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Understanding Different Pleas in Court

August 10, 2018

If you are charged with a crime, you will need to enter a plea in court as part of your case. You should never make a plea without consulting with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help you decide the best strategy for facing your charges. There are multiple pleas you can make in court. Here are some of the options that your lawyer will review with you.

Guilty

Guilty pleas are an admission to the court that you did the crime with which you are charged and that you waive your rights to fight the case. In many cases, when people plead guilty in court, they do so after reaching a plea bargaining agreement with the help of their criminal defense attorney. A plea bargain often involves a defendant agreeing to plead guilty to a crime that is less serious than the one that with which he or she was initially charged. The prosecutor avoids the time and expense of going to trial, while the defendant usually faces a lighter penalty.

Not Guilty

Pleading not guilty means denying that the charges are correct in any way. When a not-guilty plea is entered, the case is referred for trial, which gives the defendant and the criminal defense attorney time to prepare for court. In some cases, after a not-guilty plea, a defendant will return to court and plead guilty as part of a plea bargaining agreement.

No Contest

No contest, or nolo contendere, pleas are used when the defendant wants to avoid confirming or denying the charges. If you enter a no contest plea, the court may sentence you as they would for a guilty plea, however, because you did not admit guilt, your words can’t be used against you in a civil case. You should never plead no contest without an attorney’s advice. Like guilt pleas, no contest pleas are often entered as the result of a plea bargaining agreement.

 

Before you enter a plea, call Janet Altschuler. This experienced Tucson criminal defense attorney will fight for your rights and help you get the best possible outcome for your case. When you need a defense lawyer, call (520) 247-1789.

Charging Decisions

July 23, 2018

Many people have little familiarity with how criminal charges work until they actually face them after being arrested. While the justice system is often portrayed in films and television, it never accurately shows the process of deciding which charges to raise against a suspect as well as the degree of those individual charges. Charging decisions will be an important detail of your case should you ever become arrested, so you should have some background on how those decisions are made.

What happens when you’re arrested?
You may be arrested immediately after a crime is committed or following an investigation process, depending on the circumstances of the crime itself. Typically, arrests will not occur unless there is probable cause that a crime has been committed and you are a guilty party. For example, if you can be placed at the scene of a crime through physical evidence, your arrest becomes more likely. When you are arrested, you will be read your rights and then booked, which is a process that involves being fingerprinted and photographed. You may also be asked to participate in a lineup or provide a handwriting sample. Police may take possession of any property you have on your person when you are arrested, and, in some cases, they may take possession of your car. Items may be searched, and they are inventoried so you can get them back when you are released from jail.

What happens after you’re arrested?
Being arrested is not the same as being charged with a crime. In fact, upon your arrest, the prosecutor may decide not to raise charges against you—for example, if there is insufficient evidence to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt—and you would be immediately released from jail at that point.

If charges are raised against you, you will have to wait for your arraignment to hear your charges formally listed and have bail set. Because you have a right to a speedy trial, the prosecutor must decide within 72 hours which, if any, charges will be raised against you. There are some important details to note about this part of the process:

  • Charges are not set in stone. The prosecutor may alter, add, or drop the charges against you later in your trial once more evidence is obtained.
  • You will have the opportunity to get out of jail after your arrest if you are eligible for bail and able to post it. Bail is essentially a deposit that ensures that you will appear at future court dates.
  • The severity of your charges will impact your eligibility for bail as well as the amount set.
  • The prosecutor can determine whether they want to increase or decrease the severity of your charges. Misdemeanor crimes may be charged as felonies and vice versa, at the discretion of the prosecutor.

How are prosecutorial decisions made?
It’s clear that the prosecutor plays an important role in charging decisions for criminal cases, but how are these decisions informed? Though the prosecutor has the ultimate say, they typically base charges on what’s in police reports. The details in a police report are rarely disputed at this point in the trial process, so they will be treated as the most reliable resource for charging decisions. There is also political influence that determines some decisions. Prosecutors are elected officials, so they will use the political climate to determine how to try various cases. For example, a prosecutor may have a reputation as being tough on drugs, so they will pursue even the most minor drug charges, even when there is not strong evidence present for the suspect’s guilt.

