Criminal Law

Arizona Criminal Defense: An Overview

Arizona is a state that many still link to the Wild West. Although Arizona might still have some maverick ways, criminal laws in the Grand Canyon State are enforced similarly to those in the rest of the country.

So, here’s a broad overview of some criminal statutes and criminal cases from Phoenix to Flagstaff and Tucson to Yuma. Whether you or a loved one are facing drug charges, a misdemeanor or simple traffic violation, it is helpful to understand how the law is approached in Arizona.

Arizona Gun Control Laws

Arizona has some of the most lenient gun possession laws in the country. If you’re 21 or older, have no gun-related convictions on your criminal record, are mentally stable, and aren’t currently incarcerated, you can own a gun and carry either open or concealed. You must attend a gun safety class, but there are no regulations about the type of class you must take. Additionally, there is no waiting period to purchase a firearm in Arizona.

Capital Punishment in Arizona

Arizona has the death penalty, administered via lethal injection. (Anyone convicted before November 23, 1992, however, may choose between lethal gas and lethal injection.) The minimum age of eligibility for capital punishment in the state is 15.

Prosecutors may only seek the death penalty, though, for charges of first-degree murder with mitigating factors. Those factors include:

  • Victims under 15 or over 70
  • Victims who were a law enforcement officer or peace officer
  • Particularly heinous or cruel murders
  • Murders for hire

Arizona Domestic Violence Protection Orders

Domestic violence victims can seek protection from the courts through what’s known as a protection order. Sometimes referred to as restraining orders, Arizona provides two types of orders: Emergency Orders of Protection or EOPs, and Permanent Orders of Protection.

People who feel they are in imminent danger of domestic violence may seek an Emergency Order of Protection. An EOP lasts only until the end of business the following day after the court grants the order. The purpose of the EOP is to allow the person to petition the court to obtain a Permanent Order of Protection, which can stay in effect for one year from the time it became permanent.

Arizona restraining orders can be sought by:

  • Spouses or former spouses
  • A partner in a dating relationship
  • Siblings, children, and parents of the perpetrator

Arizona DUI Laws

Arizona has some of the most severe DUI laws in the country. While most people think “drunk driving” when they hear DUI, driving under the influence includes driving while high or while taking other drugs, even prescription medication. Any impairment can result in charges if it affects a driver’s behavior behind the wheel.

The legal blood alcohol content (BAC) for drivers 21 and over is .08 percent while the legal limit for a commercial driver is .04 percent. For those under 21, the state takes a zero-tolerance stance against underage DUI. However, an officer can charge a driver with DUI if it is determined that the driver is impaired to the slightest degree in Arizona. This means that a driver doesn’t technically have to have a blood-alcohol level over the legal limit to face DUI charges. If an Arizona law enforcement officer observes impaired behavior, they can charge a driver with DUI.

Expunging Arizona Criminal Records

Those convicted of a crime in the State of Arizona have the right to apply to the court to have their conviction set aside once they served their sentence. This is usually applicable to minor charges, such as misdemeanors. The set-aside, however, cannot be used to vacate certain violent crimes or felony charges, such as those involving aggravated assault, the infliction of serious physical injury, or the use of a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument, or those that involve a victim less than 15 years old. You also cannot set aside certain traffic violations or sex crimes.

Importantly, even if you are able to set aside a past conviction in Arizona, the state does not allow you to expunge or seal your conviction records. If you’re trying to set aside a conviction, a criminal lawyer may help.

How to Evaluate an Arizona Criminal Defense Attorney

You have the right to an attorney and if you qualify, you may be able to get a criminal attorney appointed by the court. However, if you earn enough, that may not be an option for you. If you are seeking legal advice outside of an appointed criminal lawyer, then make sure you take into consideration not only their practice areas, but also the following when evaluating the law office:

  • Years of experience the attorney or law firm has handling criminal charges or as trial lawyers
  • Does the criminal lawyer routinely handle cases similar to your own?
  • Whether the defense firm is familiar with your local criminal justice system
  • If important to you, is your attorney a certified criminal law specialist?
  • Does the law firm have online testimonials that outline what it is like to deal with that firm or their track record?
  • Do they have experience as a former prosecutor or public defender?

Anyone facing criminal charges in Arizona, whether it be drug crimes, sex crimes, or some other criminal offense, has the right to legal representation. And presenting an effective defense is easier with a competent legal professional. Experienced criminal defense lawyers who are familiar with Arizona’s statutes can help a person navigate through the legal process, present your side and defend you in court if need be. Many criminal attorneys may offer a free consultation.

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