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Taking a Closer Look at Indecent Exposure Laws

March 9, 2018

Some areas of the law are prone to causing misunderstandings and unexpected consequences, and indecent exposure is a prime example. When you think of indecent exposure, you might picture a malicious figure flashing crowds from behind a trench coat, but most real-life examples are a little less cartoonish—and often unintended. Knowing a little more about the law can keep you from getting caught up in charges caused by a silly mistake, so read on to arm yourself with some helpful information.

What constitutes indecent exposure?
In Arizona and many other states, there is a broad definition for indecent exposure: Intentionally exposing private parts when another person is present. Of course, context is important here, because nudity within a consensual sexual relationship or in a public area such as a locker room would not be considered inappropriate or unlawful. There is also an exception for breastfeeding in public, as this action is not associated with any malicious or sexual intention. However, seemingly harmless actions such as urinating in public may be considered indecent exposure, if someone sees it and is offended by the action.

What are the penalties?
Penalties for indecent exposure can vary, depending on the type of exposure and the age of the witness. If someone under the age of 15 witnesses indecent exposure, the accused will be charged with a class 6 felony. Other cases will carry misdemeanor charges, which can still be serious. Penalties include up to 6 months in jail, fines exceeding $2,500, and probation of up to 3 years, possibly including counseling.

What are the lasting consequences?
The punishments above may only be part of the consequences you can expect with indecent exposure charges, since some cases may result in being added to the sex offender registry, such as when a minor is involved. This can have a lifelong impact on your employment and housing eligibility, as well as your public reputation and personal life.

If you are facing any type of criminal charges in Southern Arizona, know that the outcome could be serious, so you will want to have an experienced criminal lawyer on your side. Janet Altschuler can provide the aggressive, experienced representation you need, so call (520) 247-1789 to schedule a consultation where you can discuss your case.

The Impact of a Domestic Violence Charge

February 9, 2018

You’ve probably heard of domestic violence before, but do you realize how many various types of convictions can exist under the umbrella of domestic violence? Almost any incident involving spouses, siblings, or other family members where the police are called can be cast in the net of domestic violence, even something as simple as a verbal argument. Yet, even with the huge variance in the circumstances that may surround a domestic violence charge, these cases frequently have a substantial impact on convicted individuals, who may have been convicted because of misconceptions involving the legal process of trying these cases. It is easier than you might think to get caught up in the net of domestic violence, so you will want to arm yourself with the right criminal defense lawyer as well as some basic knowledge of what a misdemeanor domestic violence charge can do to your life.

The Immediate Consequences
Right away, a domestic violence charge will have a profound impact on your life, because you may be sent to jail immediately. You’ll also have a pending court date and possible plea offers to consider. This is not something you should face alone. Your attorney will be your most essential advocate as you work with the prosecutor or present your case to the judge.

  • Plea Offers – Plea offerings can sound tempting, because they may help you avoid a trial and seem like a means of quickly getting your case behind you. However, you should never agree to any plea offer without consulting a domestic violence attorney. Otherwise, you may agree to terms that have unanticipated long-term consequences, or you might face much more than the minimum punishment for your charges.
  • Court Hearings – There is a general mentality of cracking down on domestic violence within Pima County’s local courts. Unfortunately, this means that many people face charges for incidents that boil down to simple misunderstandings. Not every case will result in a trial, and most are heard only in front of a judge with no jury. If your case does go to trial, know that it is possible to defend yourself and argue that you are not guilty of the accusations at hand.
  • Jailtime – In Tucson and throughout Pima County, it is police protocol to book individuals accused of domestic violence into jail. Regardless of what really happened, you could quickly spend a night in jail if you are accused of domestic violence. There may be release conditions when you get out, including no contact with the victim and no return to the incident location or the home of the victim. Again, you may feel that these conditions are undeserved, but you should comply and work with a lawyer to understand the right way to fight back. Attempting to address the alleged victim directly can only lead to further charges, especially if you are violating your release conditions to do this.
  • Diversion Courses – Police often attempt to reassure individuals arrested for domestic violence that their charges will be dismissed, and, while this is a possibility, it is not a given in every case. Diversion is offered as an option for some individuals, and it will require completing a series of classes and counseling sessions to get the domestic violence charges dismissed. If this is an option for you, remember that it will still require a substantial time commitment and fill completion of coursework within a limited timeframe.

Long-Term Effects
A domestic violence conviction does not simply go away once you have served your sentence. In fact, it may come back to haunt you in ways you may not expect.