How can criminal charges influence your trial decisions?
Another factor that weighs into charging decisions is the psychology of criminal charges. In other words, the prosecutor may try to influence your trial decisions by raising certain charges or adjusting the severity of a particular charge. For example, there may be a number of potentially overlapping charges listed at your arraignment, which can be scary to hear, so it’s important to take that list in context. At the stage when you are charged, there is likely still minimal evidence prepared against you, so when multiple charges are raised, they might not all be feasible to back up in a court of law. Essentially, the prosecutor may cast a wide net initially, so that isn’t an accurate representation of the kind of trouble you’re potentially in.

What is the weight of a misdemeanor charge?
When you think about the psychology of criminal charges, you should also think about the classification of the charges you’re facing. If you are only brought up with misdemeanor charges, you might feel like you are getting off light or like you have less of a serious case on your hands. This is not an accurate assumption. Misdemeanor charges are still criminal charges, and they can have a lasting impact on your life. They can also lead to jail time. In fact, the sole definition of a misdemeanor is a criminal charge that results in up to one year of jail time. If you assume that a misdemeanor is not serious and do not adequately prepare for your trial based on this assumption you could risk:

  • Several thousands of dollars in fines
  • Jail time up to one year
  • Loss of employment and difficulty securing future employment
  • Loss of housing
  • Permanent reputation challenges, including potential failed background checks

How can a criminal attorney assist in clearing or reducing your charges?
The best place to turn to better understand the charging decisions of the prosecutor and the best strategy to move forward with your case is a criminal attorney’s office. From the very moment you are arrested, the right criminal attorney can advocate for your rights and help you comprehend and handle the charges brought against you. An attorney specializing in criminal law with years of experience in your area may be particularly valuable, due to an intimate understanding of local procedures, prosecutors, and district attorneys.

For representation with the experience and insight you need to fight criminal charges raised against you, connect with Janet Altschuler, Attorney at Law. Ms. Altschuler will provide a comprehensive, aggressive defense for your case, whether you have been charged with theft, drug possession, violent crimes, or domestic violence. To reach her office in Tucson, call (520) 247-1789.

Separating Myths from Facts on Domestic Violence

July 27, 2018

Domestic violence is treated very seriously in the law enforcement community and court systems. Anyone accused or arrested on suspicion of a domestic violence-related charge needs the assistance of a seasoned criminal defense attorney. In Arizona, a conviction can lead to jail time.

Myth: Domestic violence always involves physical contact.

It may surprise you to learn that a person can be charged with domestic violence even if he or she never laid a hand on another person. As a hypothetical example, let’s say that John and Jane are involved in a verbal argument. The yelling becomes loud enough for the neighbors to hear, and the neighbors call the police to report a domestic disturbance. When the police arrive, they do not see any injuries, but John has thrown a plate to the floor to express his anger, and so he is arrested on suspicion of disorderly conduct domestic violence charges. John will need a criminal defense attorney, even though he never struck Jane.

Myth: Domestic violence incidents are always between partners or spouses.

It’s true that many of them are, but Arizona law defines domestic violence as any form of criminal abuse that is committed by one household or family member against another household or family member. This means that a roommate could be charged with domestic violence, even if there is no intimate relationship between the roommates.

Myth: An alleged victim can choose to have the charges dropped.

This is one of the most enduring myths about domestic violence cases. The alleged victim may choose to be uncooperative with the investigation and the prosecution. However, he or she does not have the authority to get the charges dropped. Only the prosecutor can decide to dismiss the charges, and the judge must approve the dismissal of the case. Even if the alleged victim refuses to give testimony, the prosecutor can move forward with the case.

