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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
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.

A Look at Different Types of Drug Charges

May 12, 2016

Individuals who are arrested on a drug charge may face conviction under state or federal laws. While federal charges are often associated with longer, harsher sentences, the state of Arizona maintains several severe drug laws as well; thus, it is essential to understand the type of charges you may be facing, as well as their consequences. If you are facing drug charges in Tucson, it’s important to contact an experienced defense attorney to reduce or dismiss these charges.

Drug Possession

Possession is one of the most common drug charges an individual is likely to face. This type of charge can range from simple possession of a drug or controlled substance on your body or property to possession with the intent to distribute or sell that drug to others. In most cases, the type of possession charge and the consequences you will face are determined by the amount of the drug found by arresting officers or detectives.

Drug Trafficking

Unlike simple drug possession, drug trafficking typically involves the transport of large quantities of controlled substances, including prescription drugs, with the intent to distribute or sell them. If you are charged with drug trafficking, you may face persecution under both federal and state laws, and penalties range from several-year jail sentences to lifetime imprisonment.

Drug Manufacturing and Delivery

Drug manufacturing charges may be brought against you if you are found to be associated with any step in the process of drug production. It is important to note that while medical marijuana is regulated differently than other controlled substances, a dispensary license is still required to grow medical marijuana and strict guidelines must be followed to avoid violating the regulations surrounding marijuana production.

Janet Altschuler, Attorney at Law has extensive experience dealing with drug charges in the state of Arizona. She can help you fight the consequences of any drug charge to eliminate the long-term effects of a drug-related incident on your record. You can find out more about Ms. Altschuler on our website, or call (520) 247-1789 to request an appointment immediately.

Seven of the Most Incredible Celebrity Domestic Violence Stories

April 27, 2016

If you even have a causal relationship with TMZ, you know that celebrities are not immune from getting into trouble. Quite the opposite, in fact! There are many ways to get into legal trouble, but one of the most common is to be charged with domestic violence: and that’s what this article is all about. Here are seven of the most famous celebrity domestic violence cases!

#1: Dennis Rodman


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If you remember former Chicago Bull Dennis Rodman, chances are you’re not terribly surprised to see him on this list. The star forward and noted friend of North Korean dictators was arrested for a 2008 domestic violence incident in an LA hotel.

#2: Charlie Sheen

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Good old Charlie Sheen. What would the gossip column do without him? In addition to his fondness for partying, he’s also been nabbed for domestic violence on numerous occasions, most recently in 2011.

#3: Sean Penn


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Is Sean Penn best known for his role as Harvey Milk? How about for his turn in I Am Sam? Well, on this list he’s known for being rumored to have abused his then-wife, Madonna (although he was never arrested for it.)

#4: Terrence Howard

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Would you believe that Terrence Howard has been arrested for domestic violence three times? It’s true: if you ever find yourself facing a charge of domestic violence, he may be the guy to ask for advice.

#5: Emma Roberts


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Our first female entrant on the list, Emma Roberts proves that women can be arrested for domestic violence too. She caught the case and made headlines for bloodying (and biting!) her boyfriend’s nose in Canada.

#6: Chris Brown

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I actually debated including this one, given that everyone in the world probably knows about it already. Regardless, the Chris Brown domestic violence case is incredible simply because it’s more famous than his music is: he made headlines around the world for assaulting his girlfriend Rihanna in 2009.

#7: Floyd Mayweather

7Needless to say, Floyd Mayweather does a lot of fighting in and out of the ring.

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If you’re like the people on this list and are facing a domestic violence charge, don’t waste any more time reading about celebrities: call Tucson criminal defense attorney Janet Altschuler instead! I’ve spent the last 20 years helping Southern Arizonans beat their charges in court, and I have the skills and knowledge to help you do the same! Call my office at (520) 408-1122 or contact me online to find out more information.

Check out These Crazy Laws Before Visiting Michigan!

May 4, 2016 Michigan laws

The state of Michigan is the United States’ tenth most populous state and the eleventh largest in terms of total area. It is the only state in the country to consist of two distinct peninsulas, which are separated by the Straits of Mackinac. Although this state is known for its extensive natural beauty, it is also the home of several strange, outdated, and simply silly laws you won’t find in any other state.

Cars may not be sold on Sunday

Michigan has a long history intertwined with the automotive industry. However, if you plan to purchase a new car in Michigan, you won’t be able to accomplish this task legally on one particular day of the week. Since 1953, it has been illegal for any person or business to buy, sell, or even trade a motor vehicle on Sunday. This silly law pertains to both new and used vehicles, and even extends to written agreements involving the sale or trading of cars on the first day of the week.