  • Loss of Employment – If you have to go to jail and appear in court during work hours, you might build up several unexcused absences at work that can cost you your job. In addition, your employment may be threatened if you need any type of security clearance, special licensing, or if you carry a firearm at work. Military personnel and those in law enforcement are very likely to lose employment if convicted of domestic violence. Securing a new job after a conviction may also pose challenges, since many employers run background checks, and a history of domestic violence (even just a single conviction) can put you in a negative light compared to other candidates for the job. Trying to hide your conviction by omitting it from an application will likely only result in the discovery that you have lied, since there is no way to bury this information in a background check.
  • Poor Community Reputation – Word of your conviction can travel fast, and that might affect your reputation in your neighborhood, at your child’s school meetings, and in other community settings. Public figures and government officials can see even more extreme consequences in this regard, because they are so closely followed in the public eye.
  • Loss of Immigration Status – If you are not a permanent citizen of the United States, your immigration status may be threatened by a domestic violence charge. Deportation and removal can occur, so it is important to build the best defense possible to keep your life in order.

Strategies for Minimizing the Impact
The best legal advice that the average person can give to someone charged with domestic violence is to call a lawyer. Not only will an attorney understand the potential gravity of a conviction for your charges, but he or she will be familiar with the local justice system, as well as the courts and judges who preside over them. Each judge may behave a little differently, and domestic violence charges are often brought up in a dedicated court where there are specified plea policies that can affect case outcomes. Knowing these nuances of the court can be powerful, which is why you should never hesitate to contact an attorney when you are accused of domestic violence—even if you are certain that you didn’t do anything wrong or you think that a conviction will not have much of an impact on your daily life.

Janet Altschuler, Attorney at Law, has been defending domestic violence cases in Pima County for more than 20 years. She knows the courts, prosecutors, and judges involved in these cases as well as the best strategies for building a strong defense. If you were arrested for domestic violence in Tucson, call (520) 247-1789 to schedule a free consultation where you can discuss your case.

How Do Violent Offenses Differ from Other Crimes?

February 23, 2018

Crimes can differ dramatically in their severity, and the same is true of the potential charges that may come with a conviction. When an individual is accused of a violent crime, the potential consequences may be much more severe than those associated with non-violent crimes. In addition, violent crimes can much more significantly alter the public reputation of an accused individual. For these reasons, it’s essential to hire an attorney you can trust to defend your rights if you are facing violent criminal charges, such as armed robbery, manslaughter, or aggravated assault.

A weapon was likely present at the crime.
Weapons are not necessary for violent criminal charges, but they are often involved. When a weapon is part of the crime, there may be allegations included with the charge sheet. If these allegations are proven or admitted in court, then the accused individual may serve a longer sentence as a result.

Offenders may face prison time.
Violent offenses are felony offenses, and those come with the threat of prison time. Prison sentences for violent crimes can vary substantially, but prison time will be at least one year. Violent offenses tend to carry longer sentences with a lower likelihood for future probation or early release.

Violent charges can weigh on future charges.
If you have a violent charge on your record, you may have a harder time building a defense to future accusations if you are accused of a subsequent crime. This can be true even if you have served your time and the secondary crime in question is a non-violent offense.

When you are facing felony charges, it is not a time to compromise for legal representation you don’t trust. Janet Altschuler is fully dedicated to criminal defense, and she has 20 years of experience serving clients in Arizona. To schedule a consultation with her, call (520) 247-1789.

What to Do If Your Child Is in Legal Trouble  

February 9, 2018

Kids will be kids, but they must still abide by the law. Unfortunately, children and teens may not recognize the line between playful fun and breaking the law, and they will rely on parental guidance to help them avoid long-term consequences from an adolescent mistake. If your child has gotten into trouble with the law, you will not want to hesitate to contact a lawyer, but there are other steps you can take to work toward the best possible outcome for your child’s case.

Listen to Your Child’s Side of the Story
You may hear an account of an incident in question from the police or school administrators, but be sure to sit your child down and ask directly what happened. It’s important to get your child’s side of the story and gain an understanding of what happened and why your child acted as he or she did. Be sure to approach this conversation calmly and assure your child that you want to help.

Get the Right Legal Counsel
Don’t hire a lawyer in haste because you aren’t sure what to do. Consult an attorney who is experienced with the juvenile court system, because there are substantial differences in how children and adults are charged for crimes. You should also not assume that you can represent your child in court simply because you are a responsible adult. Legal counsel will be essential for preventing juvenile charges from holding your child back throughout adulthood.

