physical injuries were inflicted in the incident—and all violent crimes are treated very seriously under Arizona law. If you’ve been accused of a violent crime—even if the weapon was fake—you need an experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side.

Elements of Violent Crimes

It’s commonly thought that all violent crimes involve some sort of physical injury to the alleged victim. And it’s true that they frequently do, which is why medical records often play a role in criminal trials. However, not all violent crimes do involve physical harm. The one universal element of violent crimes is that they all involve the alleged victim’s sincere belief that he or she will suffer physical harm. In other words, a violent crime can involve the threatened use, attempted use, or actual use of physical force. This means that brandishing a fake gun is a threat that constitutes a violent crime. Similarly, the act of brandishing any object that could be used as a weapon (such as scissors or even a walking cane) can also constitute a violent crime if it’s done in a threatening or intimidating manner.

Types of Violent Crimes

There are multiple types of violent crimes recognized by Arizona law and federal law. These include murder, manslaughter, and rape. Others include physical assault, endangerment, kidnapping, aggravated robbery, and armed robbery (with a real or fake weapon). Some of these violent crimes may be charged as misdemeanors, depending on the circumstances, although most are typically prosecuted as felonies. Regardless, all types of violent crime are treated seriously and required the skillful attention of a criminal defense attorney.

At the law office of Janet Altschuler, we vigorously defend those accused of all types of violent crimes. Our criminal defense attorney serves Tucson residents with distinction, providing strategic legal guidance and tireless representation. Call (520) 247-1789 and let us help you defend your rights and your reputation.

Types of Murder Charges in Arizona

October 23, 2020

Murder is widely considered to be the most heinous of all crimes. As you might expect, a murder conviction in Arizona results in severe penalties. If you’ve been arrested for any type of murder charge, or you believe you may be under investigation, it’s imperative to retain the services of a skilled criminal defense attorney immediately. Do not answer any questions from police interrogators until you have secured legal representation.

First-Degree Murder

Arizona state law defines first-degree murder as the taking of another person’s life through an intentional, premeditated act. Premeditation is the key characteristic of this criminal charge. It’s the act of thinking about a crime before committing it. A person might take days to plan a murder or only a matter of seconds. A defendant may also be charged with first-degree murder if the death occurred during the commission of another felony. For example, a person might be killed during a kidnapping, robbery, sexual assault, or act of arson. In this situation, it isn’t necessary to prove intent to kill. Note that a person might be charged with first-degree murder under these circumstances even if they only participated in the other felony, but didn’t commit the murder. First-degree murder is a class one felony—the most serious type of charge. Penalties can include the death penalty, life in prison without parole, or life in prison with parole eligibility after 25 years.

Second-Degree Murder

Under Arizona law, second-degree murder is defined as the killing of another person through an intentional, but not premeditated act. For example, a person might act in a way that he or she knows could result in the serious injury or death of another person. One common situation is driving while intoxicated. A conviction of second-degree murder carries a minimum of 10 years in prison, with a potential maximum of 22 years.

At the law firm of Janet Altschuler in Tucson, we provide vigorous criminal defense services for those accused of violent crimes, including homicide and manslaughter. Our knowledgeable attorney applies effective legal strategies designed to get charges reduced or dropped entirely, or to secure acquittals. Call our office at (520) 247-1789 to request a consultation.

All About Field Sobriety Tests

October 9, 2020

Because Arizona has some of the most notoriously stringent DUI penalties in the nation, many people believe that there isn’t much you can do to fight back against a DUI conviction. Of course, your best defense against a DUI is to avoid drinking and driving at all. However, you may be pulled over for suspicion of driving under the influence even if you’re completely sober. You might simply find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time. In addition, many DUI charges are built on evidence that’s fundamentally flawed: Field sobriety tests. 

If you’ve ever seen a DUI arrest portrayed on television, you might be somewhat familiar with field sobriety tests (FSTs). While these tests aren’t quite as ridiculous as they’re sometimes portrayed—don’t worry, nobody is going to make you say the alphabet backwards—they aren’t entirely reliable either. Still, that doesn’t stop arresting officers from presenting the results of field sobriety tests in court. And unfortunately, the results often aren’t flattering. By arming yourself with better knowledge of FSTs and your rights during a traffic stop, you can ensure that this flawed source of evidence isn’t used against you in your DUI case. 

