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Should You Plead Guilty or Not Guilty?

September 6, 2019

When you have been charged with a crime, the first step in the criminal justice process will be an arraignment hearing where you will enter a plea. Traditionally, there are two options available: Guilty or not guilty. While it may seem like a simple decision between the two, there are actually many factors to consider before entering your plea. In other words, your plea will not necessarily be determined by whether you are innocent

Before entering your plea, you should review your case with your criminal defense attorney, as every case will have unique circumstances. However, if you are unable to consult a lawyer prior to arraignment or you are uncertain what a guilty plea will entail, it is typically advisable to enter a plea of “not guilty”. That’s because you can change a not guilty plea to a guilty one at any time, but a guilty plea is usually permanent. 

What Pleading Guilty Means

When a lawyer advises a client to plead guilty, it is usually because a deal has been worked out with the prosecution to reduce the sentence associated with the crime or drop certain charges. For example, a felony charge may be reduced to a misdemeanor through a plea deal. If there is substantial evidence against you in your case and it is likely that a jury would find you guilty, a plea deal will typically be the best path. However, there are some drawbacks to pleading guilty. First, you cannot maintain your innocence with a guilty plea. When you enter your plea, you will have to admit to the crimes you have been accused of, and you will have the charges on your record for life. 

Additionally, the sentencing decision for your case will still ultimately be left up to the judge. That means that if the judge does not agree with the terms of the plea deal presented by the prosecution, he or she can add additional jail time, fines, and other punitive measures to your sentence. What’s more is that there are often minimum sentences for specific crimes, so you may still need to serve jail time even if you have worked out a deal with the prosecution. 

What Pleading Not Guilty Means

A plea of not guilty generally implies that your case will go to trial. However, there may be further negotiation toward a plea deal or out of court litigation that prevents the trial from occurring. Because trials are more expensive and time-consuming than a plea negotiated outside the courtroom, it is often favorable for prosecutors to strike a deal to reduce the sentence or the charges brought against the defendant. But, if you are innocent, then a not guilty plea is also the most logical choice for your case. It will allow you to argue your innocence in front of a jury of your peers. If you receive a not guilty verdict following your trial, no charges will remain on your record, and you will be free to go. 

Unfortunately, juries can be unpredictable. So, taking your case to trial presents the risk that you will be found guilty of all charges. In this situation, you may face the maximum penalty for those charges. Another potential drawback of going to trial is that it is a lengthy process and it may draw attention from the media, depending on the charges you’re accused of. However, you will also have more time to prepare your case before your trial, and typically you will be allowed to remain at home with your family until your trial takes place. 

Alternative Options 

Rarely, there are cases where neither plea will be submitted. Instead, you will plead “no contest”, which is not an admission of guilt, but it does not argue the charges raised against you. It is necessary to have a no contest plea approved by the prosecution, and these types of pleas account for a very small percentage of criminal cases.  

Making the Decision 

Ultimately, the right plea decision will be dependent on the unique circumstances of your case. Working with a criminal defense attorney that you can trust will ensure that you make the right decision for your needs. 

If you have been charged with any crime in Tucson, AZ, don’t leave your future up to chance. Get the experienced, professional defense you need from Janet Altschuler. Ms. Altschuler’s practice is solely focused on criminal cases, and she has more than 2 decades of experience navigating the criminal justice system in Pima County. When you need a lawyer, give our office a call at (520) 829-4460. 

The Dos and Don’ts of Being Arrested

August 23, 2019

Being arrested is not an experience that anyone wants to go through, especially if you know that you are innocent of the crime you’re being arrested for. Unfortunately, many people do not have in-depth knowledge of the criminal justice system, so they don’t know what steps to take when they have been arrested. More importantly, they don’t understand how easily they can be coaxed into saying or doing something that can later be used against them. Whether you have committed a crime or not, there are some key dos and don’ts to keep in mind when you have been put under arrest. 