Understand Possible Outcomes
Getting educated about the crimes of which your child has been accused as well as the possible consequences will be important for your family. In addition to talking to your family lawyer, do some research online and seek resources from the local courts to know what type of charges your child is facing.

Hearing that your child has an upcoming court date can be overwhelming, but Janet Altschuler, attorney at law, can help. Ms. Altschuler has years of experience defending juvenile clients, so call (520) 247-1789 to set up a consultation in Tucson.

How Road Rage Can Result in Criminal Charges

January 26, 2018

With a busy morning commute, holiday traffic, and construction around every corner, it’s easy to occasionally get frustrated driving around Tucson. When you start to feel annoyed with other drivers on the road, however, you should take a moment to get your anger in check, since it could end in criminal charges—not to mention undue injuries and emotional trauma. Road rage is a common issue among many drivers, but it does not have to escalate to the following criminal charges, which will require the services of an experienced criminal lawyer serving Southern Arizona.

Assault
Though road rage may usually be limited to obscene gestures or some harsh words directed at other drivers, it can escalate to an encounter in which two drivers have pulled over to engage in a confrontation. If you threaten violence to another driver, reach for a weapon, or take a swing at the other driver, you may later be charged with assault because of the incident. You do not have to strike someone to be charged with assault, as the threat of violence is enough to constitute a case—especially if a weapon is involved.

Harassment
Even if you stay inside your vehicle during a road rage encounter, you could be charged with harassing another driver if you aggressively tailgate, wave a weapon or a finger menacingly, or try to run the individual off the road. A moment of frustration can quickly get out of hand with these actions, so be sure to remain calm on the road and remember that another driver’s mistake was likely not intentional, so don’t take it personally.

When you do need a lawyer to come to your defense, select an attorney who specializes exclusively in criminal defense cases. Janet Altschuler has the experience you need in Tucson, so call her office at (520) 247-1789 to discuss your case.

WHAT’S NEW IN THE LOCAL CRIMINAL JUSTICE WORLD?

January 30, 2018

Judges, lots of brand new judges in Pima County Justice Court and Pima County Superior Court. When you are charged with a crime, either felony or misdemeanor, it is important to make sure some thought goes into having the right judge for your case. This does not mean that there are “good” judges and “bad” judges. It means that every case has different facts and an
experienced attorney, one that frequently appears in front of a particular judge, can tell if the judge will rule in a predictably particular manner that may be helpful or not.

Who are the new judges? Judges Paula Abound, Charlene Pesquiera, Erica Cornejo, and Vincent Roberts are all new to the justice court bench. Judges Abound and Pesquiera are not lawyers. Each has experience in the state legislature. Judge Roberts is not a lawyer either. He was a law enforcement officer and constable. Erica Cornejo is a lawyer. She worked as a prosecutor and private sole practice attorney.

Does it matter if the judge is a lawyer or not? Possibly. Like all things in the law, it just depends on the facts of your case. If you have a complex technical pretrial motion to suppress evidence in your driving under the influence case, then you may want to have a lawyer decide. On the other hand, the non-lawyer judge assigned to your case may have vast experience dealing with technical driving under the influence motions. It just depends. All judges, lawyer or not, can change and evolve over time as well. Again, it is important to discuss your particular facts with a lawyer who practices in justice court
every day.

Did you know you can change your judge? You can, but you better decide quickly after your arraignment to do so because you only get 10 days to file a motion asking that the judge be changed. You don’t even have to provide a reason to want the change.

In making the decision, you should also be aware of specialty courts. In Pima County Justice Court and Tucson City Court, there are designated specialty courts for particular areas of the law and particular crimes. For example, Justice Court has Veteran’s Courts, Animal Welfare Court, Domestic Violence Court and Behavioral Health Court. The prosecutor generally places the cases in the specialty court, however, a person can request to be in the specialty court.

Veteran’s Court in Pima County Justice Court is run by Judge Maria Felix. This is not a diversionary court. People in Veteran’s Court in this jurisdiction are not automatically offered diversion ( counseling in exchange for a dismissal of the charges.) It is possible to receive a diversion plea offer in this court, but it is not automatic. Judge Felix also presides over Animal Welfare Court. This speciality court hears cases where animals are the abused or neglected. The prosecutors have special plea policies for this court. Behavioral Health Court is run by Judge Susan Bacal. Generally, people with behavioral health issues are in this court. Most participants are members of local agencies like COPE, CODAC, or La Frontera, but such membership is not required in order to have your case in behavioral health court. Finally, there is domestic violence court run by judge Adam Watters. The prosecutors have fairly tough policies about who will stay in domestic violence specialty court and who will go to another non-specialty judge. Those in the domestic violence specialty court will generally receive plea according to a specified plea policy of the county attorney’s (prosecutor’s) office. The pleas generally include supervised probation and suspended jail and fines. Any plea offer can be countered and any case can go to trial. Which path is better for you and your case? It is best to talk about your case specifics with an experienced criminal defense attorney.

