Anything You Say Can and Will Be Used Against You

The right to remain silent is one reserved for those who are suspected of committing a crime, but what happens when the arresting officer is the one whose words are used against them?

A Phoenix police officer recently lost his job after allegations the officer was verbally abusive toward suspects. The initial claim that lead to an internal investigation came from the mother of a suspect the officer encountered in 2011. The mother made claims the officer was both physically and verbally abusive to her son during the police encounter.

A valley news source, AZ Central, said the footage from the incident captures officer Richard Greco cursing at suspects and witnesses, and making disparaging remarks about them to other officers, including referring to one as “retarded,” calling another a “jack*ss” and another a “b*tch.”

While Greco claims that the instances where he used inappropriate language toward suspects were isolated, an internal investigation decided to review 30 days of the officer’s camera footage. The video footage revealed multiple instances of the officer’s misconduct. The Phoenix Police Department concluded the officer’s repeated offenses and inappropriate tactics were used enough to validate his termination. AZ Central claimed the decision to terminate Greco also involved the 2008 disciplinary action Greco received for making inappropriate comments about female co-workers in the presence of other police officers.

So what does this mean now for other police officers?

“Police officers should always try to adhere to the policies and procedures set out,” said John M. Rhude, Esq. “Video cameras or no video cameras, law enforcement officers should be held accountable for their actions and professionalism.”

Big Brother is Watching

The investigation of Richard Greco has opened the door for questions and concerns about the constant and continued presence of video cameras. On one end of the argument, the cameras ensure police officers will comply with policies and any disputes can be solved with accurate evidence. On the other end, the cameras can be viewed as a tool to provide police supervisors with a way to isolate incidents of officers’ misbehavior.

In an AZ Central interview with Sgt. Trent Crump, the police spokesman brought up a compelling point in the argument of the hinderance versus helpfulness of police camera footage. He states cameras are out there, whether they are the cellphones of suspects, witnesses or they are worn by the police, and the technology is not going anywhere, so police should learn to work as if they are always being watched.

But are police officers really always being “watched”?

The answer to that question is no. In Arizona, dashboard cameras that are utilized by other states are very uncommon. In most cases there are no cameras in Arizona police cars. Why? In DUI cases, the video usually weakens the case. The field sobriety tests and the conduct of the accused driver is never as bad on video as it is when described in the words of the officer in a police report. So because of that reality, all of the dashboard cameras were removed from patrol vehicles”

“This type of case proves that cameras may be a necessary to ensure the fair treatment of all parties involved,” Christopher P. Corso, Esq. “It’s not necessarily about mistrust, it’s about doing what is right with or without supervision.”

Mounting a Defense

Another concern with these cameras occurs when you contemplate their role in a court case. From a defense standpoint, it can be very difficult to determine if the camera was used or not.

Since policies don’t dictate that the cameras have to be turned on even when available, the state can claim that there is no video footage and the defense may never get a chance to see the footage or any of the exculpatory evidence that might be contained in the footage.From a criminal defense standpoint, that means the defense attorney has to rely on the candor of the officer involved.

Lingering Questions

It’s easy to see the issues that can arise when camera footage is available for an incident. It’s yet another sign of changing times and it illustrates how important it is that your lawyer stay on top of changes in the law regarding such technologies.

One thing remains clear: though Greco’s trial is over, the question still remains: is it unfair to use specific instances of a police officer’s misconduct against them?

Summertime Means Arizona Boating Tickets, OUI Charges

Summertime is here and as the temperature rises, vacationers will take to the water for a fun way to stay cool. Popular summertime time activities that start as innocent fun can turn dangerous when alcohol is involved in the situation.

Operating under the influence (OUI) arrests, boating tickets, reckless operation of a watercraft, assault, drinking in public and indecent exposure are common occurrences when alcohol is added to summer activities.

According to the DUI Foundation, boat operators that have a blood alcohol concentration level of 0.10% or above are an estimated ten times more likely to die in a boating accident than a sober boater. A few drinks can have much greater physical and legal consequences than people realize.