Do: Understand Your Rights

As soon as you are arrested, you will be read your rights. If you are not, then you should notify your attorney as soon as possible. 

One of your rights upon being arrested is the right to remain silent. Yet, many people feel that they should try to outwardly defend their innocence, so they choose to waive this right. However, it is important to say only as much as you need to once you have been placed under arrest. For example, you might provide your name and address to the police officers and answer any basic questions they ask but refuse to answer questions about the crime you’ve been charged with.  

Do: Call an Attorney as Soon as Possible

Another of your rights is the right to an attorney. However, arresting officers may try to delay you from getting to a phone to contact your attorney right away. When you are questioned by officers, simply tell them that you refuse to answer questions without your lawyer present. As soon as you are able, call your attorney to assist you. Do not provide extensive details about your arrest to your lawyer over the phone. Wait to speak in person to discuss your case in depth.

It may seem tempting to call a relative or bondsman first when you are arrested, so that you can make bail and get out of a holding cell sooner. However, your attorney can start making those arrangements on your behalf, and they may be able to negotiate reduced bail or push up your arraignment hearing so that you are released in a timely fashion. 

Don’t: Get Friendly with Police Officers

Police officers are trained in many intimidation and manipulation tactics to get individuals to talk. Therefore, it might seem like an officer genuinely wants to stand up for you and befriend you or get your side of the story. However, any information you provide can still be used as evidence against you later, so you should still refuse to answer questions unless your lawyer is present. 

Don’t: Insult or Argue with Police Officers

Being arrested is a frustrating process. You may feel scared and angry, and those emotions can cause you to react poorly with a physical or verbal outburst directed at the police. Unfortunately, this can immediately make you guilty of another crime—assaulting a police officer. Even if you weren’t guilty of the charges you were initially arrested for, arguing with a police officer could have you facing new charges. So, as difficult as it may be, try to remain calm throughout the arrest process. 

Don’t: Try to Advocate for Your Innocence 

The time of your arrest is not the time to argue for your innocence. While you are technically innocent until proven guilty, the legal process does not allow you to argue your innocence directly with an arresting officer. Instead, you should hire a criminal defense attorney to fight for you within the proper channels. At the time of your arrest, resisting in any way will generally only result in a more forceful arresting process. 

Don’t: Consent to a Search or Any Tests 

Just because an officer has a warrant for your arrest does not mean that they have the right to search your property. Upon your arrest, you should calmly and clearly state that you do not provide consent for the officers to search your car or your home. Additionally, being arrested does not automatically mean that you must consent to DNA testing or drug/alcohol testing. Your lawyer can effectively advise you if you should submit to these types of tests. 

Having the number of a trusted criminal attorney can help you remain calm and start building a solid defense as soon as you have been arrested. Janet Altschuler is solely focused on criminal defense, and she has more than 20 years of experience navigating the Pima County justice system. Make her office your first call if you are arrested or questioned by the police. Call (520) 247-1789.

The Lasting Consequences of Misdemeanor Convictions

August 9, 2019

The investigator takes fingerprints from the suspect in the crime. Investigation is a crime.

While misdemeanor convictions do not carry the same severe penalties as felonies, these are still serious charges that can follow you for life. Unfortunately, many people underestimate the severity of misdemeanors, so they do not properly prepare to face these charges with the help of a skilled, experienced defense attorney. Before you assume that a misdemeanor means you’re off the hook, consider these lasting consequences that can come with a conviction. 

Job Eligibility

Most jobs will perform background checks before hiring, and though a misdemeanor conviction doesn’t necessarily put you out of the running for many jobs, it can add an extra challenge to the hiring process. You’ll need to be prepared to discuss the nature of your conviction at nearly every future job interview you have. Plus, depending on the crime, a misdemeanor may disqualify you from certain government jobs or other positions requiring high levels of security clearance. 

