Planet Defendant: Learn the Lingo Part One

Being charged with a crime can feel like being transported to another world called Planet Defendant. Like all worlds, Planet Defendant has its own lingo that one should learn to better understand what’s happening. The following list is specific to Maricopa County Superior Court and defines some common words. Some of the definitions were taken from the Adult Criminal Trial Process page of the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office website found at This blog post defines words in the first half of the alphabet; next month’s blog post will define words in the second half of the alphabet.

  • Arraignment: A court hearing that is held within ten days after the filing of an indictment or direct complaint. At the arraignment, the judge informs the defendant about the exact charges against him, that he should hire an attorney or see if he qualifies for a public defender, and asks him if he pleads guilty or not guilty to the charges. The judge then sets a date for a pretrial conference and trial date.
  • Charge: A formal accusation made by the prosecutor that a person has committed a crime that is found in a complaint. A charge is called a “count” if it is found in an indictment.
  • Complaint: A document prepared by the prosecutor which describes the felony offense(s) the defendant is alleged to have committed.
  • Court: A general term that refers to any judge or commissioner.
  • EDC: “EDC” stands for “Early Disposition Court”. EDC handles most first and second offense drug offenses. Eligible cases are identified at the Initial Appearance. The plea and sentencing are combined.
  • Indictment: A document prepared by the prosecutor based on the findings of a Grand Jury. It has formal accusation(s) called count(s) stating that a person has committed crime(s). Upon receiving an indictment, a judge may either issue a summons ordering the defendant to appear in court or prepare an arrest warrant.
  • Initial Appearance: This is the first court hearing that is held after a person is arrested at the scene or based on an arrest warrant. At the initial appearance, the judge informs the defendant about the felony allegations, his right to an attorney if he can afford one or a public defender if he cannot, and conditions of the defendant’s pretrial release. He then sets a date for a status conference and preliminary hearing.
  • Jail: The jails hold defendants who have not been sentenced and can’t make bail or are ineligible for bail as well as defendants sentenced to less than one year incarceration.
  • Law: A general term that refers to Arizona laws (the Arizona Revised Statutes) and decisions/opinions from the Arizona Supreme Court and Arizona Court of Appeals.


Planet Defendant lingo can be confusing. Attorney Gary Rohlwing knows the lingo because he has over three decades of experience defending clients in Maricopa County Superior Court. Please call him today for a free consultation.

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Major Players Disagree on Arizona Criminal Justice Reform

Criminal justice reform has been a recurring theme in the Arizona Legislature the last few years. Unfortunately, reform is very slow in coming compared to other states. Reporters Paulina Pineda and Katie Campbell wrote an article for Arizona Capitol Times entitled “Arizona Resistant to Change in “tough-on-crime” Sentencing Laws” that was published on March 23, 2018 detailing why reform is slow. The article can be found at the following link:

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery wants tougher sentencing laws while Will Gaona, policy director of the ACLU of Arizona, the American Friends Service Committee, and Families Against Mandatory Minimums want to change Arizona’s rigid sentencing laws and end mandatory minimum sentences, especially for drug offenses. Montgomery has like-minded allies in the Arizona legislature who seem to have a lingering “tough-on-crime” mentality.

Montgomery believes that Arizona is already ahead of other states. According to the authors:

“Montgomery called other ideas being pushed by the smart-on-crime crowd “pet projects” that are “based on myths and rhetoric.”

“Most of the folks who call criminal justice reform ‘reform’ – all they’re really out to do is arbitrarily adjust sentencing statutes or adjust truth-in-sentencing with no data to support it,” he said.”

. . .

But Montgomery scoffed at their ideas of “so-called reform,” arguing that they’re trying to overlay other states’ solutions on Arizona.

He said the reality is other states either face different problems or are simply implementing measures Arizona embraced years ago, such as diverting first-time drug offenders to treatment instead of prison.

“And because we weren’t part of the so-called reform wave, we don’t get credit for what we did,” Montgomery said.

He said the first step in the public policy conversation must be to define the problem and determine what resources are needed to solve it.

“For so many, and this is what has been a frustration of mine, they don’t understand the problem,” he said.

“We need to come to a common understanding of the criminal environment we actually have, the types of crimes we have to deal with, and then what makes for the most effective policy. … What do we want to define as success for the criminal justice system in Arizona?”


For Montgomery, success would mean reducing recidivism, a goal he shares with Gov. Doug Ducey.”

Gaona stated that the recent finding in the Arizona Prosecuting Attorneys’ Advisory Council’s updated Prisoners in Arizona report that 84% of state prisoners are repeat offenders “demonstrates the failure of our criminal justice system” and “Obviously, this is not an effective intervention, and we’re just going to try it again for longer period of time for something that has already been demonstrated not to work.”