Reckless Boating Charges

Not many people are familiar with the laws and regulations that exist when boating. Those who find themselves in violation of the law due to reckless operation of a watercraft or operating under the influence face severe consequences. Every ticket or crime committed on a body of water is considered a criminal offense, and though serious jail time may not be associated with certain offenses, individuals can be criminally convicted. Out of state boaters in particular do not realize when they pay their boating fine, they have owned up to a criminal conviction. Jail time, suspension of one’s license, fines, or revocation of boating privileges are all possible consequences boaters may face when breaking the law on the water.

“Boating can be a fun activity as long as boaters realize they have responsibilities,” said John M. Rhude, Esq. “The attorneys at Corso Law Group understand that getting carried away while on the water is easy to do, so if you find yourself in a boating violation situation, we have the knowledge to help protect you.”

According to the U.S. Coast Guard Boating Safety Resource Center, alcohol is even more hazardous on the water than on land. The marine environment (motion, vibration, engine noise, sun, wind and spray) accelerates a drinker’s impairment. These stressors cause fatigue that make a boat operator’s coordination, judgment and reaction time decline even faster when using alcohol. Reckless operation of a watercraft and OUI (operating under the influence) are two of the main categories of tickets written most on bodies of water because no one anticipates the marine conditions accelerating their inebriation.

Scorpion Bay Marina, Humbuck Cove, Lake Havasu, the Salt River, Bartlett Lake, Saguaro Lake, Lake Pleasant and the Colorado River are some of the areas where law enforcement has increased enforcement for boaters and the public.

Other Offenses

The DUI Foundation states that when a person consumes alcohol, it affects his or her cognitive abilities and judgment. This means that it is difficult to process information, assess situations, and make proper decisions. Individuals who are unable to make proper decisions often find themselves in assault, drinking in public and indecent exposure situations. With the increasing number of social gatherings during the summer months, the risk of alcohol consumption leading to legal trouble increases at a quick rate.

“Assault, indecent exposure and drunk and disorderly charges may seem like minor offenses at the time, but they can affect you negatively later in life,” said Christopher P. Corso, Esq. “An indecent exposure charge, if not handled correctly, can result in an individual becoming a registered sex offender. No one wants to ruin their reputation and chances for future employment. Our attorneys can help restore your reputation or prevent it from damage in the first place.”

Please contact Corso Law Group today for a free consultation. To schedule a free consultation, please call (480) 471-4616.

Scottsdale Police Sergeant’s Conduct Spurs Questions

Police officers are known for protecting and serving citizens. But what happens when the actions of these individuals are called into question?

Earlier this year, the validity of case report testimony by one Scottsdale Police Sergeant, Anthony Bellissimo, was questioned, leading to his resignation. Unanswered questions about cases he was involved in over his career remain, including ongoing cases.

False Testimony

On April 7, Bellissimo was on duty when a shots-fired call was received at Jackrabbit Lounge, in the 4200 block of North Drinkwater Boulevard. According to the report, Bellissimo was to supervise officers, impound evidence and write a report at the site of the shooting.Arizona Speeding Tickets

According to the report, Bellissimo not only failed to fulfill his duties as sergeant but also provided misleading reports as to his whereabouts.

According to an internal-affairs report, when confronted with information about the shots-fired call, Bellissimo claimed he was handling a fighting call at 2:19 a.m. However, during their investigation, Scottsdale investigators pulled records that showed the fighting call came in at 2:40 a.m., 21 minutes after the shots-fired call.

In addition, Bellissimo indicated to investigators that he had interviewed an officer by phone about the call and he “distinctly remember[s] making a phone call.” Despite his claim, cell phone data shows that Bellissimo never made the phone call to another officer about the shots-fired claim.

Although Bellissimo has not been charged, the internal-affairs report concluded that, “all of [the] statements about his [Bellissimo’s] availability to respond were untrue.”

The Aftermath

Bellissimo resigned on May 16 while the Internal Affairs Unit Officers investigated the April 7 shots-fired call. The Scottsdale Police found that Bellissimo was untruthful in interviews, showed poor judgment and failed to supervise the April 7 report of shots fired near the Jackrabbit Lounge in Scottsdale, AZ.

In such cases, officers’ names are typically placed on an “integrity list” of Maricopa County police officers whose truthfulness has been challenged, said Jerry Cobb, a spokesman for the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.

Many cases handled by Bellissimo, including Arizona DUI arrests, may now be called into question due to doubts about his truthfulness.

