Arizona County Attorneys’ Mentoring Tips for Prosecutors

The Arizona ethical rules for attorneys have special provisions that apply only to prosecutors. Sheila Polk, the Yavapai County Attorney, and Bill Montgomery, the Maricopa County Attorney, urge young prosecutors to live up to these special provisions in an opinion piece that they wrote for the April 2018 issue of Arizona Attorney magazine entitled “The My Last Word: Mentoring Tips From Prosecutors” which is found online at http://www.azattorneymag-digital.com/azattorneymag/201804/MobilePagedArticle.action?articleId=1369716&app=false#articleId1369716

 

They wrote about what it means to be a Minister of Justice:

“With the title of Minister of Justice comes the grave responsibility of always seeking the truth, honoring the rights of the accused, and speaking up in the face of injustice. Prosecutors wield great power— the ability to strip an individual of liberty, and even of life itself. Our job is not about conviction rates but about ensuring, always, that justice is done. Never, ever, sacrifice your ethics for a conviction.

Prosecutors—all attorneys, in fact—must remember always that your reputation is everything and your handshake is your word. Passions run high in the courtroom; don’t allow things to become personal or take things personally. Everyone has a job to do; leave differences behind and forge a reputation built on the trustworthiness of your handshake. Avoid the temptation to punish a defendant or adversary for their attorney’s conduct. And stay out of the mud no matter how vitriolic things become.”

One of their practical tips is to avoid confirmation bias:

  • Avoid confirmation bias—the tendency to search for, interpret, and recall information in a way that confirms preexisting beliefs. The first step in achieving justice is to have an open mind, to listen, and to honestly and fairly evaluate cases, whether for charging or settlement.

Another practical tip is civility to others:

“Life is about relationships—your family, your colleagues at work, police officers, victims of crime, defense attorneys and their clients, judges, and the incredibly competent administrative professionals working by our sides. Treat everyone with respect and civility. Be willing to reach out a hand, offer a smile, say thank you, admit your mistakes, hold open a door, and listen instead of cutting someone off. We can all be successful while practicing civility. Practice civility always.”

Of course, prosecutors are human beings just like judges, victims, defendants, and defense attorneys. They will sometimes fail to live up to the tips above. A prosecutor may have a meltdown in court because a defendant pushed his buttons. Another may believe that a defendant is guilty of a sex crime against a child so that justifies callous behavior. Yet another may fall victim to confirmation bias against a defendant resulting in a plea offer that’s unduly punitive based on the evidence.

It’s never a good idea to face the prosecutor alone. Attorney Gary Rohlwing has over thirty years experience dealing with prosecutors and is a former prosecutor. Gary knows the law and will help you protect your rights. Get a free initial consultation by calling Gary Rohwling today.

 

Law Offices of Gary L Rohlwing
7112 N 55th Ave
Glendale, AZ 85301
(623) 937-1692

 

 

 

 

 

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Why Defense Attorneys Should Not Judge Clients

Judging others is usually seen as acceptable. We expect judges, juries and prosecutors to judge defendants, people charged with crimes. We also expect that their judgments will be fair and based on the evidence presented in court. Forgotten in all this talk is the fact that defense attorneys sometimes prejudge their clients as guilty.

Let’s imagine a scenario where the defendant is a middle-aged man named Tom who has no prior criminal record and has a good reputation in the community. The prosecutor charges him with inappropriately touching a young child, a felony known as child molestation. On paper, Tom seems guilty: the prosecutor has the statements of the young child who was interviewed by an experienced sex crimes detective. The reality is that the charge is completely false. Tom is frightened and confused by the whole thing. He wants to hire an attorney who will believe him and reveal the truth: he is innocent. Unfortunately, he hires a defense attorney who manages to conceal his belief that all middle-aged men charged with molesting young children are always guilty and should rot in prison. How does the attorney’s belief effect his representation of the client?

The attorney talks to Tom as little as possible. After all, who wants to talk to a guilty child molester?

The attorney does not investigate the case as thoroughly as he should. The prosecutor’s case appears strong. He does not want to determine whether or not the charge is actually true.

The attorney does not analyze the case as thoroughly as he should. That would require spending time learning all the facts.

Because he does not investigate and analyze the case thoroughly, relevant pretrial motions to dismiss the case and/or suppress evidence do not get prepared and filed.

The attorney does not effectively negotiate if a plea is offered. The presumptive sentence of 17 years in prison as dictated by A.R.S. § 13-705(D) is fine with him.

If Tom insists on a trial, the attorney puts in the least amount of effort possible. He does not want to help a guilty client escape punishment. Because of his attitude, important issues for appeal are not raised at the trial where they could actually make a difference in the trial outcome.

Unsurprisingly, Tom is found guilty. The attorney once again puts forth little effort at Tom’s sentencing hearing so he does not receive the minimum sentence of 10 years in prison. Tom is sentenced to 17 years in prison.

Because of the attorney’s poor performance at trial, Tom’s appeal, if there is one, is unsuccessful because all the appeal issues should have been raised at the trial for the trial judge to handle.

Don’t make the mistake of hiring a judgmental criminal defense attorney. Attorney Gary Rohlwing is an experienced attorney who will not judge you even if you are charged with a sex crime against a child. Please call him today for a free consultation.

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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 https://www.maricopacountyattorney.org/189/Adult-Criminal-Trial-Process 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: https://azcapitoltimes.com/news/2018/03/23/arizona-doug-ducey-bill-montgomery-david-stringer-will-gaona-caroline-isaacs-kurt-altman-resistance-to-criminal-justice-reform/

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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