Governor Doug Ducey has been largely silent about reforming the sentencing laws. He wants to reduce recidivism as explained by his spokesman:

“Ducey spokesman Daniel Scarpinato said the governor approaches the issue from a public safety perspective. The governor’s priority, he said, has been to provide people who have already served their time with opportunities to get back on their feet by helping them get jobs, government benefits, and treatment.

Those efforts, Scarpinato said, will help reduce recidivism rates and the state’s prison population, while still “making sure we’re enforcing the rule of law and still being tough on crime.””

Since Arizona is still a “tough on crime” state, you need an experienced defense attorney if you are charged with a crime. Attorney Gary Rohlwing is an experienced criminal defense attorney and has over three decades of practicing law. Please contact him today for a free initial consultation.

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Can a Domestic Violence Victim Drop Charges?

You are a battered wife. Once again, your husband is punching and physically harming you. Your friend, who lives next door, contacted the police who arrived just in time to stop the beating. They then charge your spouse with domestic violence.

You find yourself in a chaotic situation. Surely, you don’t want your husband to abuse you, but neither do you want him to get entangled in legal imbroglio. A lot of women in your same situation, sadly, feel the responsibility to protect their abuser: their own husband. Suddenly, they want the charges against their husband dropped.

The question is, can a victim of domestic violence drop the charges? NO, the victim cannot drop the charges.


Why a Domestic Violence Victim Cannot Drop the Charges

Once a domestic violence charge has been issued by the office of the state prosecutor or the police, there is no way that the victim can drop the charges. This is because domestic violence is categorized as a crime.

Many people misunderstand the process behind the filing of criminal charges. The state governs and issues criminal charges and not the victim. If you are a victim of domestic violence, you have no authority to drop the charges, which you did not issue, in the first place. It is up to the state, specifically the Prosecutor’s Office, to decide whether or not to proceed with the case. However, as the victim, you have a significant role in the proceedings.


The Role of the Victim in a Domestic Violence Case

As the victim, the court may require you to testify against the accused, in case there is a trial. You may also be brought in to air your opinion. Some states allow the victim to refuse to testify in court, although the refusal may come with penalties.

When coming up with a decision to release the accused, the judge may invite you, as the victim, to express your opinion on whether or not you agree with the decision to release, and why.

The victim’s role is not limited to being passive, however. It is not confined to just testifying or giving your opinions in court. Although you cannot file a criminal case, you have the right to file a civil case. This way, you can claim compensation for the personal injuries you sustained, psychological injuries, lost wages, as well as cost of living.

You likewise have protection options. You can request for a restraining order against the accused. A restraining order can help guaranty your safety. For one, there are restraining orders that will require the subject to surrender his guns while the restraining order is in effect.

Depending on the state, you may be allowed to have an early release from your current lease. This option can prove to be helpful if you fear that your spouse may harm you again after being released. This will allow you to find a new place to live in, separate from your spouse.


Recanting a Victim’s Statement

Although domestic violence victims can’t drop the criminal charges against their abusers, many victims opt to recant the statements they issued to investigators and police officers. Some battered wives do it in hopes of having the charges against their spouses dropped.

However, recanting will not affect the state’s decision on whether to proceed or drop the case. The case can still be prosecuted using other evidences including police reports and photographs.


The court takes cases of domestic violence seriously. Thus, dropping a charge is not easy, most especially when children are involved. If you need more information about about getting a restraining order or domestic violence charges, contact the Law Offices of Gary L. Rohlwing.

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Arizona’s Catch – All Aggravating Circumstance

A.R.S. § 13-701(D)(26) is a catch-all for the prosecutor to use at sentencing if other aggravating circumstances don’t apply:

“ 26. Any other factor that the state alleges is relevant to the defendant’s character or background or to the nature or circumstances of the crime.” You can find the original document at

The Supreme Court of Arizona has held that an aggravated sentence based solely on the catch-all aggravator violates due process because that aggravator is “patently vague.” See State v. Schmidt, 220 Ariz. 563, 566 ¶¶ 9-10 (2009).

The Arizona Court of Appeals has found that the following are appropriate aggravating circumstances under the catch-all:

  • Defendant’s misconduct that rises to a level beyond that which is merely necessary to establish an element of the underlying crime. State v. Tinajero, 188 Ariz. 350, 357 (Ariz. App. 1997),
  • Defendant’s prior conduct that didn’t result in a conviction. State v. Shattuck, 140 Ariz. 582, 583 (1984).
  • Society’s need for deterrence is a proper aggravating factor. See State v. LeMaster, 17 Ariz. 159, 166 (Ariz. App. 1983).
  • Defendant is a danger to society. See State v. Wideman, 165 Ariz. 364, 369 (Ariz. App. 1990).
  • Defendant’s single act created multiple victims. State v. Tschilar, 200 Ariz. 427 (Ariz. App. 2001).
  • Defendant’s attempt to cover up the crime and not seek help for the victim. See State v. Jenkins, 193 Ariz. 115 (Ariz. App. 1998).
  • Defendant’s lengthy criminal history. See State v. Fristoe, 135 Ariz. 25 (Ariz. App. 1982).
  • Defendant was previously on probation, violated probation, or was on probation at the time of the crime is an appropriate aggravator. See State v. Winans, 124 Ariz. 502 (Ariz. App. 1979); State v. Ritacca, 169 Ariz. 401 (Ariz. App. 1991).
  • Defendant was previously imprisoned. See State v. Soto-Perez, 192 Ariz. 566 (Ariz. App. 1998).

The Court of Appeals has also found that a defendant’s lack of remorse is not a proper aggravating circumstance. See State v. Tinajero, 188 Ariz. 350, 357 (App. 1997). Moreover, a defendant’s prior exemplary life is not a proper aggravating circumstance. See State v. Just, 138 Ariz. 534, 551 (Ariz. App. 1983).

If you are charged with a felony, the prosecutor will most likely use the catch-all aggravator to aggravate your sentence. Don’t fight the prosecutor alone. You need an experienced defense attorney to fight for you and help you with your felony defense. Attorney Gary Rohlwing has over three decades of experience. Call him today for a free consultation.

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Impact of a Domestic Violence Charge: Why Hire an Experienced Lawyer

A domestic violence (DV) charge should not be taken lightly. It is a serious charge with potential long-term repercussions on your rights and freedom. If you are charged with domestic violence, you should immediately consult with an experienced domestic violence lawyer. The Law Offices of Gary L. Rohlwing can help protect your rights.

Following are the various negative effects of domestic violence on various aspects of your life, if convicted.


Consequences on Your Employment

Getting a domestic violence conviction may cause you to lose your present job or make it difficult for you to find gainful employment. With today’s advanced technology, employers can easily verify the criminal records of potential and current employees. There are even websites that offer to provide criminal background checks within minutes at a very minimal cost.

Before making a decision to hire an applicant, most employers run a background check. When an employee is flagged for a domestic violence charge, it is generally considered an indication that the person is dangerous and prone to violence, whether at home or in the work place. As a result, the employee will not be offered a job.

Likewise, current employees who are convicted of a domestic violence crime may not be considered for promotion or stricken off the list of candidates – even if they have the necessary experience and skills for the job. In some cases, they may even be fired from their jobs – even if they have been with the company for a long time.


Consequences on Your Military Career

Once you are convicted for a domestic violence crime, you can kiss your military career goodbye. Aside from getting disqualified from serving in the military, a conviction will bar you from carrying a firearm or any kind of weapon. You will be discharged involuntarily from service, and if you are planning on entering the service, you will not be permitted to enlist. It may also affect your retirement benefits.

You will also be denied of a security clearance under Directive 5220.6 of the Defense Department. Your military pension will be stopped, if you are currently entitled to it. Thus, you must make sure to talk to your lawyer as soon as you are charged with domestic violence.


Consequences on Your Marriage and Child Custody

In many cases, a criminal conviction for domestic violence may spell the end of your marriage. Most couples involved in domestic violence ended up in divorce or separation. If you have children, you will likely lose in a custody battle, in case one will ensue. In almost all cases, custody is awarded to the victim spouse.

Because being a domestic violence victim becomes a big advantage not only in child custody cases, some scheming spouses use allegations of domestic violence against their partners to win custody of their children, gain a decided edge in divorce situations, as well as to hide adultery.


Consequences on Your Professional Licenses and Permits

Renewing or getting a new professional license may become difficult if you have a criminal domestic violence conviction. The same is true when getting a financial bond. This can be a big problem for professionals like lawyers, doctors, nurses, bond traders, stock brokers, and real estate agents, among others.

If your profession requires the use of explosives and weapons like guns and firearms, you can no longer effectively perform your duties because a conviction will disallow you from bearing arms. Under the law, a convicted domestic violence offender can’t possess, buy, acquire, or take possession of firearms, ammo, and other dangerous weapons.

If you are found guilty of violating this federal law, you will be meted with a mandatory sentence of at least 5 years in jail, in effect causing you to lose gainful employment. These include, police officers, fire officers, and other jobs that involve the use of firearms, weapons, guns, explosives, and other dangerous substances.


Domestic violence is a criminal offense, and should never be taken lightly. Bear in mind that once you are convicted, the repercussions on your future may be devastating and permanent.

If you need a domestic violence attorney, call the Law Offices of Gary L Rohlwing as soon as you are charged with a DV crime. We have the experience in handling various types of domestic violence cases.

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