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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.

What Is a Character Witness and When Is It Appropriate to Use One?

April 26, 2019

When a criminal case goes to court, both sides may call witnesses to testify. There are different types of witnesses that a defense attorney may call. These include eyewitnesses (who may have witnessed an alleged incident) and character witnesses. Your defense attorney will work with you to determine whether it’s appropriate to call a character witness.

Defining Character Witnesses

A character witness is someone who knows the defendant well. This person testifies as to the defendant’s good character traits. These might include trustworthiness or honesty.

Understanding Character Evidence

The testimony provided by a character witness is called character evidence. For character evidence to be admissible, or allowed, in court, it must be based on the witness’ personal knowledge. In other words, the witness cannot testify that someone else knows the defendant to be a good person. Character evidence must also be relevant to the case. For example, if the defendant is charged with a violent crime like manslaughter, the character witness could testify about the defendants’ nonviolent nature.

Determining Whether to Call a Character Witness

It isn’t always a good idea to call a character witness to testify on a defendant’s behalf. There are a few reasons for this. First, character witnesses are always individuals who know the defendant well. For this reason, the jury may be less likely to believe the evidence. Second, once the defense calls a character witness, the prosecution can cross-examine that person. The cross-examination may reveal less-than-positive aspects of the defendant’s character or past behaviors. And third, once the defense opens the door by calling a character witness, the prosecution can then respond by calling its own character witness. Despite the potential drawbacks, there may be some limited circumstances in which it may be appropriate to call a character witness. The defense attorney will recommend the best course of action for the defendant.

When your freedom and reputation are at stake, you need a seasoned attorney who will vigorously defend your legal rights. Contact the law office of Janet Altschuler at (520) 247-1789. Ms. Altschuler puts her 20-plus years of experience to work defending individuals accused of crimes in the Tucson area.

Types of Crimes that Can Label You As a Sex Offender

April 12, 2019

When an individual is convicted of a sex crime, that person may be required to register with the state’s sex offender registry. Being labeled as a convicted sex offender carries with it numerous restrictions and requirements that can affect that person’s life for years to come (and perhaps permanently). Because of the high-stakes nature of sex crime cases, it’s essential for defendants to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney.

Rape

Rape is defined as unlawful intercourse perpetrated by one individual against another who has not given consent for the act. Rape includes sexual penetration that occurs by duress, force, or threats. For rape to have legally occurred, some form of penetration must have taken place. This includes penetration by foreign objects. The relationship between the perpetrator and the victim is not legally relevant. A spouse may commit rape against the other spouse, for example.

Statutory Rape

In some cases, a rape victim is considered to have been unable to give consent to the sexual act. One instance occurs when the rape victim is too young to legally give consent. The age of consent can vary from state to state. In Arizona, it’s 18 years of age. This means that a 19-year-old can be prosecuted for statutory rape after having intercourse with a 16-year-old. There are some exceptions to this rule. A criminal defense lawyer will thoroughly review the case to identify all possible defenses.

Indecent Exposure

It’s possible to be labeled as a sex offender without having committed rape or sexual assault. Indecent exposure is one such example. It is unlawful for a person to intentionally expose one’s genitals in public for the purpose of the sexual gratification of the offender or to entice a sexual response in others.

Your best chance of avoiding a sex crimes conviction lies in hiring an experienced attorney to provide aggressive legal representation on your behalf. Criminal defense attorney Janet Altschuler is known for delivering energetic advocacy for her clients. Call our law office in Tucson at (520) 247-1789.

How Long Can Police Keep You in Custody If You Aren’t Under Arrest?

March 22, 2019

In the course of investigating a crime, police may detain people they believe may be involved in the case, without actually arresting them. This blurred line between detention and arrest is confusing for many people and can cause them to fail to exercise their rights, including calling a defense attorney, because they don’t understand the distinction in their circumstances. Here is what you need to know.

Detention and arrest are different.

Police need time to conduct an investigation, so they often detain people in order to gather more information about a case. A traffic stop in which you wait in your car while the police officer runs your plates is a short form of detention. If the officer finds that nothing is amiss, your detention will end quickly. If he or she finds that more information is necessary, you may be detained for longer. Detention may occur at the scene or at a police station.