 

Janet Altschuler, attorney at law, provides in-jail and in-custody appointments to defendants charged with domestic violence-related offenses. You can get in touch with her office in Tucson 24/7, seven days per week at (520) 247-1789.

How to Assess the Strength of Your Criminal Attorney

July 13, 2018

The selection of a criminal defense attorney is one of the most impactful decisions you’ll ever make. The outcome of your criminal case will directly affect your freedom, employment, reputation, and perhaps even your familial relationships. It’s essential to choose a strong criminal attorney with the right background and skills necessary to successfully defend you in court.

Length of Time Practicing Law

Experience is everything. Don’t make the mistake of selecting an attorney who has only recently passed the Bar exam. If you lose your criminal case, you could wind up behind bars. It’s worth the time to look for an attorney who has a couple of decades of experience.

Roots in the Community

A strong criminal defense attorney is one who has set down roots in the community. This is significant because local residents know their communities well. A local attorney will have worked extensively in the city and county court systems, and so he or she will have a keen understanding of how best to navigate those court systems.

Scope of Legal Work

Plenty of attorneys handle a wide range of cases. For example, a personal injury lawyer may also handle family law or employment law cases. But an effective criminal attorney will only handle criminal law cases. When you choose a lawyer who exclusively deals with criminal charges, you can rest assured you’re receiving informed legal counseling.

Policies of the Law Office

Another way to assess how dedicated your attorney is to providing quality representation is to take a look at the policies of the law office. A dedicated attorney knows that criminal defendants may require legal counseling at any time of the day or night, and so he or she will be available at all hours.

 

Janet Altschuler, attorney at law, has more than 20 years of experience working exclusively on criminal law cases in Tucson and throughout Pima County, AZ. She devotes personal attention to each case, and has a proven track record of successful outcomes for her clients. Call Ms. Altschuler’s criminal defense practice at (520) 247-1789 any time of the day or night, seven days per week.

What to Know About Domestic Violence in Arizona

June 22, 2018

Domestic violence is a serious charge that can carry significant consequences. If you are charged with domestic violence, work with an experienced criminal defense attorney who understands how to defend against these charges and to help you minimize the impact on your life. Here is what you need to know about the domestic violence laws in Arizona and impacts of being charged or convicted of these crimes.

Domestic violence laws are broad.

Domestic violence laws encompass a wide range of accusations. Physical or sexual violence or intimidation of any kind between domestic partners is considered to be domestic violence. Making verbal threats without making any kind of physical contact can also lead to domestic violence charges when the threats happen between domestic partners. Domestic violence can be tacked onto nearly any criminal accusation when the incident occurs between people who share a family connection or intimate relationship. For this reason, some domestic violence charges are misdemeanors when others are felonies.

There are multiple defenses used in domestic violence cases.

Your lawyer may recommend that you fight your charges by presenting a defense. Common defenses for domestic violence include self-defense, defense of property, and defense of others. Your attorney will review the facts of your case and determine if you have a defense that can be used. He or she will use your defense to argue for your case to be dismissed or to negotiate with the prosecutor to have your charges reduced.

Charges can cause issues for your employment.

In some fields, being charged with domestic violence can cause problems with your work, even if you are not convicted. Any job that requires a fingerprint clearance card from the Arizona Department of Public Safety could be impacted. Charges can also impact immigration status and child custody.

 

Janet Altschuler, Attorney at Law, can help you take a strong stance against domestic violence charges in Tucson. When you’re facing criminal charges, call (520) 247-1789 to hire a defense attorney who will work hard to fight for your rights.

Do You Know the Facts About Arizona DUI Penalties?

June 8, 2018

Penalties for driving under the influence are significant in Arizona. The state has a zero-tolerance policy for driving under the influence, or DUI, which means that you can get arrested if you have alcohol in your system when you drive, even if you are below the legal limit. DUI cases are broken down into three categories, and within those categories, the penalties become more severe for multiple infractions. If you are charged with a DUI, hire a defense attorney immediately to protect your rights. Here is a look at the penalties for DUI in Arizona.