How do field sobriety tests work?

The goal of a field sobriety test is to help an officer determine if you are under the influence of alcohol by observing how well you complete a series of common tests, such as walking down the sidewalk or standing on one leg. However, in the 21st century we have plenty of reliable, scientific ways to determine if an individual has been drinking. That’s why police will also administer a breathalyzer or a blood test to measure your BAC after a DUI traffic stop. In reality the goal of FSTs isn’t to definitively assess whether you’ve been drinking. Rather, they’re designed to provide police officers with additional evidence to build a case against you as you’re charged with a crime. 

The fact is that many people fail field sobriety tests despite being unimpaired. That’s because whether you pass is solely at the discretion of the officer. There’s also no consideration to your individual physical or cognitive abilities. If, for example, you have a bad knee, you may not have an easy time walking a straight line. 

Am I allowed to refuse a field sobriety test?

It may sound scary to refuse the request of a police officer, but you should remember that you have no legal obligation to complete an FST. It is possible that you will be arrested upon refusal to complete any part of a field sobriety test but remember that an arrest is not the same as a conviction. By reducing the opportunity of the police to gather evidence against you, you will only strengthen your ability to build a solid defense for the courtroom. Upon arrest, you will be given a chemical test such as a breathalyzer or blood test to determine if you were, in fact, intoxicated behind the wheel.  

What am I required to do at a traffic stop? 

While you can legally refuse a field sobriety test, there are still some requests you must comply with when you’re pulled over. Arizona law requires that you provide your name, driver’s license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance at a traffic stop. You do not have to answer any questions. If you are asked to exit your vehicle, do so. Police do not have the right to enter or search your vehicle without permission. Do not provide permission. 

Can I refuse a breathalyzer test? 

When you are suspected of driving under the influence, a police officer may request that you take a field breathalyzer test. These tests are not always accurate, and they could produce false readings that are still admissible in a court of law. Instead, you can be given a chemical test such as a blood test or breathalyzer in a more reliable setting at the police station. You are legally allowed to refuse these tests as well, but this typically results in immediate license revocation followed by a suspension period of no less than 12 months. In addition, a search warrant can be requested at that point, which would legally allow police to administer a blood alcohol test. 

Janet Altschuler is an experienced criminal defense attorney in Tucson. She believes that everyone’s rights should be upheld within the criminal justice system, so she will work hard for you in every step of your case. If you’ve been arrested for DUI or other drug or alcohol-related charges in Southern Arizona, call (520) 247-1789.

What to Know About Job Searching After Prison

September 18, 2020

Finding a decent job is hard enough. Finding one with a criminal record can seem nearly impossible, especially if you have a serious felony or multiple convictions. And while certain organizations (like the National Employment Law Project) have been working to improve employers’ perceptions of hiring convicted workers, finding a job after serving time in prison is still a formidable challenge. You should expect to put in a great deal of effort and time into your job search. It’s still possible to get hired with a record, but it will take quite a bit of patience and persistence.

Understanding Your Rights

Nationwide, there has been a push to “ban the box.” This refers to the box that applicants are asked to check on an employment application if they have ever been convicted of a crime. In 2019, the federal Fair Chance to Compete for Jobs Act was passed that prevents federal employers and private government contractors from asking about an applicant’s criminal history right away. Note that this law does not apply to private companies that do not act as government contractors. In addition, all employers may still inquire about an applicant’s criminal history after a conditional offer of employment is made.

However, this “ban the box” law can be helpful in allowing former inmates to get their foot in the door. For this reason, don’t automatically assume that a government agency job is out of reach for you because of your record.

Landing a Job Through Networking

It’s often easier for someone with a criminal record to land a job through personal connections. For example, if your cousin’s boss is hiring, he or she might be more willing to give you a chance if your cousin vouches for your work ethic. Don’t hesitate to call family and friends, discuss the type of work you could do, and ask if they have any leads. You might also consider calling past employers to explain your situation and ask if they would consider rehiring you.