Fines

Being charged with a crime is an expensive process. You may be responsible for paying hundreds or even thousands of dollars in fines and legal fees. Additionally, you may miss time at work, since misdemeanors can still carry jail time. Therefore, the financial implications of a conviction can be long-lasting. 

Social Standing 

Being convicted of any crime—even a misdemeanor—can harm your reputation within your community and make it hard to establish yourself somewhere else. Furthermore, in some cases, misdemeanor charges related to sexual offenses could require you to register as a sex offender if convicted. That will be a designation that sticks with you for life. 

While no attorney can promise any particular outcome, a worthwhile defense attorney will work hard to minimize the lasting impacts of your charges. Janet Altschuler is a dedicated criminal defense attorney serving Tucson and the surrounding areas. She will fight aggressively to defend your rights and preserve your future. Schedule a consultation with Ms. Altschuler by calling (520) 247-1789. 

Arizonians: What to Know About Driving on a Suspended License

July 26, 2019

There are lots of reasons why your driver’s license might be suspended in Arizona. Alcohol-related offenses, such as DUIs, reckless driving, and leaving the scene of an accident are all examples. You could also have your license suspended if you accumulate too many points on it or if you fail to appear in court in response to a traffic violation. If your license is suspended, you should talk to a lawyer about your options—but have someone else drive you to the law office.

Understanding the Law

The Arizona law pertaining to driving with a suspended license can be found under ARS §28-3473 in the Arizona Revised Statutes. It states that individuals are forbidden to drive if their license has been suspended, revoked, canceled, or refused. The same applies if the individual is disqualified from driving in any way. Even if you didn’t commit an offense that led to the suspension of your license, you can be charged for driving with an expired license if you failed to renew it in a timely manner.

Knowing What to Do After Revocation

If your driver’s license has been revoked for a specific period of time, it will not automatically be reinstated once that time period is over. You’ll need to apply for reinstatement. In addition to submitting your application for reinstatement, you’ll need to pay the fee, submit any required documentation, and possibly file a Certificate of Insurance (SR-22). Some individuals may need to pass a written test, road test, and vision exam.

Identifying the Potential Consequences

Driving with a suspended license is a class one misdemeanor in Arizona. This does not carry a mandatory fine or jail time. However, the judge may sentence you to up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. For a first offense, it’s more likely that you would be sentenced to five days in jail. In addition, you can expect to have your vehicle impounded for up to 30 days.

Criminal defense attorney Janet Altschuler has more than 20 years of experience defending individuals throughout the Tucson area. If you’ve been charged with driving on a suspended license or another traffic-related crime, call our law firm at (520) 247-1789 right away.

Probation Dos and Don’ts to Know

July 12, 2019

Individuals convicted of crimes may be sentenced to a period of probation in addition to or instead of jail time. Although serving a term of probation is far easier than doing time behind bars, it’s important to realize that you’re not home free just yet. Probation comes with a set of strict requirements and rules, and if you violate any of them, you’ll be in trouble with the court system again. Don’t hesitate to speak with your criminal defense lawyer if you’re unsure about any of the conditions of your probation.

Do understand your probation conditions.

Many offenders in Arizona are required to follow the rules of standard supervision. However, the court has the discretion to add special conditions to your term. You should carefully read all of the paperwork you’ve been given and talk to your lawyer if anything is unclear.

Don’t test the limits of your restrictions.

Failure to follow your conditions to the letter may result in a warning or violation of your probation. For example, it’s common for the conditions of probation to forbid offenders from consuming alcohol. This also means you cannot have any alcohol in your home or go to a place where alcohol is the primary attraction (such as a bar). Even if you aren’t drinking any of the alcohol in your home, it’s still a violation of your probation. Remember that your probation officer can knock on your door at any time and execute a search of your home.

Do speak with a lawyer if you’re considered in violation.