Standard DUI

Drivers are charged with standard DUIs when their blood alcohol contents, or BACs, are .08 or more. For a first offense, drivers face 10 days in jail and $1,500 in fines. An interlock device will be placed on the vehicle for 12 months. Drivers face either a 90-day license suspension or one-year revocation. For a second offense, drivers may be sentenced to 90 days in jail. Fines go up to $3,500 and a one-year license suspension is required, along with 30 hours of community service.

Extreme DUI

Extreme DUIs involve BACs of .15 or more. The first offense is punishable by up to 30 days in jail, fines of $2,780, 12 months of using an interlock device, and a 90-day license suspension. For second offenses, the punishment rises to 120 days in jail, and fees increase to $3,740. Thirty hours of community service are required, and licenses are revoked for one year.

Super Extreme DUI

These serious cases involve BACs of .20 or more. With conviction, jail time is 45 days for a first offense and 180 days for a second offense. Fines are $3,240 for first-time offenders and $4,650 for second offenses. For first time offenders, an interlock device is required for 18 months after a 90-day license suspension, while second-time offenders lose their licenses for one year and must use an interlock device for 24 months. They must also do 30 months of community service.

 

Let Janet Altschuler, Attorney at Law, fight for your rights if you’re charged with a DUI. For a criminal defense attorney in Tucson, call (520) 247-1789.

When Can Minors Be Charged As Adults?

May 25, 2018

It seems counterintuitive, but not every minor under age 18 is charged as a juvenile. Criminal law in Arizona allows—and in some cases, requires—juveniles to be tried as adults. The differences between juvenile court and regular criminal court are significant. If convicted as an adult, a minor faces a more severe sentence in a regular jail or prison, rather than in a juvenile detention facility. It’s also harder to seal adult criminal records. If your child is facing any sort of criminal charges, contact a criminal defense attorney immediately.

Juvenile Court Jurisdiction

The standard rule established in the state criminal code is that any offense allegedly committed prior to a child’s 18th birthday falls under the jurisdiction of juvenile court. Children younger than eight cannot be adjudicated delinquent. Additionally, it’s possible for juvenile court to continue to handle a youth’s case up to 21 years of age under certain circumstances. However, there are still plenty of pathways for juveniles to be tried as adults.

Statutory Exclusion

Arizona law mandates that juveniles be tried as adults if they are 15, 16, or 17 years of age at the time of the alleged offense, and the alleged offense was any of the following:

  • First-degree murder
  • Second-degree murder
  • Forcible sexual assault
  • Armed robbery
  • Any other violent offense
  • Any felony, if the defendant is a chronic felony offender
  • Any other offense that is joined to one of these offenses

As you can see, the list of offenses is quite broad. Note that Arizona law prohibits the use of the death penalty when the offense was committed prior to the defendant’s 18th birthday. However, the juvenile could still be sentenced to life or natural life in prison.

Discretionary Judicial Waiver

Even if a minor has allegedly committed an offense that isn’t on the above list, it’s still possible for the state to transfer the case to adult court. If the offense is a felony, the prosecutor may request that the juvenile court judge execute the transfer. This decision is made after a hearing.

Minors and their parents need vigorous legal representation to facilitate the best possible outcome. Contact Janet Altschuler, attorney at law, at (520) 247-1789 any time of the day or night to request an in-custody or in-jail appointment in the Tucson, AZ area.

How Drug Possession Charges Can Stick with You

May 11, 2018 marijuana possession

Jail time is typically the first thing brought to mind when one hears the phrase “drug possession charges.” But long after you’ve served your sentence and paid your fine, a conviction can affect your life in surprising ways. And unfortunately, it doesn’t necessarily matter how hard you’ve worked to turn your life around. Once people see a conviction on your record, they will instantly form a negative impression of you. The best way to protect your future is to call a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

Probation

Probation is a common penalty for convicted drug offenders. Even if your criminal defense lawyer can help you avoid jail time, you could face a period of intense supervision. While on probation, you’ll have to check in with your probation officer at pre-determined intervals. You’ll also be randomly drug tested. If you’re found in violation of the conditions of your probation, you could be sent to jail.

