The Problems with Prior Legal Offenses

Problems You May Face Having a Previous or Prior Offense

A.R.S. § 13-105(22) broadly defines a “historical prior felony conviction” as any prior felony conviction that involved one of the following:

  • A mandated term of imprisonment
  • A dangerous offense
  • Illegal control of a criminal enterprise
  • Aggravated driving under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs
  • Dangerous crime against children
  • Any class 2 or 3 felony listed above that was committed within 10 years of the present offense
  • Any class 4, 5 or 6 felony not listed above that was committed within 5 years of the present offense
  • Any felony conviction that is a third or more prior felony conviction
  • Any offense committed in another state that was punishable as a felony within that state and was committed within 5 years of the present offense
  • Any offense committed in another state that was punishable as a felony within that state and that involved the discharge, use or threatening exhibition of a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument or the intentional or knowing infliction of death or serious physical injury

Clearly, virtually all prior felony convictions are “historical prior felony convictions” in Arizona.

The American Friends Service Committee identified another problem with priors in their report entitled A New Public Safety Framework for Arizona:  Charting a Path Forward published in December 2016:

“However, Arizona currently uses a category of “priors” that is virtually unheard of in American jurisprudence. The current statute allows the sentencing court to count up the number of distinct “occasions” on which the defendant committed felony offenses that led to convictions rather than to confirm that the defendant had at least been convicted for an earlier offense before committing the offense for which a sentence was now being pronounced.

As a result, offenses committed on the same day (for which the person has not yet been convicted) can be treated as “priors” at sentencing, allowing to call for harsher penalties. For example, a person can break into a car, walk down the street and break into another car. Rather than simply being charged with two counts of burglary or theft, the prosecutor can label the first break-in a “prior,” triggering a sentence enhancement.”

In other words, a person who has no historical prior convictions under A.R.S. § 13-105(22) can find himself facing harsher sentencing under A.R.S. § 13-703 as a repetitive offender!

Almost anyone can have a problem with priors under Arizona law.  You need an experienced criminal defense attorney who knows how to handle problems with priors.


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What is Aggressive Driving?

The class 1 misdemeanor of aggressive driving occurs when a driver speeds, commits at least two civil traffic violations, and is an immediate hazard to another person or vehicle according to A.R.S. §28-695.

The speeding can be either a civil traffic offense (A.R.S. § 28-701(A)) or a class three misdemeanor of excessive speed (A.R.S. §701.02).  A police officer has prima facie evidence of a civil traffic ticket in the absence of posted speed limits when a driver’s speed exceeds 15 mph approaching a school crossing, 25 mph in a business or residential district, or 65 mph in other locations according to A.R.S. § 28-701(B) and (C).  “Excessive speeding” is defined as exceeding 35 mph approaching a school crossing, exceeding the posted speed limit in a business or residential district by more than 20 mph or exceeding 45 mph if no speed limit is posted, or exceeding 85 mph in other locations according to A.R.S. § 28-701.02(A).

Besides speeding, a person must commit at least two of the following civil traffic violations in order to be charged with aggressive driving:

  • Failure to obey traffic control devices;
  • Overtaking and passing another vehicle on the right by driving off the pavement or main traveled portion of the roadway;
  • Unsafe lane change;
  • Following a vehicle too closely; or
  • Failure to yield the right-of-way.

In addition to the traffic offenses listed above, the person’s driving must be an immediate hazard to another person or vehicle.

For a first offense, the person must attend and successfully complete   approved traffic survival school educational sessions.  The judge may also order that the person’s driving privilege be suspended for thirty days.

For a second offense committed within twenty-four months of the first violation, the person’s driving privilege shall be suspended for one year.

It’s possible to commit three civil traffic offenses that are an immediate hazard to another person or vehicle and be cited for the class 1 misdemeanor of aggressive driving.  If you are charged with aggressive driving, you need an experienced attorney like Gary Rohlwing to represent you.