You may not swear in front of women and children

One of the most famous—and most ridiculous—Michigan state laws stood from 1897 through 2002. This law stated that any individual caught using indecent, vulgar, obscene, or immoral language in front of a woman or child was committing a misdemeanor. Convictions using this outdated law were maintained through 1999, when a man fell out of his canoe and proceeded to let loose a string of swears that were overheard by nearby families. Later, this silly law was repealed in 2002 based on the fact that it violated the First Amendment.

Bounties are awarded for each crow and starling killed

Another recently-repealed law illustrates the dedication of Michigan residents to crow- and starling-free skies. This ridiculous law, repealed in 2006, stated that crows or starlings killed within any village, township, or city in the state of Michigan entitled the hunter to a bounty of three cents for each starling and ten cents for each crow, but this was only if birds were killed in lots of at least 50.

Arkansas: Say It Right or Pay the Price!

April 30, 2016 Arkansas

The state of Arkansas’s name is derived from the French pronunciation of a Native American term “akakaze,” meaning “land of downriver people” or “people of the south wind.” This southeastern state contains diverse geography and a strong sense of pride in its origins—keep reading to find out more about just how important it is to pronounce the state’s name correctly while inside its borders and get a look at other laws you’ll need to consider before you visit the Natural State.

It’s strictly prohibited to pronounce “Arkansas” incorrectly
The people of Arkansas take the origin of its name—and its importance to the state’s heritage—very seriously. However, because it is derived from the same native origin and looks very much like the name of nearby Kansas, Arkansas is one of the most commonly-mispronounced state names in the country. The residents of Arkansas have thus prohibited the incorrect pronunciation of the state’s name while within its borders—a law that remains in effect to this day.

The Arkansas River can rise no higher than to the Main Street Bridge in Little Rock

Even the 1,469-mile long Arkansas River cannot ignore the laws of the state for which it is named. One Arkansas law supposedly states that the Arkansas River may not rise higher than Little Rock’s Main Street Bridge. Although ridiculous, historians believe this law may have been instated as part of a flood control plan to prevent severe flooding, which is common along the Mississippi. If so, however, those who penned this law might have benefitted from an editor to ensure their point was made clearly.

No one may suddenly start or stop their car at a McDonald’s

Little Rock appears to take not only its river, but its drive-in restaurant etiquette seriously as well. This silly law, which applies within the boundaries of the capital, makes it unlawful to “race the motor of any car, to suddenly start or stop any car, or to make or cause to be made, any other loud or unseemly noise” in the parking lot of a drive-in restaurant.

Why Juvenile Defendants Need Serious Defense

April 25, 2016

Although children under 18 are typically tried as juveniles, there are many exceptions to this rule. In the state of Arizona, there are several instances in which individuals less than 18 years of age may be tried in the same manner as an adult. Any criminal conviction can have several negative and long-term impacts on your child’s life, making a serious and aggressive defense a necessary response to any criminal charge your child may face.

Trying Juveniles as Adults

The Arizona legal system allows juveniles younger than 18 to be tried as adults in several different situations. Children between the ages of 14 and 18 may be prosecuted as adults if they have been accused of crimes that include first- or second-degree murder, forcible sexual assault, armed robbery, or any other violent felony. Any child older than 14 may be tried as an adult if they are accused of a class 1 or class 2 felony, as well as class 3, class 4, or class 5 felonies that meet certain legal criteria. Furthermore, chronic juvenile offenders may also be tried as adults in the court system.

The Consequences of Adult Convictions

Minors that are tried as adults are more likely to be convicted and receive longer sentences than those tried in juvenile court. Furthermore, some studies indicate that these harsher punishments do not deter repeat offenders, and actually make it more likely that juveniles will reoffend. When minors are tried as adults, a conviction can have long-standing consequences that follow them throughout life. Incarceration can interfere with the pursuit of education, while criminal records can affect an individual’s chances of finding or keeping gainful and fulfilling employment.

If your child has been accused of a crime, it’s essential to work with a criminal defense lawyer who understands the best strategy for his defense. Janet Altschuler, Attorney at Law has experience representing both juveniles and adults; she will fight to ensure your child’s rights and future are protected. You can reach our Tucson law office by calling (520) 247-1789, or contact us online for more information.