Checking Restored Citizen-Friendly Companies

Some companies have publicly announced a commitment to hiring former inmates (also called restored citizens) as long as they are otherwise qualified for the position and are willing to be diligent workers. These companies include PetSmart, Ace Hardware, Delta Air, Kohl’s, Olive Garden, Chili’s, Denny’s, and Sprint. These are just a few examples; you can check for others in your local community by doing a Google search or by contacting companies directly to inquire about their hiring policies.

Meeting Employers in Person

It’s easy for employers to shuffle job applications from the “Maybe” pile to the “No” pile, especially when they haven’t met the applicants. It’s a little harder for them to turn someone down whom they’ve met in person, especially if that applicant makes a favorable first impression. Look for local job fairs to attend, which allows you to meet employers directly. Treat the job fair as if it were an interview. That is, show up dressed respectably, bring copies of your resume and references, and be prepared to explain why you’re the best candidate for any given job.

Acing the Interview

It’s natural to feel nervous about a job interview, especially when you know that you’re at a disadvantage because of your criminal record. Do your best to stay calm and to project self-confidence. Note that if you’re asked whether you’ve ever been convicted of a felony, you’re legally required to answer honestly. (If the employer is a government agency or a government contractor, you’ll only be asked after a conditional offer of employment is made.)

During the interview, try to keep the focus of the conversation on how the company will benefit from hiring you. Emphasize any academic credentials you might have and previous training you’ve received. Discuss your skills and willingness to learn new skills, and emphasize that you’re a hard worker.

When the topic of your criminal record does come up, be honest about it, but try not to over-explain it. Do acknowledge that you understand you made some poor decisions, and that you’re trying to focus on your future now. Then, steer the conversation back toward why you’re a great candidate. You might also mention that the employer could be eligible for the federal Work Opportunity Tax Credit for hiring a qualified ex-felon.

A direct impact on your employment prospects is just one of the many ways that having a criminal record can haunt you for years to come. Take a proactive stance for your future by hiring an exceptional criminal defense attorney in Tucson who will fight for your freedom. Call the office of Janet Altschuler, attorney at law, at (520) 247-1789 to request a consultation.

Effective Defenses Against DUI Charges in Arizona

September 4, 2020

Driving under the influence of alcohol is a serious offense that can result in the suspension of your driver’s license, substantial fines, and time behind bars. However, an arrest does not always result in a conviction—especially if you hire an experienced criminal defense attorney. Your lawyer will develop a defense strategy that fits your particular case.

Lack of Probable Cause for the Arrest

One effective defense strategy against DUI charges in Arizona is the assertion that the arresting officer did not have probable cause to arrest you. The refusal to submit to field sobriety testing does not constitute probable cause. You can—and should—refuse to submit to field sobriety testing, which typically consists of having to walk a straight line or stand on one leg. Even if you did agree to do these tests, however, failing them does not automatically mean you were impaired by alcohol. A skilled lawyer can find loopholes. For example, you may have failed to stand on one leg because you were wearing stilettos at the time or perhaps you have a medical condition that affects your balance.

Inaccuracies in BAC Testing

Unlike field sobriety testing, you must legally submit to a chemical test, such as the Breathalyzer. However, these tests are not 100% accurate. An experienced defense attorney knows how to challenge the results of BAC tests, such as by examining whether any of the following might be true:

  • The breath testing device failed to pass monthly and quarterly maintenance and quality checks.
  • The blood test was conducted using blood sampled with a contaminated needle.
  • The blood sample was placed in a contaminated or expired container.

Lack of Physical Control of the Vehicle

It’s possible to be convicted of DUI even if you weren’t driving the vehicle at the time. The law states that a person must have “actual physical control” of the vehicle while impaired to be convicted of DUI. However, the law is vague on what physical control actually means. A skillful lawyer can argue that you were not in control of the vehicle because the car wasn’t running, the keys weren’t in the ignition, or you were sleeping off the alcohol in the backseat.

For an effective defense against misdemeanor or felony DUI charges, you can turn to the criminal defense firm of Janet Altschuler. Ms. Altschuler is a trusted defense attorney with well over 20 years of experience in and out of the courtroom. Request a free consultation by calling (520) 247-1789.