Sometimes, a first offense results in a warning from your probation officer. In other cases, the officer may file a petition to revoke probation. If this happens, you need to speak with a criminal defense lawyer right away. You’ll need to appear in court and either admit to the violation or file a denial. If you file a denial, your lawyer will try to demonstrate to the court that no violation occurred. If this is successful, the original conditions will be restored. Otherwise, you could be facing incarceration or additional restrictions.

If you’ve been charged with a crime or with violation of your probation, you need high-caliber legal representation to protect your rights. Contact the Tucson, AZ law office of Janet Altschuler at (520) 247-1789.

Can You Be Punished for a Crime You Didn’t Know You Committed?

December 10, 2018

One aspect of the criminal justice system that is often misunderstood by the average person is the role of personal responsibility in knowing and following the law. For example, let’s say you have been pulled over by the police for speeding. Your first inclination might be to inform the officer that you did not know you were speeding, or maybe that you didn’t know what the speed limit was in that area. Most likely, the officer will inform you that ignorance of the law is not an excuse for breaking the law, and you will be on your way with a citation. But what happens when you violate more serious laws—perhaps those that have potential jail time and significant fines attached? In these cases, you can still be punished for crimes, even if you weren’t aware that what you were doing was a crime.

 

Ignorance of the Law vs. Mistake of Facts

It’s generally accepted that any person should be aware enough of the law to know when they’re violating it. Thus, if you arrive in court with a defense based on the fact that you didn’t know the law, then you are likely to end up receiving a conviction with an unfavorable sentence. If, however, you mistook facts related to the crime in question, you can build a reasonable defense. Here is an example:

 

Jerry is allergic to peanuts, and Ralph fed him a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Jerry immediately went into severe anaphylactic shock and could have died without emergency medical attention. If Ralph had prior knowledge of Jerry’s peanut allergy, he could potentially be charged with attempted murder. However, if Ralph had thought he’d seen Jerry eating peanuts in the past, he would have been unaware of this allergy, and feeding him the sandwich was a simple honest mistake. Therefore, Ralph’s defense lawyer could argue that had Ralph known about Jerry’s allergy, he would have acted differently, and no crime would have been committed.

 

There are countless situations where misunderstanding key facts in a crime may have significantly altered the outcome. That’s why it’s important to work closely with a criminal defense attorney to sort out all the details of your case as well as your intentions and knowledge of the act in question.  

 

Unintentional Violations of the Law

Ideally, every law would be written with such detail and clarity that no other interpretations of that law could be reasonably made. Unfortunately, there are a lot of gray areas, and those can lead to unintentional violations of the law. Here is a look at some situations where you might be breaking the law without realizing it:

  • Carrying a concealed weapon without a permit or carrying a weapon into a restricted area, such as a school or government building
  • Sharing prescription medication with a family member
  • Drinking or being intoxicated in public
  • Jaywalking
  • Failing to update your driver’s license after moving
  • Participating in a high-stakes poker game at a coworker’s home

 

In any one of these situations, you could be arrested and charged with a crime. While your best defense against a conviction is staying within the bounds of the law, it is not always so easy to do so. That’s why you should never hesitate to call a lawyer as soon as you have been arrested for a crime, even if you don’t think you are guilty of any wrongdoing.

 

Disagreement with the Law

Another common point of confusion for the average citizen is recognizing the validity of a certain law. For example, many adults in Arizona smoke marijuana even though it is still illegal for recreational use. Those individuals would likely contest the basis of the illegal status of the drug, so they choose to break those laws. However, stating that you disagree with the law and that’s why you did not follow the law will not be an excuse that holds up in court.

 

Inability to Follow the Law or Understand Right from Wrong

There is one possibility of mounting a defense based on an inability to follow the law: An insanity defense. An insanity defense can be applied in several ways. Most often, it will be positioned that a defendant did not understand what he or she did to break the law or failed to distinguish right from wrong because of a documented mental disease or defect. However, other instances of this defense may be mounted based on irresistible impulses caused by a mental disease, which could not be controlled at the time a crime was committed, even if the individual knew they were doing something wrong. It should also be noted that Arizona is one of the most difficult states to mount an insanity defense, because the criteria for this type of defense to be valid are so strict in this state.