Housing

It’s standard practice for landlords to run background checks on prospective tenants before deciding whether to rent the property to them. And since most landlords wouldn’t want to risk having criminal activity take place in their rental units, it’ll be tough for you to secure a lease. Convicted criminals often find themselves staying with family or friends, or renting an apartment in an undesirable area of town.

Employment

One of the most challenging aspects of being convicted of drug possession is trying to land a job after serving jail time. Know that maintaining gainful employment is a typical condition of probation, so you’ll need to find a job as quickly as you can. But depending on the nature of your previous profession and the specific drug possession charges, you may also find yourself stripped of professional licenses or certifications.

Family

As difficult as it is to find housing and a job after a conviction of drug possession, perhaps the most emotionally challenging aspect of a convict’s new life is the effect on family relations. It’s tough to feel like your family no longer trusts or respects you. This is particularly true if you need to rely on them for help getting back on your feet.

Don’t let drug possession charges haunt you. Contact Janet Altschuler, attorney at law, at her Tucson, AZ office at (520) 247-1789.

How a Drug Possession—Even a Misdemeanor—Can Change Your Life

April 27, 2018

When you think of punishment for any crime, the first thing that comes to mind is probably jailtime. There are, however, many other potential consequences that come with convictions, and some can be life-lasting. If you have gotten charged with drug possession, your primary concern is probably to stay out of jail, but you should look beyond this immediate consequence. If you have drug charges on your record, every aspect of your life could be impacted, from your job to your housing opportunities to your child custody. Furthermore, it is not easy to have drug charges expunged from your record, especially in the tough-on-crime state of Arizona, which has some of the harsher penalties for small-time drug offenders in the United States.

If you have been arrested for drug possession, your first step should be to call a Tucson lawyer with experience in defending drug charges. Not only will your lawyer help you stay out of jail, but she can help you recognize and possibly avoid some of the more lasting effects of drug possession charges. To gain a better understanding of the importance of good legal representation, keep reading for a look at the many ways a drug conviction can impact your life.

How a Conviction Will Affect Your:
You do not have to spend time in jail to be considered a common criminal. In many cases, there is little distinction between a misdemeanor and a felony when it comes to your employment opportunities, access to housing, and reputation within the community. That’s why it is so important to have a lawyer who understands the potential consequences of drug possession. The right attorney will fight to have charges dropped if possible, or at least reduced to the lowest possible conviction to minimize the impact on the following areas:

  • Employment Opportunities – Equal employment opportunities do not extend to those convicted of crimes, even if the crimes were non-violent, non-felonies, such as misdemeanor drug possession. Some jobs, such as those in the transportation industry and government positions requiring security clearance, can be completely out of reach if you have even one drug related charge on your record. And many other jobs will require background checks, which can be much more complicated and put you out of the running for a job you’re otherwise qualified for because of one past mistake.
  • Housing and Loan Access – When you rent a house or apply for a home loan, your credit history isn’t the only part of your background taken into account. You may be denied for a housing application because of drug charges, even if the charge took place years before.
  • Child Custody – Individuals who chronically abuse drugs may not be fit for parenthood, but getting caught with marijuana in college should not disqualify you from keeping custody of your children much later in life. Unfortunately, drug charges follow you around for life, and they can weigh into custody decisions, even without any continued history of drug use. A drug possession charge can also limit your ability to work with children professionally as a teacher, bus driver, or child care provider.
  • Education – Federal student aid and private student loans can be denied due to drug charges, which can make it harder to access higher education that will propel your career opportunities. In addition, your application to a college or university may be denied because of past drug possession charges.
  • Community Reputation – If you are charged with drug possession, it may not take long for word to spread to your neighbors, friends, and coworkers. This can alter your reputation within your community and make it more difficult to take part in local events and activities.