How to Get Released Early from Jail

August 21, 2020

Jail terms tend to be much shorter than prison terms. However, no one wants to be behind bars any longer than they have to, and if you or a loved one is in jail, you’re probably already daydreaming about the release date. Fortunately, you might not have to wait that long. It is often possible to get released from jail early. Talk to a criminal defense attorney about your case.

Explore the possibility of post-conviction bail.

You probably already know that bail is a means of getting released from jail pending trial. But did you know it’s also sometimes possible to be released on bail after a conviction? If you’re having your criminal defense attorney file an appeal in an attempt to overturn your conviction, you may be eligible. When deciding whether to grant post-conviction bail, the judge will consider the seriousness of the crime, your past criminal history, and your ties to the community. The judge will also consider whether you’ve previously appeared for court hearings.

Take advantage of new legislation.

It’s worthwhile to periodically check for new legislation that might affect your situation. In Arizona, for example, legislation signed in 2019 can enable thousands of inmates to be released early from jail. When Gov. Ducey signed Senate Bill 1310, it allowed individuals who have been convicted solely on drug offenses to be eligible for an early release after completing just 70% of their sentence. (Other inmates in the state are required to serve at least 85% of their sentence.)

Request a compassionate release.

A compassionate release may be granted for medical or humanitarian reasons. For example, if you have a severe or chronic health condition, your lawyer may ask for an early release based on the grounds that it is difficult or impossible to properly manage your condition while incarcerated. In recent months, many inmates have been granted a compassionate release in an attempt to reduce jail populations that are vulnerable to the coronavirus.

With well over 20 years of criminal defense experience, Janet Altschuler has the in-depth knowledge and practical skills necessary to fight for favorable outcomes for her clients. Contact our law firm in Tucson at (520) 247-1789. We offer a free initial consultation to discuss your case.

Essential Info About House Arrest

August 7, 2020

Arizona allows the possibility of house arrest for certain offenders. House arrest refers to a period of incarceration that is served at the defendant’s home. Typically, defendants are required to serve a certain amount of time behind bars, followed by a term of house arrest. House arrest is an important program for state and local jails because it helps relieve overcrowding in detention facilities. It also enables defendants to more easily transition back into everyday life once they have served their time. Talk to a criminal defense attorney about whether you might be eligible for house arrest.

Eligibility for House Arrest

House arrest is only an option for those convicted of certain offenses. Generally, it’s reserved for those convicted of misdemeanor offenses. However, certain felony convictions can also be eligible, as long as the defendant had not previously been convicted of any type of felony. Those convicted of sexual offenses are not eligible for house arrest. (However, in Tucson, those convicted of prostitution can be eligible.) The following are situations that could disqualify a defendant from serving house arrest:

  • Determined to be a risk to him-or herself or to other members of the community
  • Prior history of violent behavior
  • Prior conviction of assault or any domestic violence charge
  • Prior conviction of child abuse
  • Determined to be residing in the U.S. without proper documentation

Your criminal defense attorney can take a closer look at your case to determine if state or local laws enable you to petition for house arrest.

Costs of House Arrest

In addition to relieving overcrowding in jails, another reason why house arrest is an attractive program for state and local officials is its impact on municipal budgets. It’s expensive to house and monitor inmates. Home confinement is far more cost-effective. Furthermore, the defendants are required to pay some of those costs. Before you ask a defense attorney to request house arrest on your behalf, be sure you can afford it. The electronic monitoring device generally costs between $10 and $30 per day. If you’re unable to pay, a sliding scale may be available. In addition, you may be required to undergo multiple drug and alcohol tests, which you must also pay for. If you were convicted of DUI, you must also participate in a substance abuse/alcohol treatment program. You’ll be required to pay for this as well. 

Requirements of House Arrest

You must abide by all requirements of your term of house arrest or you will be arrested and placed back in jail to serve the remainder of your term. The main requirement is to wear an electronic monitoring device at all times. This device informs the authorities of where you are. The authorities will know if you attempt to remove or tamper with the device. Other restrictions and requirements vary from one case and jurisdiction to the next. Defendants may be required to:

  • Abstain from drugs and alcohol
  • Attend court-ordered counseling
  • Attend court-ordered drug or alcohol treatment programs
  • Meet with probation or parole officers
  • Fulfill community service requirements

In addition, you may or may not be allowed to have visitors at your home while on house arrest. It’s essential that you carefully review and understand the requirements of your house arrest. Don’t hesitate to speak with your attorney if anything is unclear, as the consequences of violating the conditions of house arrest include being sent back to jail.