 

Understanding Your Rights upon Arrest

Misunderstandings of facts and misinterpretations of the law do happen. If you are arrested and you are not sure that you’ve committed a crime, it’s easy to think that you can talk your way out of the arrest and be on your way. However, this is a critical mistake. When you are arrested, you have a certain set of rights. These rights include the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. You should immediately invoke your rights upon being arrested, regardless of the circumstances surrounding the arrest. Do not say anything to the police beyond basic personal information and a request for your attorney to be present. During interrogation, police will often try to get information from you by reassuring you that you can clear things up right away by simply telling the truth. Unfortunately, any information you divulge could be directly put to use in the case against you, especially if you speak freely thinking that you are innocent or that no crime has occurred.

When you have been arrested in Arizona, your first call should be to the office of Janet Altschuler. Ms. Altschuler has practiced as defense attorney in Tucson for more than 2 decades, so she understands exactly how to navigate the criminal justice system. Protect yourself and protect your rights by calling her today!

What Happens If You Get Arrested in Another State?

June 21, 2019

Getting arrested in familiar surroundings is distressing enough, but being arrested in another state can make the process even more stressful. If you have been arrested and charged with a crime in another state, the process of dealing with those charges will be a little different than if you dealing with the same situation at home. If you’re arrested in another state, here is what you need to know.

Your home state will not have any jurisdiction.

States each have the ability to prosecute people for crimes that happen in their states. The laws of the state you are in at the time of the arrest are the ones that apply to you, not the laws in your home state. That means you can be arrested and charged with a crime in one state for doing something that is not illegal in your state. Similarly, the severity of the charges and the potential penalties may be vastly different from your home state, but you will be subject to all of the laws of the state in which the crime occurred regardless of where you call home.

You will need a criminal defense attorney who practices in that state.

When you hire a defense lawyer to represent you for your case, you may not be able to hire one in your hometown. The lawyer who represents you will need to be licensed to practice in the state in which you were charged, and he or she will need knowledge of the laws in that state to defend you effectively. This may mean hiring an attorney who lives in the city in which you were arrested, rather than one in your state.

You may have to travel multiple times for court.

If you were arrested for a misdemeanor, your attorney may be able to appear in court on your behalf. In other cases, you may need to travel repeatedly to appear in court. This can add extra expense to defending yourself, so plan accordingly when you hire a lawyer.

Janet Altschuler is an experienced criminal defense attorney in Tucson who is ready to fight for your rights. If you’re arrested in Arizona, call (520) 247-1789.

A Look at Aggressive Driving Laws in Arizona

June 7, 2019

Like many states, Arizona has laws against aggressive driving. These laws are intended to discourage drivers from being reckless on the road and putting themselves and other drivers at risk. Reckless driving is a misdemeanor that can have serious consequences, including a fine and a one-year revocation of driving privileges. If you are charged with aggressive driving, it is important to consult with a defense attorney who can help you protect your rights.

What is aggressive driving in Arizona?

There are multiple road violations that can lead to an aggressive driving charge. Excessive speeds on any roads or in specialized zones, like school zones, can lead to aggressive driving charges. Failing to obey traffic signs and signals, passing on the right by going off the road, tailgating, and failing to yield right of way can all also lead to aggressive driving charges.

A broad distinction that applies to aggressive driving laws in Arizona is whether or not your driving puts other people in immediate hazard. The immediate hazard provision means that you can be charged with aggressive driving even if you weren’t violating any other provisions. For example, if you are on a highway and not speeding or passing on the right, but the way you were driving was considered by officers to put other people in immediate hazard, then you could be charged.

What are the penalties?

The penalties for aggressive driving depend on several factors, including whether it is a first offense. For a first offense, a 30-day license suspension, fines, and required attendance in traffic school may be required.