What This Means for Defendants

Such cases illustrate the need to always protect yourself and your family with a qualified, experienced criminal defense lawyer. Knowledge of this and similar cases can help in your defense. Hiring an experienced Arizona DUI attorney is strongly advised since an Arizona DUI conviction will remain on your record permanently and will be used as a prior offense for the next seven years.

Our criminal defense team in Scottsdale has been involved in more than 15,000 DUI cases in Arizona. and we give you the benefit of our expertise when fighting your case.

Having an Arizona DUI attorney with experience means your case will be handled by DUI lawyers who know how the system works and how to best defend you against an Arizona DUI or drunk driving charge.

Please contact Corso Law Group today for a free consultation. Our criminal defense attorneys will meet with you to discuss your unique situation and help you determine the best means of action.

To schedule a free consultation, please call (480) 471-4616. Corso Law Group is located at 14500 N. Northsight Blvd., Suite 116 in Scottsdale, Arizona, 85260.

Arizona DUI Charges Can Spoil Fourth of July Fireworks, According to Arizona DUI Lawyers

Scottsdale, Ariz. – Fourth of July weekend can be a dangerous time on Arizona roads. Hundreds of Arizona DUI arrests will be made during the Fourth of July weekend and the experienced Arizona DUI lawyers at Corso Law Group know that many Fourth of July celebrations this year will end with a very costly arrest.

Mobile DUI units will be out in force on Fourth of July and the DUI checkpoints mean plenty of Arizonans will receive DUI citations. Last year, 505 Arizona residents were arrested for driving under the influence, down from 523 Arizona DUI during the 2011 Fourth of July weekend. In 2010, 434 people were cited for DUIs during Fourth of July weekend, up from 350 the year before.

“People tend to relax their standards during long holiday weekends and end up facing an Arizona DUI as a result,” said Christopher Corso, Esq., of the Scottsdale-based law firm Corso Law Group. “They don’t think twice about driving after having a couple of beers and that can be a recipe for disaster for everyone involved.”

Corso knows from experience the problems Arizona DUIs can cause. He previously prosecuted DUIs, DWIs and OUIs for the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office. Combined, Corso Law Group have handled more than 15,000 DUI cases as prosecutors and defense attorneys.

“It’s never okay to drink and drive,” Corso said. “The state of Arizona makes such mistakes very costly for DUI defendants.”

Arizona law requires that any person found guilty of drinking and driving (even a first offense) serve jail time. And DUI convictions can also include extensive fines up to $2,500, suspension of driving privileges and the installation of an ignition interlock device – even for first offenders.

“Think before you drink and drive,” Corso said. “Doing so will keep you from becoming a statistic and keep your family safe.”

The Arizona DUI attorneys at Corso Law Group do everything in their power to protect defendant’s families and advocate for their rights. They have the experience and expertise to deal with DUI charges in Arizona and will fight to get the charges dismissed and preserve their family.

Every DUI defense case in Arizona is different, however, and the outcome is dependent upon the specific facts and circumstances surrounding the DUI charges, which makes having an experienced Arizona DUI defense attorney even more important.

In addition to DUIs and DWIs, Corso Law Group handles a myriad of criminal cases, including domestic violence defense, possession of drugs, felony drug charges, photo radar, criminal speeding, disorderly conduct and marijuana possession.

Corso Law Group serves clients throughout Arizona, including the cities of Ahwatukee, Avondale, Buckeye, Chandler, El Mirage, Gilbert, Glendale, Goodyear, Mesa, Peoria, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Sun City, Surprise, Tempe, Tolleson and Youngtown.

To schedule a free consultation, please visit www.corsolawgroup.com or call (480) 471-4616. Corso Law Group, PLLC is located at 14500 N. Northsight Blvd., Suite 116 in Scottsdale, Arizona, 85260.

Celebrating Independence Day in a Safe Way: Don’t Drink and Drive

The Fourth of July is known as a time for celebrations, barbecues and fireworks. Unfortunately, the Independence Day holiday has also become notorious for DUI charges and reckless driving. While celebrating July 4th with alcohol is fine in moderation, drinking can turn dangerous when mixed with driving.