Things to Never Say to a Police Officer

January 12, 2018

Interacting with a police officer can be nerve wracking, especially if you have been pulled over or have the police at your residence. Still, it’s important to keep your cool and know what to say (and what not to say), so that you don’t incriminate yourself during the conversation or agitate the police officer and commit a crime in the process. Below you’ll see some of the absolute worst things you could say while talking to any law enforcement officer.

“Do you know who I am?”
Even if you have a high status in the community or connections to the local police department, no one is above the law. Attempting to flaunt status in an interaction with the police is ill-advised, because it likely will not get you out of trouble, and it may frustrate the officer you’re talking to.

“My taxes pay your salary.”
Though it can be frustrating to get pulled over, you should not take that out on the officer with belittling statements, such as “I pay your salary.” Sure, tax dollars pay for law enforcement, but this does not give taxpayers any power over police officers, and trying to elevate your status with these types of statements is not likely to win you any favor.

“I don’t know what I was doing wrong.”
Ignorance of the law is not an excuse for breaking the law, and a cop will be quick to remind you of that if you play dumb—especially if it’s clear which laws you were breaking. If you ever aren’t sure what to say, the best strategy is to say nothing beyond basic answers to an officer’s questions.

If you’ve made missteps in a police confrontation that have ended with criminal charges, Janet Altschuler, attorney at law, is ready to come to your defense. For a look at her services or to schedule a consultation, call (520) 247-1789.

What Is Considered an Unlawful Search?

December 29, 2017

Your property is private, which means that law enforcement needs some type of permission to perform a search, or they need to see evidence of a crime without entering or tampering with your property first. If police obtain evidence through an unlawful, illegal search, it shouldn’t be weighed in to your case, because your rights were violated to get it. Having an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side will ensure that law enforcement is held accountable if they’ve violated your rights and that you are not treated as a guilty party before your case has been heard. This article will discuss some circumstances when a search may be considered unlawful so that you know which questions to ask when you consult your attorney.

Search Without a Warrant
A search warrant is a document issued by the court that gives police explicit permission to search your property—which may include your home, commercial properties you own, workplace, or vehicle. To obtain a warrant, police must have sufficient evidence that you have likely committed a crime or are holding evidence somewhere on your property. Warrants may specify certain parts of a given property that can be searched, so be sure to read the warrant so you know where police are allowed to look.

Search Without Permission
A warrant isn’t always needed if you give police verbal permission to search your property. They can also seize evidence that is in plain view, such as drug paraphernalia visible in the center console of your car during a traffic stop.

Knowing your rights is an essential part of protecting them, and you should also know the number of a good lawyer if you are arrested for a crime. Janet Altschuler focuses exclusively on criminal defense law in Tucson, and she can help you build an effective case. To schedule a consultation to discuss your charges, call (520) 247-1789.

Don’t Let DUI Become a Holiday Tradition

December 15, 2017

During the holiday season, there are more people on the road in Southern Arizona as seasonal residents return to enjoy the mild winter temperatures. The holidays also bring about more parties and celebrations that increase the odds of encountering intoxicated drivers on the road. In Arizona, DUI is taken very seriously, and the state has some of the strictest penalties for those convicted. Without a lawyer on your side, you might face steep fines, jail time, and a suspended license if you get pulled over for driving under the influence. To prevent DUI from becoming part of your holiday traditions, consider the following points.

DUI patrols increase around the holidays.
When you drive home from your office holiday party or family celebrations, you may notice many more police officers on the road than usual. There may also be more DUI checkpoints on busy travel routes, because patrols will see an uptick as the holidays get into full swing.

There is no safe level of intoxication for driving.
It’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to getting behind the wheel. If you plan to drink at all at a holiday event, plan for a safe ride home, whether that’s carpooling, taking a cab, or calling a rideshare service. If you are an employer hosting a holiday event serving alcohol, provide employees with safe transportation to mitigate liability concerns.

DUI charges can be costly.
You’re probably already spending more money around the holidays, so a DUI should be the last thing you have to worry about paying for. Unfortunately, a DUI conviction can cost thousands of dollars between fines, legal fees, and higher insurance rates.

