When is a DUI considered a felony?

To be caught driving with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) over the legal limit is a grave legal problem that can have extremely severe consequences. However, in most cases, a first time DUI charge is still a misdemeanor offense. A misdemeanor offense is a crime for which the maximum jail sentence is less than one year. This is less serious than a felony offense, for which the maximum jail sentence can exceed one year.

DUI charges can and do become felony offenses, depending on the circumstances of the case. In many states, a DUI is only considered a misdemeanor offense, with even a single additional charge turning it into a felony offense. There are a number of additional circumstances and aggravating factors which can turn a first time DUI offense into a felony charge.

DUI Aggravating Factors

Drunken driving laws vary from state to state, but these are some circumstances which can compound the legal issues in a drunken driving case anywhere in the United States. These issues are listed below:

Prior DUI conviction – In any state in the USA, penalties are greater for a drunk driver with a prior DUI conviction. In most states, there is a time window during which a DUI remains on the perpetrators criminal record, which can be 5 to 10 years, depending on the laws of that state.

Exceptionally high BAC – Certain states have begun to increase the penalties for drivers who have comparatively high blood alcohol concentration levels when compared to other DUI cases. Some states place enhanced penalties on drivers with a BAC of 0.15 or more while other states begin enhanced penalties on a BAC level of 0.20 or more.

Refusal to take a breath test – Refusing to take a breath test can increase your legal penalties in most states. In some states, refusing to take a breath test can result in immediate revocation of your driver’s license. In other states, refusing to take the breath test itself is a crime with mandatory jail time.

However, as of July 2016, the police can no longer demand a urine or blood test without a warrant, as ruled by the United States Supreme Court.

Child endangerment – In most states, having a child with you in the car while you are driving with a BAC over the legal limit can increase the DUI from a misdemeanor to a felony charge. This can happen even if it is your own child and he or she is in the car of their own free will. In most states, this charge applies to persons under the age of 18. In some states, having a person under the age of 14 with you in the car can have even greater penalties.

Bodily injury, death or property damage – Infringing on someone else’s right to safety or damaging their property can increase the charge from a misdemeanor to a felony. Injuring another person can bring about other charges such as reckless endangerment, and that persons death can result in a charge of reckless homicide.

Apart from the above mentioned points, there are other circumstances that can result in an immediate increase in penalties including not having a valid driver’s license, being on probation for another crime, not having an interlock ignition device on the car or having multiple previous convictions. Whatever your case, make sure you contact a DUI defense attorney right away to have the charges reduced or dismissed.

What are the different classes of drug possession?

Possession of illegal narcotics and mind altering substances is a crime throughout the United States. However, all drug crimes are not the same, and the classification of drug crimes and the penalties for drug crimes vary depending on the drugs in question, the quantities of said drugs and whether or not the offender was involved in a conspiracy to distribute the said drugs for commercial gain.

Possession of paraphernalia used for the manufacture, preparation or consumption of illegal drugs can also result in a possession charge. Paraphernalia in this regard can refer to bongs, syringes, rolling papers and a variety of pipes among other items.

Drug Possession (for personal use)

According to the Controlled Substances Act 1984, if it is proven in court that someone is guilty of any of the following offenses, they can be convicted of a simple possession offense. These are:

  • To have possession of a controlled drug
  • To smoke, consume or administer to him or herself, or to allow another person to administer to them, a controlled drug
  • To have possession of any piece of equipment for use in connection with the smoking, consumption or administration of a controlled drug
  • To have possession of any piece of equipment for use in connection with the preparation of a controlled drug for smoking, consumption or administration

Maximum penalties for a simple possession offense are $2000 in fines or imprisonment for two years or both for drugs other than cannabis. For cannabis, the penalties can depend greatly on the state, since attitudes about marijuana and the legal status of the drug is changing around the country these days.

Drug Possession (with intent to distribute)

An individual cannot be charged with possession with intent to distribute unless the possession and the intent to distribute have occurred at the same time. So, if an individual is only in possession of a small amount of an illicit substance that cannot be of any viable commercial value, but is more likely to have been kept for personal use, then that person cannot be charged with intent to distribute.

Similarly, if a person or group of persons have a conspiracy to acquire drugs to sell to make a commercial profit, but have not yet acquired the drugs in question, they cannot be charged with possession (with intent to distribute). However, they can be charged with the crimes of conspiracy to possess and attempt to possess, depending on the circumstances.

Drug possession for sale is usually charged as a felony offense. The specific penalties can vary depending on the state where the crime is charged, the previous criminal record of the accused and any evidence that the accused has ever sought treatment for a drug abuse problem. In some states, possession with intent to sell schedule II drugs, such as cocaine or methamphetamine, can lead to sentences of 2 to 4 years in a federal prison and fines of up to $50,000. In certain states, the occurrences of certain aggravating factors, like previous drug offenses or the illegal possession of firearms at the time of arrest, can lead to sentences of up to 40 years in prison.