Exceptions to House Arrest

For most of the time that you’re on house arrest, you’re expected to remain in your home. However, there are times when you may be permitted to leave. For example, you may be required to leave your home in order to complete court-ordered treatment programs, counseling sessions, or meetings with your probation/parole officer. You might also be permitted to leave for medical appointments and school or work. However, you must always have permission to leave; do not leave your home unless you are specifically permitted to do so. If you are allowed to leave, you will be expected to return immediately to your home after your appointment.

Employment While on House Arrest

It is sometimes permitted to work while on house arrest, pending the court’s review of the appropriateness of your place of employment. Your employer will be notified that you’re on house arrest. If you do not show up for work without calling in sick or if your employment is terminated, then your employer is required to promptly notify the court.

Criminal defense attorney Janet Altschuler will explore all possible avenues for keeping you out of jail, including the possibility of house arrest. Regardless of whether you’ve been charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, your future and your freedom is at stake, and you need reliable legal counsel you can count on. Call the office of Janet Altschuler in Tucson at (520) 247-1789 to request a free initial consultation.

What to Know About Domestic Violence Committed Against Men

July 24, 2020

Unfortunately, domestic violence is a problem that affects millions of adults in the United States. While it is becoming a more commonly recognized issue, there is still a long way to go in terms of resources and legal pathways for domestic violence victims. One particularly overlooked group of victims of domestic violence is men. One in seven men has been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner. While this is less impactful than the one in four women in the same situation, this statistic still represents millions of American men, many of whom suffer abuse in silence. Continue reading for a closer look at the facts about domestic violence committed against male victims. 

Men are often victims of domestic violence. 

In both heterosexual and same-sex relationships, men are often victims of domestic violence. This type of violence may take several forms, including verbal and psychological abuse, physical abuse, and possessive, jealous, or manipulative behavior from a partner. While physical violence is easiest to recognize in an abusive relationship, other types of abuse may be just as impactful and damaging. For example, about one third of men who have experienced any type of domestic abuse from an intimate partner have had long-term mental health impacts, such as post-traumatic stress disorder. Depression, anxiety, and substance abuse are also common effects of the different types of domestic violence. 

Men may have a more difficult time identifying domestic violence in their relationships when physical abuse is not a factor. Here is a closer look at some telltale signs of domestic violence beyond physical and sexual abuse: 

  • Frequent accusations of being unfaithful, demanding to know where you are at all times. 
  • Control over physical space and movements, e.g. your partner hides the car keys to prevent you from leaving the house. 
  • Threats to leave you and prevent you from seeing children, friends, family members, or other loved ones. 
  • False accusations about your behavior. 
  • Control over finances, limiting your independence, or preventing you from having personal bank accounts. 
  • Verbal abuse, such as belittling you in front of friends or talking down about you on social media. 
  • Verbal threats of physical harm. 
  • Blames you for anger or violent tendencies, makes you feel at fault for their actions. 
  • Threats to disclose your private information to coworkers, friends, or others. 

The above list is not exhaustive. If you feel that you are the victim of domestic violence, you should not ignore your partner’s behavior or make excuses for it. However, men can find it more difficult to find the help they need.   

Men are less likely to seek help for domestic violence. 

It’s likely that the problem of domestic violence against men is even more serious than the statistics indicate. That’s because many men are not quick to seek help when they are victims in abusive relationships. There are a few reasons for this trend. First, there are limited resources available for male victims of domestic violence. In addition, many men worry that their complaints will not be taken seriously by police or other authorities. However, all victims of domestic violence have the same legal rights and should try to get help—it’s often best to seek the aid of a trusted loved one to get out of an abusive relationship. 

One thing you should never do if you are a man experiencing domestic violence is attempt to retaliate physically or otherwise. Instead, do what you can to document the abuse you are experiencing and bring this evidence to the authorities. 