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


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Gary L. Rohlwing – Domestic Violence & Substance Abuse Attorney

If you are charged with domestic violence and your substance abuse is part of the problem, you may be able to get a lesser penalty by presenting clear evidence of how it affected your brain and caused the domestic violence.  Your lawyer should be able to:

  • Show that your substance abuse caused the domestic violence because it negatively affected your judgment.
  • Convince the court that you need counseling and/or substance abuse treatment and that you are very willing to actively participate in any court-ordered treatment.
  • Demonstrate that a criminal conviction will negatively impact your rehabilitation efforts.


How Alcohol and Drugs Lead to Bad Decisions

The following information can help in creating a credible defense and why you need an experienced substance abuse attorney to help you:

  • According to experts, the problem with alcohol is that those who engage in habitual drinking apparently aren’t bothered by the consequences of their behavior. You know that you’re making mistakes but don’t care. Know your consumption limits. Know also that alcohol is a depressant and dehydrates your body.
  • There are body chemicals involved in alcohol abuse. Alcohol in the blood induces your brain to command your body to produce chemicals such as cortisol, adrenaline and norepinephrine. These chemicals cause the heart to beat faster and enhance the senses, making you more sensitive to lights and sounds.
  • Substance abuse impairs judgment according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Chemicals from drugs disrupt the communication system of the brain and change the way information is processed. Under these conditions, your brain is forced to tell your body to produce more transmitters.


After detecting abnormally high amounts of neurotransmitters, your brain will automatically tell your body to halt production. The process causes you to increase drug consumption to compensate for the inadequate supply of neurotransmitters. Consumption will become more frequent and in higher quantities.

When you’re clearly dependent on the substance, you can go to great lengths to satisfy your need for drugs and may commit crimes in order to satisfy that need.

Note that these NIDA-listed drugs have the following effects:

  • Marijuana: Short attention span, impaired short-term memory, and drowsiness.
  • Cocaine: Mood disturbances, anxiety, erratic behavior, paranoia, and euphoria.
  • Meth/LSD (stimulants): Hostility, psychosis, anxiety, and increased attention to details.
  • Xanax (Depressants): Drowsiness.
  • Heroin/Oxycodone (opioids): Cloudy thinking, alternating drowsy and alert states, and euphoria.


It is important that you hire a law firm that has extensive experience handling domestic violence cases involving substance abuse. The Law Office of Gary L. Rohlwing has been very successful in obtaining lesser penalties for their clients or in reaching an amicable settlement where the charges did not result in a full-blown case.

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

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Common Factors That Increase Your Blood Alcohol Content

These Are Some Of The Most Common Areas That Can Increase Your Chances of Getting a DUI

In 2016, statistics revealed that over 27 people died in car crashes caused by drunk driving in Arizona [editing note:  I’m assuming that these people died in 2016 Arizona drunk driving accidents].  Not all drivers intentionally drink and drive; some think that the small amount of alcohol they consumed did not impair their ability to drive.  You might want to wait for your body to metabolize that alcohol before driving after reading about the factors known for increasing the alcohol content in your blood below.



If you’ve consumed protein-rich food before drinking, the chances of being intoxicated may be less.  Alcohol is more likely to be processed faster if the person who drinks it doesn’t have any food in his stomach.

The amount of food consumed is a factor because the digestion process plays a huge role in the body’s absorption of alcohol.  For almost everyone, the liver can only digest one drink an hour.  The more drinks you have, the bigger the workload for your liver.  Drinking only one drink per hour helps keep your blood alcohol content (BAC) in the safe level.




The stronger the drink, the higher your BAC will be.  Higher alcohol content in drinks will irritate the mucous membranes lining the gastrointestinal tract.  This means one thing: slower alcohol absorption rate and higher chances of intoxication.



Studies have found that women have less dehydrogenase, an enzyme responsible for breaking down alcohol in the digestive system.  The less dehydrogenase you have, the more likely it is for your BAC to shoot up when you drink.  This is why women become intoxicated faster even if they’re drinking the same amount of alcohol as men.