Because drug possession can have such far reaching impacts on an individual’s life, one conviction can drive some individuals down a path of continued crime, because it is so difficult to get a job, find a place to live, and fit in within a community. Drug crimes are especially challenging in this regard, because many are charged on the federal level, and even those that are not have fewer avenues for possible expungement than other crimes. That means that even after paying all fines and penalties and taking any diversion courses or completing community service, you still cannot remove a charge from your record.

How Drug Possession Laws Have Changed
With many states choosing to legalize recreational marijuana, you might think that drug possession is not as big a deal as it used to be. You must remember, however, that recreational marijuana is not legal in the state of Arizona, so you should not cross the border with legally purchased cannabis from neighboring states where it was recently made legal, such as California and Nevada. Even medical marijuana users in Arizona may be more cautious, as Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, announced his intention to rescind the Cole Memo, which stated that federal authorities would not interfere with state legalization action for marijuana sales and use. Though this most immediately affects recreational marijuana, medical marijuana policies could soon be affected as well. In the current political climate, it is also more likely that other drug convictions will become more frequent, as lower level offenders tend to be more highly targeted as example cases in periods of tighter drug regulations.

Why Drug Possession Is a Big Deal in Arizona
There are differing views on drug possession and drug use throughout the United States, and in some states, getting caught with illegal drugs is not a big deal. This is not the case in Arizona, where there is a strong pursuit of drug crimes of all levels, largely driven by the close proximity to the Mexican border as well as an anti-drug climate among state lawmakers and prosecutors.

When you are facing drug possession charges in Tucson, Janet Altschuler, Attorney at Law can help you minimize the impact these charges could have on your future. Ms. Altschuler is solely dedicated to criminal defense in her practice, so you can rest assured that she has the expertise necessary to defend your rights.

What Are the Different Types of Theft?

April 20, 2018

If you are charged with theft, the specific type of theft mentioned in the criminal complaint will have a significant impact on the consequences you could face. In Arizona, there are both misdemeanor and felony theft charges, with penalties ranging of up to 12-and-a-half years in prison. In the course of your defense, your attorney may attempt to plead your theft charge down to a charge with lesser penalties. Here is a closer look at different types of theft charges in Arizona.

Misdemeanor Theft
If the alleged theft involved less than $1,000 in cash or property, then it is considered to be a misdemeanor theft. Misdemeanor theft is punishable by up to six months jail. There are a few exceptions to the misdemeanor theft guidelines. If the items taken included a firearm or an animal with purpose of using the animal for fighting, then the theft charge will be a class 6 felony, even if the value of the property was less than $1,000.

Class 6 through Class 4 Felony Theft
A class 6 felony theft charge involves cash or property valued at $1,000 to $2,000 and is punishable by a minimum of four months in jail to a maximum of two years in prison. For a class 5 felony, the value of the cash or property falls between $2,000 and $3,000. Class 5 felony theft is punishable by a minimum of six months in jail or a maximum of two-and-a-half years in prison. If the property or cash involved in the theft was worth between $3,000 and $4,000, the charge is a class 4 felony, punishable by a minimum of one year to a maximum of three-and-three-quarters years in prison.

Class 3 through Class 2 Felony Theft
These theft charges are the most serious. Theft of between $4,000 and $25,000 worth of cash or property is a class 3 felony carries a minimum of two years and maximum of eight-and-three-quarters years in prison. Class 2 felony theft involves property or cash worth over $25,000 and carries a sentence of a minimum of three and maximum of 12-and-a-half years in prison.

If you’re facing theft charges in Tucson, mounting a strong defense is essential. Janet Altschuler, attorney at law, will fight for your rights at every stage of your case. Schedule a case review by calling (520) 247-1789.