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Criminal Law Tip #1. Unfortunately, it is not hard to commit a crime! Most people have not read through the 1000+ page Arizona Revised Statute book that lays out all of Arizona’s Criminal Laws. It is also not a defense that you didn’t know that what you did was a crime. Crimes do not always require intent. It is easy to know that robbing someone with a gun is not only a bad thing to do, but is a crime. However, other things that you didn’t think would be a crime, turn out to be a crime, whether it was intended or not. In Arizona, crimes can be committed Intentionally, Knowingly, Recklessly, or sometimes Negligently. If someone is alleging a crime against you, you need to begin protecting yourself, even if “it must be a mistake.” It isn’t hard to be charged with a crime, and, many times, what you say to try to explain why you aren’t Guilty of anything, ends up giving the police exactly what they need to prove that you are Guilty. Unless you know what every Arizona law says, “I didn’t do anything wrong” is not a reason to start talking. This is why it is important to stay quiet, and contact a lawyer.
Criminal Law Tip #2. You have the Right to Remain Silent – a Constitutional Right – but you need to specifically invoke your Right to Remain Silent, which means you have to tell the officer that you are utilizing your Right to Remain Silent. Also, keep in mind that officers MAY tell you about your Constitutional Right to Remain Silent, but only after you have been arrested. You do have your Constitutional Rights prior to being arrested, but officers will try to get you to admit to as much as possibly prior to arresting you, so that they need not tell you your Miranda Rights, including that you have the Right to Remain Silent. Know your Rights. While you have to tell an officer your name, and provide identification upon request, you do not need to answer the officer’s questions. Your Constitutional Rights were created to ensure that no person should be forced to be a witness against themselves. You need to be aware of it, and utilize it.
Criminal Law Tip #3. You have the Right to Counsel – a Constitutional Right – but you need to be VERY specific in order to invoke this right. State and Federal Courts have considered many cases where people believed they invoked their Right to Counsel… they thought they asked for the assistance of an attorney, but the courts have held otherwise. The courts distinguish between someone who says “I think now might be a good time to talk to a lawyer,” and someone who says “I want to talk to my lawyer.” You really need to make a specific, unambiguous request for a lawyer, as soon as you have been arrested. It is also a good idea to make a specific, unambiguous request for a lawyer as soon as the officer asks you any questions, even if you have not officially been arrested or had handcuffs put on you. This can literally make the difference between a conviction and an acquittal.
Criminal Law Tip #4. After you have been arrested, or given a citation, contact a Criminal Defense Lawyer ASAP. Many lawyers will give a free consultation. You are in a much better position having talked to a lawyer soon after the arrest or citation than if you decide to just wait and see what happens, or wait until the first court date. Those who contact an attorney soon after the arrest or citation have the best chance of gathering up witnesses, getting statements, or finding video, while the evidence is fresh, and before people forget things due to the passage of time, or video gets deleted. Trying to fight a case where you are the only one saying that you didn’t do something is much more difficult than fighting a case where you have witnesses and/or video proving that you didn’t do something.
Criminal Law Tip #5. If you are facing criminal charges, you are not alone. It is always a good idea to get help from someone, even if it is just a free consultation. Attorneys go to school for years, and devote their lives to the study of law. Utilize resources that may be available to you. Even if you think you did do what is being alleged against you, and you feel that you should take responsibility, an attorney can still be a huge asset to a case. Attorneys aren’t just there to get people off. If there is a good legal issue, the attorney should find it. If there are no good legal issues, an attorney can do what is possible to lessen the punishment in any way possible. Someone charged with a crime will usually be eligible to represent themselves, be assigned a Public Defender, or hire a Private Defense Lawyer. If you cannot afford a Private Defense Lawyer, then you should absolutely take advantage of a Public Defender. Having someone to look out for your best interests is always preferred over going at it yourself. Remember, if you decide to handle things yourself, you are going up against the prosecutor who is looking out for what they feel is in the best interests of the city/state, not you. They have the proper legal training to fight the case, very likely you do not. The old saying goes, a person who represents themselves has a fool for a client.
Criminal Law Tip #6. Pick an Attorney wisely. Criminal Law is a specialized area of legal representation. It is different from DUI, it is different from Divorce, and it is different from Civil law. When you pick an Attorney, find out what areas of law they practice. If they spread their law practice amongst many areas of the law, they aren’t able to focus on the ever-changing area of Criminal Law. It isn’t in your best interest to have an attorney that is representing you in a Criminal Court, who will then go to represent another client in a Bankruptcy Court. Accordingly, don’t fall for the “Billboard Trap.” There are a number of lawyers who advertise on billboards, sides of buses, pay to be at the top of search engine results, etc. These people are usually the type of lawyers who handle any type of case if you have the money, do not handle their own cases, and pass off their cases to less experienced lawyers and paralegals. They charge a lot of money – because they have to pay for all those billboards – and are more inclined to plea you out, so they can get more clients and more money. Those “big name” lawyers are the ones that you see in court (actually, you see there minions, as they don’t appear in court in person) trying to convince the judge to allow them to withdraw from the case because they already got paid all their money, wanted more from the client who wasn’t willing to pay, so they want to get off the case, and keep all the money. Read the reviews. The “Billboard Lawyers” are some of the worst reviewed, and ones that other lawyers know never to recommend to anyone. They are also the ones who focus on the number of their successes, but don’t want you to think of the percentage. Many of the “Billboard Lawyers” and “Search Engine Lawyers” cite their number of accomplishments, but not their percentage. Twenty acquittals may sound like a lot, until you find out that they have handled 100,000 cases in their careers. Also, know that the “Billboard Lawyers” do something a bit sneaky to bump up their results. When they hire a new lawyer, they absorb that lawyer’s stats as their own, and when that lawyer ultimately quits (usually because they can’t stand how people are treated), their stats don’t seem to get deleted from the law firm’s stats. Do your research.
Criminal Law Tip #7. If you have a conviction, and if you have fulfilled all your requirements for probation and/or your punishment, get the hell out of Arizona. Arizona is one of the harshest states in the nation for criminal prosecutions. Things get substantially worse if you have a prior Felony conviction and end up getting charged with a new Felony offense. Although an Arizona Prior Felony Conviction will follow you to another state, if you were to ever get in trouble again, you are more likely to get leniency in another state. It is unfortunate that someone would have to leave Arizona simply because they have a Felony Conviction, but with Arizona’s strict criminal laws, and aggressive law enforcement, Arizona really isn’t a place for someone with a Prior Felony Conviction. It just isn’t hard to find yourself arrested in Arizona.
If you do find yourself arrested for a criminal offense, call an experienced Criminal Defense Lawyers, call the Arizona Criminal Law Team at (480) 442-8343.