Labor Day Weekend Means Arizona DUI Arrests Increase, According to Arizona DUI Lawyers Corso Law Group

While Labor Day means the end of summer, the experienced Arizona DUI lawyers at Corso Law Group know it can also mean the beginning of a very costly DUI mistake for many Arizonans.

“You should never drink and drive,” said Christopher P. Corso of Corso Law Group. “But every year we see Arizonans do just that without understanding the severe consequences of their actions. Arizona is very tough on DUI offenders. We’ve seen the proof firsthand.”

Corso knows from experience the problems that can arise from long holiday weekends. He previously prosecuted DUIs, DWIs and OUIs for the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office. Combined, the two Arizona DUI lawyers have handled more than 15,000 DUI cases as prosecutors and defense attorneys.

Last year, 564 people were arrested in Arizona for drinking and driving. And while the number of alcohol DUI arrests were down (9 percent), the percentage of Arizona drug DUI charges increased by 25 percent.

“Whether it’s an increase or a decrease, DUIs are a serious mistake that no one can afford to make,” Corso said. “Anyone facing an Arizona DUI charge needs the experience of an aggressive DUI lawyer fighting on their side.”

Experience matters in defending Arizona DUI cases, according to the Arizona DUI lawyers at Corso Law Group. 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.

“A DUI conviction can follow you indefinitely,” Corso said. “In the short term, losing your Arizona driver’s license can cost you a job. In the long run, it can cost you many more jobs as potential employers conduct background checks.”

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.

Corso Law Group has quickly built a reputation for its vigorous defense of clients, using its lawyers’ previous experience with the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office and other prosecutorial agencies to assist its clients with their criminal defense cases.

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.

Are Police Roadblocks Unconstitutional?

It is a typical evening. You’re driving down the road with the radio on. Up ahead you see the flash of a police car telling you to pull over. Anxiety immediately sets in, even though you know you have not done anything wrong.

It’s called a roadblock, which can be used as a seatbelt, ID or sobriety checkpoint.

According to The Roadblock Registry, “Roadblocks are usually established in locations that prevent easy avoidance, offer ample parking for interrogating suspected law violators and issuing tickets, and usually in places and during times that will not cause serious traffic tie ups.”

According to the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment,”The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath, or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

So the question is: are roadblocks constitutional according to the Fourth Amendment?

The answer is unclear. Thirty-eight states, including the District of Columbia, the Northern Mariana Islands and the Virgin Islands, conduct sobriety checkpoints. The other 12 states prohibit these roadblocks based on interpretation of state law or the federal Constitution. In Arizona, checkpoints are conducted at least once per month.

“There is no state law in Arizona that specifically defines the legality of checkpoints,” said Christopher P. Corso, Esq. “In the past, Arizona courts have relied on the Compelling Government Interest Doctrine, which applies strict scrutiny protecting our right to travel, right to vote and most importantly our right to privacy.”

Case Examples

On July 2, a seatbelt checkpoint was conducted by the Beckley Police Department in Beckley, West Virginia. At the time a seat belt law was not in effect. The search according to infowars.com yielded five arrests, the seizure of 96 grams of marijuana, crack cocaine and $1,500 in cash. If their state seat belt law did not go into effect until July 9, than what were these police officers really up to?

Another case example, on June 26 in Knoxville, Tennessee the Tennessee Highway Patrol was conducting a seatbelt checkpoint as part of their “I-75 Stay Alive Blitz” Campaign. Checkpoints in this state are upheld by state law and the federal Constitution. While the officer ran a driver’s license check, the passenger, a 24-year-old man, got behind the wheel and fled the scene. According to WATE.com, he could be facing charges of driving under the influence, driving under a suspended license, resisting arrest, evading arrest in a motor vehicle, leaving the scene of an accident and reckless endangerment. The clincher: up until the checkpoint, the driver was not committing any suspicious behavior.

Should the public be notified of these roadblocks in advance?

In Arizona court case Ekstrom v. Justice Court the court stated, “the efficacy of deterrent roadblock is heightened by publicity in the media. Advance notice would limit intrusion upon personal dignity and security because those being stopped would anticipate and understand what was happening.”

What should you do if you get stopped?

“If you are pulled over most importantly do not permit the officer to voluntarily search your vehicle,” said John M. Rhude, Esq. “Only roll down your window far enough to hand the officer your driver’s license and registration. After 20 minutes, ask the officer if you are free to go. They have no obligation and will not tell you to leave. Lastly, exercise your right to a lawyer and do not answer any questions.”

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

Scottsdale Increases Photo Radar Camera Presence

All Arizona drivers have experienced that panic stricken moment when the flash of a traffic camera goes off. Immediately, they check their speedometers and glance around to see if someone else could have been the cause. These anxieties will not be put at ease any time soon as additional mobile photo enforcement devices are implemented around school zones in Scottsdale.

Drivers Beware

Since July 21, portable towers have been randomly placed in Scottsdale’s 31 different school sites and the devices will be moved to other high-traffic areas when school is not in session.