You should ask to clarify your situation.

In some cases, people may think that they are under arrest when they are merely being detained and actually have the right to leave. If an officer is questioning you, ask if you are free to go. If you don’t ask, if the case comes to court, the court will assume that the detention was voluntary, and your lawyer may have to prove that a reasonable person would have assumed that he or she was under arrest as part of a defense.

Federal and state laws govern detention times.

There are both federal and state laws that impact the amount of time that police can detain you without arresting you, and in some cases, that timeline can differ based on the nature of the charges. If you are being held by police, it’s important to talk to an attorney as soon as possible.

When you’re being investigated or facing charges, you need a strong defense attorney to fight for your rights. Janet Altschuler knows both sides of the aisle in court and uses her knowledge as a former prosecutor to give you the best defense. Schedule a case consultation with a defense lawyer in Tucson by calling (520) 247-1789.

Can Victims Really Drop Assault Charges?

March 8, 2019

In assault cases, it is common for an accuser to change his or her mind and wish to drop the charges. However, contrary to popular belief, dropping charges against someone is not as simple as saying you want the case to be dismissed. The state is actually in charge of deciding what happens to a case once it has been filed.

Domestic violence charges are up to the prosecutor.

When someone calls the police to report an assault and the alleged aggressor is arrested and charged, the case is in the hands of the prosecutor. The person who filed the charges does not have a say in how the case moves forward, even if he or she wants to drop the complaint. The reason for this is that, once charges are filed, the case is the responsibility of the state. The state has an interest in seeing a violent person convicted and incarcerated, so if the prosecutor decided there was enough evidence to file charges, he or she has the responsibility to follow through with them on behalf of the people of the state.

Unwilling witnesses can interfere with the case.

When a person wants to drop assault charges, he or she can’t stop the case, but he or she can make prosecution more difficult by being unwilling to cooperate in the case. The prosecutor can compel a person to testify as a hostile witness, but often, when victims try to drop cases, the prosecutor may reduce the charges because of the challenges of going forward against the victim’s wishes. In some instances, the state may choose to drop the case entirely, though this is less common. If the accused has an experienced defense attorney, the lawyer can use the victim’s desire to drop the charges to push for reduction or dismissal of charges.

Regardless of what the victim prefers, assault charges should always be taken seriously. If you have been accused, call Tucson defense attorney Janet Altschuler. Dial (520) 247-1789 to talk to a defense lawyer today.

What to Know About Arizona’s Hit and Run Laws

January 28, 2019 Janet Altschuler, Tucson Attorney, works with domestic violence and criminal defense cases.

Arizona law requires every driver to stay at the scene of an accident. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t cause the accident or if no one appears to be hurt; the law still requires you to stop. If you have been accused of leaving the scene of an accident, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney promptly to learn about your legal rights and options.

 

Legal Obligations

The Arizona statute, Duty to Give Information and Assistance, prohibits drivers from leaving the scene of an accident until they have fulfilled certain obligations. After you’ve pulled over, you’re required to provide your name, address, and registration to the responding police officer or the other driver. You must show your driver’s license to the officer or other driver upon their request. If the other driver is injured, you are legally obligated to administer first aid and/or call for medical assistance.

 

Misdemeanor Charges

Depending on the circumstances, a hit and run driver may be charged with a misdemeanor for leaving the scene. The following situations fall into this category:

 

  • Class two misdemeanor: Leaving the scene when only vehicular damage has occurred
  • Class three misdemeanor: Leaving the scene when an accident has caused damage to non-vehicle property
  • Class three misdemeanor: Leaving the scene after striking a parked vehicle
  • Class three misdemeanor: Stopping at the scene, but refusing or failing to exchange information

 

Felony Charges

The potential criminal charges become more serious when an accident resulted in serious injury or death. A driver who caused an accident that resulted in a serious injury or death, and fled the scene may be charged with a class two felony. Even if the driver didn’t cause the accident, but fled the scene when serious injury or death occurred, the driver may be charged with a class three felony.

The law office of Janet Altschuler provides vigorous legal defense services for individuals accused of vehicular-related offenses. Individuals accused of hit and run offenses, DUI, or aggressive driving are urged to contact Ms. Altschuler’s law office in Tucson at (520) 247-1789.