Women also tend to get higher BACs around the time of menstruation.  Their hormone levels definitely affect their alcohol absorption levels.



If you have a small body mass, you tend to become intoxicated easily when drinking alcohol.  Even if two people weigh the same, the person with more fat in his or her body is likely to have lower BAC when they drink the same amount of alcohol.



Have you ever wondered why you shouldn’t gulp down your drink in one go?  This is because the sudden rush of alcohol will raise your BAC much faster than when you drink the same amount slowly.



Some people can drink lots of alcohol but not get intoxicated, while others get drunk after only two glasses of the same alcohol.  A person’s functional tolerance determines how resistant his body is to the effects of alcohol, partly because of his liver’s strong capacity to continuously filter out the alcohol in the body.  You’re not home free even if your individual alcohol tolerance is high; your blood will still contain traces of alcohol.



Alcohol is a drug that might interact with other medications in your system.    Be wary of drinking alcohol while on certain medications because some drugs have harmful side effects when taken with alcohol (e.g. antidepressants).  Certain painkillers, on the other hand, can raise the effects of alcohol up to ten times.

If you take prescription or over-the-counter medication, it’s very important to discuss this with your doctor so he or she can advise you on how much alcohol you can safely consume.


Just in case you’re pulled over for unintentionally driving under the influence (DUI) you should know that there are DUI attorneys that are experienced in these cases.  A proficient DUI attorney will help you come up with a legal defense that will help you in your case. Check out Gary Rohlwing’s practice areas and learn more on how I can help you!


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


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Causes of Arizona’s High Incarceration Rates

In December 2016, The American Friends Service Committee published a report entitled A New Public Safety Framework for Arizona:  Charting a Path Forward.  The Report gave an overview of the Arizona sentencing laws that led to high rates of incarceration compared to other states.

One cause is mandatory sentencing according to A.R.S. § 13-702 through 707.  These laws have shifted the power of discretion in determining sentences from judges to prosecutors:

“The incentive is for prosecutors to stack as many charges as possible against the defendant in order to convince them to accept a plea to a lesser charge rather than take their case to trial. Trials are lengthy and expensive. Plea bargains are the “grease in the wheels” of the criminal justice system, ensuring that cases are adjudicated quickly. By bringing a high number of charges against a defendant, the prosecutor can credibly say that if the person were to take their case to trial and lose, they would be facing an extremely long sentence. Thus, the vast majority take the plea that is offered to them. In 2010, plea bargains accounted for 95.6 percent of all felony criminal convictions in Maricopa County; only 1.6 percent of felony criminal cases filed went to trial, according to court records.42 “Sentencing is nearly all done by plea bargaining instead of before a judge in open court,” said Pima County Public Defender Robert Hirsh, “The deal is always driven by the risk of a higher sentence.” Visit the original PDF here.

Another cause is harsh sentences for drug offenses.  The Report noted:

“In general, Arizona applies a much longer sentence for lower amounts of both possession and sales. For example, to qualify for a charge of possession for sale of marijuana, an individual would have to have 50lbs of the substance in Texas and 100lbs in Nevada. But possession of just 4lbs in Arizona is enough to charge for this category of “drug sales,” and can result in a minimum sentence of 4 years in prison. Yet, in Nevada, that same charge—triggered by having 25 times more marijuana— would earn the person just one year of prison time. Arizona’s drug laws treat the lowest-level sellers, most of whom are addicts, like major players in the drug market.

Many drug offenses, including possession with intent to sell, are Class 2 felonies regardless of the circumstances. This is just one felony class level below first-degree murder. Because of this, non-violent addict-sellers can get prison terms longer than some violent offenders.” First seen published on

Arizona sentencing laws are rigid and harsh. You need a defense attorney with decades of experience in negotiating favorable plea agreements for clients in order to shift the balance of power away from the prosecutors.


Check out the practice areas from Gary L. Rohlwing Attorney At Law

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