Assault Charges: May I know My Rights?

An assault charge is a grave legal predicament. To be convicted of assault in the United States can result in stark penalties such as jail time, probation and heavy fines. The laws regarding assault vary from state to state but the general definition of assault across the United States is any act that seeks to cause bodily or mental harm to another person without their consent. There is a common misconception that physical contact is necessary for an assault conviction. However, even gestures and verbal threats can constitute as assault.

Types of Assault Charges

Assault charges can vary depending on the type and severity of the violation the victim claims to suffer.

Simple Assault – Any injuries sustained from the assault are minor and no weapon was used to commit it

Verbal Assault – Oral and non-physical in nature, resulting in fear, distress or emotional anguish

Sexual Assault – Sodomy, molestation, rape or any other kind of sexual offense or act committed without the victims consent

Aggravated Assault – Use of force against another individual as well as use of a weapon

Physical Assault – A serious physical attack on someone resulting in grievous bodily harm

Felonious Assault – Considered to be the most serious of all assault charges, it can include the use of a weapon, an assault that results in serious bodily harm and exercising force over another person against their will

Know Your Rights

When you have been accused of assault, it is necessary that you understand how serious your situation is and act appropriately. Your best bet would be to understand your legal rights in the given situation and act in a way that will maximize the utility that you can get from those rights.

  •  You have the right to secure the services of a qualified and professional attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, you have the right to be defended by a lawyer paid for by the state.
  • You have the right to remain silent when questioned by the police. It is always better to exercise this right if your lawyer is not present. If you are arrested by the police right after the assault charge has been placed, and you are taken to the police station, it is always better to stay quiet until your attorney arrives. Anything you say to the police can be misconstrued to improve the chances of your conviction. An experienced lawyer will know this and will know what kind of language to use when talking to the police to minimize the risk of this happening.
  • You have a right to present your own witnesses. This is an important right and can steer the outcome of the accusation in your favor. It is best for you to start compiling a list of potential witnesses as soon as you know you have been charged with assault.
  • If you have been accused of sexual assault, you have the right to scientific testing which can disprove the allegations made against you.

Shoplifting charges? What to expect in court?

Most people who find themselves in trouble for crimes like shoplifting or petty theft often think that the item they are stealing is of too little value to land them in big trouble. However, the consequences of illegally taking something that is not yours can still result in significant penalties. Depending on the value of the item shoplifted and the circumstances surrounding the theft, a petty shoplifting crime can still result in a jail sentence for up to one year and up to $2000 in financial penalties.

How to proceed in a shoplifting case?

There is no standardized way to predict a shoplifting case because the value of what was stolen could be very little, like a piece of candy, but it could also be very large, like a piece of expensive jewelry. Shoplifting laws also vary greatly from state to state. Since the nature of shoplifting cases see so much variation and are generally complicated, if you find yourself charged with shoplifting, your first course of action should be to hire an experienced and reliable criminal defense attorney.

Your attorney will most likely proceed by asking you a series of questions to gain an overview about the case at hand. You should answer all these questions as truthfully as you can so your attorney can help you. These questions will most likely be:

  • What is the value of the item or items you stole?
  • Were you intoxicated when the incident occurred?
  • Are the items you stole related to a substance abuse problem?
  • Was someone else involved in the plan to commit the theft? How many people were they? Were they minors? People with developmental disabilities or elderly?
  • Is there any video or audio evidence of the crime?
  • What is your criminal history?

Severity of shoplifting charges

In the same way as other theft or larceny related charges, the severity of shoplifting charges depends on the value of the items stolen and the items themselves. Certain items like firearms, explosives, incendiary substances, large quantities of a controlled substance (such as prescription drugs with a potential for abuse like Adderall or Oxycodone) or materials used in the manufacture of a controlled substance can lead to more severe penalties.

In most states, the spectrum of shoplifting charges runs from a low level ‘infraction,’ to a ‘misdemeanor,’ and in certain cases, even to certain degrees of ‘felony’ charges.

Where the charges against you will lie depends on your previous criminal record. Prior convictions and prior theft convictions in particular will generally make the charges against you harsher. In certain states, prior theft convictions result in more severe charges automatically. These can even be felony charges known as “petty with a prior.”

If your crime is relatively insignificant, for example if you have stolen a small perishable food item worth less than $20 and it’s the first crime on your criminal record, but the state does not want to drop the charges completely, you may have the option to participate in a pretrial diversion program or deferred prosecution. This is a type of plea bargain in which you will be required to pay a fine and most likely also complete community service.