If you are facing DUI charges, don’t hesitate to talk to a criminal defense attorney serving Tucson. Janet Altschuler can bring 20 years of experience to your case, and you can schedule a free consultation with her by calling (520) 247-1789.

What Should You Do (or Not Do)?

October 20, 2017

Getting arrested is a scary experience, and the anxiety of the arrest could cause you to do something that worsens your situation, especially if you know that you’re innocent. Therefore, it’s helpful to know what you should do, and—perhaps more importantly—what not to do when you are being confronted by law enforcement. The following guide will provide you with some helpful tips to get through your arrest, so you can build the strongest defense possible when you appear in court.

Know the Role of the Police

Though law enforcement does exist to protect people, you should not assume that the police are on your side when you’ve been arrested. Police officers are trained to use a wide variety of communication and intimidation tactics to get suspected criminals to confess or unwittingly provide information and evidence of the crime. When you talk to the police, only provide your most basic identifying information. You are not obligated to say anything else, and you should avoid doing so until you have a lawyer present.

Know What Not to Do

It can feel tempting to try and convince the police of your innocence or even run from an approaching officer. However, these actions can cause serious ramifications later and make it more difficult to present a convincing case in the courtroom.

  • Don’t Resist – Under no circumstances should you physically attempt to resist arrest. Do not touch or threaten an officer in any way, because this is itself a crime. Regardless of your innocence in other charges, you may face criminal charges if you attempt to resist arrest. Both passive obstruction and violent behavior toward a police officer can be considered resisting lawful arrest.
  • Don’t Run – You should never underestimate the resources of law enforcement and assume that you can run. It is likely that you will get caught in an attempt to flee from arrest, whether you are being arrested at the scene of a crime, your home, or your workplace. If you do get caught attempting to run from the police, you will not come off well in court, since fleeing is not often the action of innocent individuals.
  • Don’t Let the Police into Your Home – The police may arrive at your home if there is a warrant for your arrest, but it’s important to recognize how warrants may work. It may be that an arrest warrant is needed to arrest you in your home, but you may be arrested if you step outside. Therefore, you should not allow the police to come in, and you should not step out of your home. If police arrive at your home in response to a report of a crime like domestic violence, you should not let them inside. Simply cooperate with officers to avoid an unwanted search of your property that could be used to gather evidence against you.
  • Don’t Talk – In nearly every movie and television show featuring an arrest on screen, you will hear the line “Anything you say can and will be used against you.” This line holds truth, because police will be listening to everything you say during your arrest very carefully, and they may try to lead you to say certain things. Utilize your right to stay silent, and never do any of the following:

Try to convince the police that you are innocent – Whether you are guilty or not, your arrest is not the time to defend your innocence. You will be considered innocent until proven guilty in court, so don’t try to persuade police officers at the time of your arrest. 

Threaten or insult police officers – Though it is incredibly stressful to be arrested, you should not take out your stress on law enforcement. Do not talk smack or utter insults, and never say anything that could be considered a threat, such as “You’ll be sorry.” In some cases, police officers may try to provoke suspects into speaking out, but remaining silent will give them nothing to work with.

Answer non-essential questions – The police may ask you many leading questions to try and get the information they are looking for, and even if you answer a question non-truthfully, the answer can be used against you in court. Your best bet is to stay quiet or respond to questioning with a request for a lawyer.

  • Don’t Allow Permission to Search – Typically, a search warrant must be obtained through court to allow police to search your property. If, however, you provide verbal permission to search your car or home, they may immediately begin a search. This type of search could add to your charges if police uncover illegal firearms or drugs. You may not even realize that these items are in your home or vehicle if they were left behind by a friend or family member, but you can still be charged with drug possession for drugs that are not yours that are found on your property.

Know Who to Call

It may take some time before you are allowed to contact anyone after you have been arrested and booked. Still, you should know who to call once you are able to use the phone. Your first call may be to a criminal defense lawyer, and this is a smart strategy. Your lawyer can help you understand the gravity of your charges and the steps needed to release you from custody. If you can make multiple phone calls, it is also advisable to contact an immediate family member, such as a spouse, parent, or sibling. This individual may need to post bail or otherwise assist in your release. You might also provide the contact information of this individual to your lawyer to ensure that he or she is kept up to date on your situation.

If you have been arrested in Tucson or the surrounding areas, make your first call to Janet Altschuler at (520) 247-1789. Ms. Altschuler is a leading criminal defense attorney in Southern Arizona, and she specializes exclusively in criminal law with 20 years of experience serving clients from all walks of life.

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