For a second offense within 24 months of the first offense, a one-year license suspension, plus higher fines and jail time are also possible.

If you’re accused of aggressive driving, let Janet Altschuler help you fight for your rights. With a defense attorney in Tucson on your side, you may be able to have charges reduced or dismissed. Talk to an attorney today by calling (520) 247-1789.

 

What to Know to Stay in Compliance with Arizona’s Medical Marijuana Laws

May 24, 2019

In 2010, Arizona passed Proposition 203. This legalized the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. However, recreational marijuana is still illegal in the state. Even when marijuana is used for medicinal purposes, it’s subject to the strict requirements established by the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act. Patients run the risk of criminal charges unless they remain in strict compliance with the law.

Qualifying Conditions

Only patients with specific medical conditions can qualify to possess medical marijuana. The complete list is available from the Arizona Department of Health Services. It includes the following:

  • Cancer
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Seizures
  • Severe nausea
  • Hepatitis C

If a patient’s medical condition is not listed, he or she is allowed to request that it be added.

Medical Marijuana Cards

Patients must have a written certification from a licensed medical provider with whom they have a doctor/patient relationship. Then, they can submit an application for a registry identification card. As of 2019, the cost of a registry card is $150. Qualifying patients currently receiving SNAP benefits must pay $75.

Marijuana Possession

Qualifying patients are limited as to the amount of marijuana they can possess at any given time. An allowable amount is up to two and a half ounces of usable marijuana. If the patient’s card states that he or she is allowed to cultivate marijuana, the patient may have up to 12 marijuana plants inside an enclosed, locked facility.

Marijuana DUIs

It is unlawful for anyone, including patients with medical marijuana cards, to drive while under the influence of marijuana. Non-approved individuals can be charged with a DUI if the presence of marijuana metabolites is detected in the body. Approved medical marijuana patients are protected from being charged with a DUI on the basis of metabolites alone.

Any type of drug charge can negatively affect your reputation, employment prospects, and even your ability to obtain housing. If you’ve been charged with possession or any other drug charge, contact the criminal defense law office of Janet Altschuler right away. You can reach us in Tucson at (520) 247-1789.

Common Questions About Embezzlement

May 10, 2019

Embezzlement is a type of white collar crime involving the theft of money from an employer. Contrary to popular belief, white collar crimes aren’t “victimless.” They do inflict financial harm. And unfortunately, a groundless charge of embezzlement levied against an innocent person can also cause considerable harm. If you’ve been accused of embezzlement or think you might be under suspicion, you should get in touch with a criminal defense attorney right away.

Can embezzlement involve the theft of property?

Yes, a person can be charged with embezzlement for the theft of either tangible or intangible property. Tangible property is anything concrete that is valuable in and of itself, rather than being representative of value. For example, tangible property includes jewelry, artwork, and office equipment. Intangible property is anything that represents value, such as stock certificates, certificates of deposit (CDs), or money.

How is embezzlement different from larceny?

There are different types of theft. Larceny refers to the theft of property that the individual had no right to access. Embezzlement is a little different. When an employee embezzles, he or she had the right to access or handle the property, but not the right to take it for personal gain.

What are some examples of embezzlement?

Embezzlement can be committed on a large scale, in which case it may involve the misappropriation of thousands or even millions of dollars. Most often, the people who commit embezzlement pocket small amounts of money or property, sometimes over a long period of time. For example, a cashier might routinely charge customers a dollar more for purchases and pocket the difference. Or, the cashier might simply take money directly out of the cash register. An office worker might take toner from the copy machine. Note that embezzlement doesn’t always have to be committed by an employee. Sometimes, family members are accused of embezzling their loved ones’ Social Security checks.

A conviction of embezzlement can tarnish your professional reputation for years to come, adversely affecting your ability to remain employable. You need an embezzlement defense attorney in Tucson you can count on to get the job done right. Contact veteran lawyer Janet Altschuler at (520) 247-1789 to discuss your case.