Men face many misconceptions and stereotypes in combating domestic violence. 

Another complicating factor when it comes to men and domestic violence is the stereotypes and misconceptions that exist on the subject. Unfortunately, many men view being the victim of domestic violence as a sign of weakness in themselves. Thus, they may feel ashamed reaching out for help. There is also bias that exists among the general public. Many people are unaware that domestic violence is such a prevalent issue among such a wide range of the population. However, anyone may be the victim of domestic violence regardless of gender, race, financial standing, sexual preference, or occupation. 

Having worked on hundreds of domestic violence cases throughout her 20+ year career in criminal law, Janet Altschuler understands the unique complexities and nuances of domestic violence accusations. If you have been arrested due to domestic violence related charges or you are the victim of violence yourself, call Ms. Altschuler’s office at (520) 247-1789 to understand your options.

How to Get Your License Reinstated After a DUI

July 10, 2020

DUI laws are notoriously strict and harsh in the state of Arizona. Even on the first offense, you will find yourself facing a minimum jail sentence of 24 hours behind bars as well as a license suspension of up to one year. Even once you get your license back, you’ll still have restrictions on how and when you may drive. Here’s a closer look at what you can expect as you get back on the road after a DUI conviction.  

Attend Court Mandated Alcohol Education Courses

Most first-time DUI offenders will have their licenses suspended for 90 days. However, you may shorten this window to 30 days by attending court mandated alcohol education courses as required by AZ law. With a reinstated license given after 30 days, you can only drive to and from home, work, and school. Applying for this restricted license requires you to file a petition with the court when you are eligible. 

Visit the MVD

After 30-90 days, you can go to the MVD to complete necessary paperwork and apply for a new license. Part of the paperwork you’ll need to file includes proof that you’ve installed an interlock device on your vehicle. You’ll also need to provide proof of insurance, proof of current address, and be prepared to pay a $50 reinstatement fee. 

Install an Interlock Device in Your Vehicle 

After you get your license back, you can only drive a vehicle equipped with an ignition interlock device. This device requires you to pass a breathalyzer test prior to starting your vehicle. You must have an interlock device installed on any vehicle you regularly drive, even if you are not the vehicle owner. All associated costs are your responsibility. In addition, you can face further penalties if you tamper with the interlock device or are pulled over driving a vehicle without one. 

If you’re arrested for a DUI, don’t chance your future appearing in court without the right legal representation. Call Janet Altschuler, Attorney at Law to defend your rights and help you comply with all the terms of your sentence. You can reach her office in Tucson at (520) 247-1789.

Can a Witness Be Compelled to Testify?

June 26, 2020

Appearing in court can be an intimidating experience, even if you aren’t the individual on trial. If you have been called as a witness in a criminal trial, you may be wondering if your compliance is required. There are numerous reasons someone may wish to abstain from testifying in a court of law. However, there are only a few circumstances in which a witness may be exempt from doing so. 

Why Witnesses May Be Forced to Testify in a Case

If someone is a potential witness in a civil or criminal court case, they may be forced to testify with a subpoena. This is a written order from the court (it is typically hand delivered to the witness) that serves as a legal obligation to appear in court and share any relevant information during the trial. 

When a Witness May Be Exempt from Testifying 

There are several reasons that an individual may be exempt from testifying in a court of law, even if they are subpoenaed. If an individual is the defendant in a criminal case, he or she does not have to testify as a witness. Exemptions are also made for spouses of individuals involved in the case, individuals deemed not competent to testify due to age or mental disorders, or individuals with special protections regarding privileged information, such as attorneys or psychotherapists. In addition, a witness may refuse to testify if doing so would reveal self-incriminating evidence—this protection is granted under the 5th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. In situations where a witness is scared to testify due to retaliation, arrangements may be made through the court to have additional protection for the witness, such as a police escort, sealed court records, and limited access to the courtroom during the trial. 

If you have been served a subpoena to testify in a criminal court case, consult Janet Altschuler, Attorney at Law to understand your rights. Ms. Altschuler is an experienced, trusted criminal defense attorney in Tucson, AZ. Call her office for a consultation at (520) 247-1789.