“People tend to relax their standards during long holiday weekends and end up facing an Arizona DUI as a result,” said Christopher Corso, Esq., of the Scottsdale-based law firm Corso Law Group. “They don’t think twice about driving after having a couple of beers and that can be a recipe for disaster for everyone involved.”

Safety is obviously the most important reason to not drink and drive. Considering the legal consequences is yet another. In fact, Arizona has some of the toughest DUI laws in the country, meaning a DUI stop in Phoenix can easily turn into a felony DUI. And Arizona DUIs are criminal offenses punishable by up to six months in jail and up to a $2,500 fine plus an 84 percent surcharge.

2012 DUI Stops in Arizona

According to CBS 5 News, Arizona patrol units made 11,624 drunk stops last year during the 4th of July. Out of the 11,624 stops that were made, 505 drivers were caught and 161 were considered Extreme DUI (blood alcohol levels above 0.15). Officers also arrested nine more minors in 2012, for being behind the wheel after drinking. While the 2012 statistics show a decrease in drunk driving since 2011, those numbers could be further reduced by knowledgeable drivers this year.

DUI Statistics

Esurance created the following infographic on drinking and driving in an effort to reduce the number of drunk Fourth of July drivers.

Drunk Driving Statistics

Adding alcohol to any situation impairs one’s ability to think clearly and make decisions, so think before you drink. Make this Fourth of July safe for you, and those around you.

Helpful Links

http://dui.drivinglaws.org/arizona.php

http://www.azgohs.gov/programs/default.asp?ID=14

Bad Science Leading to Questionable Scottsdale DUI Charges

In Arizona, a DUI conviction is not something taken lightly when deciding punishment. If convicted of a DUI, penalties could include a minimum jail time of 24 hours, a license suspension and numerous fines.

According to the Arizona Government of Highway Safety, in 2012 there was a total of 30,433 DUI arrests. However, recent evidence shows a portion of these could be mistakenly penalized due to faulty technology. Scottsdale’s police lab is currently under fire for alleged defective equipment used to determine the blood alcohol content level of those charged with DUIs in Scottsdale.Arizona DUI Charges

Court documents indicate Scottsdale police have known about potential problems with the blood-testing equipment over the past few years. The police lab switched its software in 2009, however, lab technicians continued to use old software in a new blood-testing machine. These are reportedly incompatible and has potentially caused as many as 50 percent of processed blood samples to read inaccurately.

The software glitch was first recognized when lab employees noticed labeled vials with wrong names or numbers, machine failure during tests and showed repetitive blood alcohol tests of 40 people at a time which, according to Scottsdale Attorney Craig Rosenstein, “statistically is not going to happen.”

The Email Trail

Although Sgt. Mark Clark released a statement saying the Scottsdale police lab has “met or exceed[ed] the rigorous standards set by [the] American Society of Crime Lab Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board,” multiple emails between Scottsdale lab employees and their supervisors acknowledged that there was clearly a problem with a machine in the lab.

One email mentioned how the machine failed a test but was logged as having passed. Regardless of the complication, results from tests that were run on that machine were published. Another email indicated that some employees thought the machine should be taken out of service completely.

The emails also exposed at least one concerned lab employee reporting problems with a blood-testing machine to the manufacturer, who wanted to correct the “malfunctioning equipment.”

Another employee who worked directly with the equipment wrote to managers that a machine had failed its weekly autotune check but despite the failure, an entry was made in the log stating that it had “passed the check and casework was done using the instrument.”

The Aftermath

Getting charged with a DUI can have many drastic effects on someone’s life such as loss of employment and long term effects like finding a new job.

“Because this problem is just hitting the surface there is no way of knowing how many people have been affected,” said Christopher P. Corso of Corso Law Group. “We’re talking about potentially hundreds of DUI cases. It’s yet another example of why you should hire an experienced Arizona DUI lawyer to represent you in such cases.

What You Can Do

Hiring an experienced DUI attorney is always the best way to protect you and your family. A DUI conviction will remain on your record permanently and will be used as a prior offense for the next ten years. One criminal defense team in Scottsdale has worked with over 15,000 DUI cases.

Corso Law Group will give you the benefit of their expertise when fighting for your case. Having an Arizona DUI attorney with experience means your case will be handled by DUI lawyers who know how the system works and how to best defend you against an Arizona DUI or drunk driving charge.