If you are facing a shoplifting charge, get in touch with a criminal defense attorney immediately to defend your case and protect your rights. Taking the matter lightly will only complicate the issue and result in an increase in the penalties.

How to Protect Your Rights When You Are Arrested for a Crime in Arizona

Being arrested and charged with a crime is a stressful and confusing experience. One minute you are free and the next you may find yourself placed in handcuffs and transported to jail for processing.

During this period of mental and physical exhaustion, prosecutors will likely try to get you to plead guilty to a crime or make statements to incriminate yourself before you’ve had an opportunity to speak with an attorney.

The key to protecting your rights and defending yourself against criminal charges is knowing how to handle this type of situation responsibly. At the Shah Law Firm, we fight every day to make sure our clients’ constitutional rights are protected. We compiled the following guide to help you know what to expect if you ever find yourself accused of a crime. Read more

Some Useful Facts About Boating Under the Influence

We are all-too-familiar with driving under the influence (DUI), what with all the road mishaps and the injuries and fatalities they bring every year. But many do not know there are also laws against boating under the influence or BUI. Of course, not too many people own or drive boats, which is probably why awareness about BUIs is not that widespread. Nevertheless, learning the ins and outs of BUI is just as important, because roughly half of all deaths in boating accidents involve alcohol according to the U.S. Coast Guard, and you wouldn’t want to be caught up in one. Read more

Arizona DUI Tips: What You Need to Know

The Arizona DUI Court Process

The DUI Court Process can be a very intimidating process for anyone–especially for someone that has never been involved in the court process before. Mrs. Shah is extremely familiar with the Arizona DUI and Criminal Court processes throughout the entire State of Arizona. Mrs. Shah can help you navigate through this uncomfortable and complicated process.

During your initial court hearings, you very likely do not need to attend, Mrs. Shah or one of the Shah Law Firms experienced attorneys will attend on your behalf. Typically a DUI case takes several months to resolve as there are several steps that need to take place (obtaining reports, negotiating with the assigned prosecutor, etc.). It is also during this time that Mrs. Shah will be able to use her experience and best efforts to negotiate the best possible resolution of your DUI case.

In most cases, a resolution can be achieved without needing to go to trial. However, in certain cases, it may be more beneficial for you to proceed to trial. As a en experienced trial attorney, Mrs. Shah can develop the best possible trial strategy and defense if you decide to take your case to trial. Read more

7 Tips on Incarceration in Arizona

Tip #1. Enter on a full stomach. Plan on being in a holding cell for between 18 and 24 hours, both when you enter Tent City, and when being released

Tip #2. Dress warmly.  It is extremely cold at night, even in the summer. Dress in layers to allow for removal of clothing. Also, you will be sitting on concrete, so it is a good idea to have a jacket or an extra layer of clothes to remove and sit on.

Tip #3. Make sure the incarceration paperwork is correct. It is imperative that when you are done being in front of the judge, and you walk up to the court assistant who fills out paperwork, you make sure the paperwork is properly filled out. Make sure it states exactly where you are supposed to be taken to. For example, I was to be taken to Work Release, but it was not specified on my paperwork, so I was taken to the “traditional” tent city which did not have Work Release. It was awful, and this happens a LOT. There were people in there who were waiting weeks to be taken to the correct part of Tent City Read more

Top 10 Myths Surrounding DUI & DUI Law in AZ

DUI Myths in the State of Arizona

Myth # 1. I will only get stopped for a DUI if I am driving all over the road. FALSE. Officers aren’t just out looking for erratic driving. I would say about half of all people stopped, who ultimately get arrested for DUI, are driving just fine, but their license plate light is out, they forgot to turn on their headlights, they made a wide turn, didn’t use a turn signal, didn’t stop properly for a red traffic signal or stop sign, etc. The truth is, if you are out driving at a certain time of the night, or the early hours of the morning, law enforcement knows that it is likely you are drunk. They will find any reason to stop you, just to see if you truly are driving under the influence. If an officer wants to pull you over, they will find a reason. There is a flaw in Arizona law that says that if an officer “suspects” that you committed a traffic offense, then it is a legitimate stop. That means there doesn’t need to be any actual proof, only the officer’s claim that there was a traffic offense committed. It is no wonder that officers don’t have video cameras operating in their vehicles. Wouldn’t want actual proof to confirm or rebut what an officer says. There was one officer who, interestingly enough, seemed to pull over numerous people for having a license plate light out. Legitimate reason to stop a person, as it is a violation of the Traffic Code, but it is simply amazing that nearly everyone stopped had their license plate out while driving… yet magically it was working after the car stop. Judge would say it was fine, because the officer said the license plate was out while driving, even if it came back on afterwards. Read more