School zones are already danger zones for drivers who do not adhere to the strict speed limit. Speeding drivers face harsh fines in addition to other penalties depending on the speed the driver was going at the time of the incident.

In fact, it’s very plausible that a regular speeding ticket could become a criminal speeding ticket when you add school zone enforcement to the equation. Here’s how: If a school zone is normally 40 mph during non-school hours,you can easily end up with a criminal ticket if you get caught during the zone hours thinking otherwise. And criminal speeding tickets are much more impactful on any driving record.

“Speeding in a school zone is never a good idea,” said John M. Rhude. “But there are already police officers in the area while school is in session waiting for someone to violate the speed limit. Adding portable towers to those zones means the area will be constantly monitored.”

According to Arizona Driving University, “in this state, all typical speeding citation fines are doubled, with some of the proceeds going toward the Safe Routes to School statewide program. According to this legislation, passed in 2006, if a moving traffic violation is committed while the school zone lights are flashing or the “Stop When Children in Crosswalk” signs are posted, the fine will be an automatic minimum of $200. Depending on the offense, you might also get two or three points on your license. You may or may not be eligible to attend defensive driving school to erase your penalties.”

Why are these photo enforcement towers necessary? Most drivers may view the portable towers as an inconvenience, but statistics have shown that the presence of the photo enforcement devices lead to a decrease in the number of car collisions overall.

“No one enjoys dealing with driving fines and citations from traffic cameras,” said Christopher P. Corso, Esq. “But if the presence of a photo enforcement device alone can reduce the number of car collisions, then they can be considered somewhat beneficial to society.”

How can drivers combat getting ticketed in these new enforcement areas? Simple, slow down. Being aware that enforcement has increased in these areas will help drivers to be more aware of their surroundings and make the road safer for all drivers.

For Better or Worse: When Divorced Couples Are Forced to Live Together

As Arizona family lawyers, we see many different scenarios when two people decide to legally end their marriage. Recently, we’ve seen a growing trend emerge: couples who want to get divorced but can’t afford not to live together after the divorce.

More and more couples who decide to legally separate from one another are still living together after the divorce has been finalized. Why would two individuals who struggled to live together as husband and wife want to continue to live with one another after a divorce? The simple answer is finances.

Because of this, it’s important to retain an Arizona divorce lawyer who can successfully extricate you from a marriage. Many times, we’ve discovered, these types of divorces end on an amicable note because both parties involved in the divorce still have to see each other when they get home. That’s where having an experienced divorce lawyer becomes very important.

A Calculated Move

After deducting the high cost of a divorce from the equation, couples who are already dealing with financial debt view living together as a way to salvage their personal finances. Many divorcees are faced with the burden of trying to maintain two households, so only maintaining one is more manageable financially.

Aside, from the overall expense of divorce, the housing market has been an additional contributing factor as to why couples remain living under the same roof. Homes are not worth what they used to be, and selling the home would only perpetuate the debt homeowners have accumulated. Living together is seen as the only option.

Hiring an experienced family law attorney can help you decide if this is the best option for you. As Arizona divorce lawyers, we have a wide range of professional contacts who can help you determine whether or not you will be able to finance your existing home in your own name. If it’s not possible, then it helps to know this so you don’t spend resources in court fighting for something you can’t keep.

It’s easy to see how this can become complicated very quickly. That’s where experience becomes a necessity. From our perspective, these cases differ greatly from most divorce cases and must be handled with a great deal of discretion. In some cases, one of the parties appears on the mortgage but both parties are being ordered to pay their half of the monthly payments, a scary concept for the one person on the mortgage who really has skin in the game if the payments aren’t made.

Will This Continue?

It appears it will for the at least the time being. Until the housing and financial markets start to make a comeback, we anticipate more couples arriving at this solution. Negotiating the divorce settlement amicably becomes that much more important.

Will the decision for divorced couples to continue living together payoff? Only time will tell.

The Case of Debra Milke

In the United States, individuals who are suspected of a crime are supposed to remain innocent until proven guilty. But what happens when the evidence used to convict faces its own scrutiny years later?

That question will once again take center stage in Arizona this year as an Arizona mother is re-tried for a highly publicized crime committed almost 24 years ago.

On January 18, 1991, Debra Jean Milke was sentenced to death for her involvement in the conspiracy to murder her four-year-old son, Christopher. Milke was convicted and sentenced to death based on a verbal confession she gave to a police detective – a detective whose own actions would be called into question years later.

After spending 22 years in prison, Milke’s murder conviction was overturned earlier this year and she was ordered to be released. Less than three months later, a retrial of Milke’s case was ordered.

Debora Milke

As defense attorneys and former prosecutors, we know that a retrial is difficult in a case like this simply because so much time has passed. People move away or die, and original evidence can sometimes be unusable. This case will be especially difficult because of the lack of evidence against the defendant when the case first went to court. Factor in the changed circumstances and motives for other witnesses and the ability to win a retrial becomes even harder.

A trip to visit Santa

According to court documents, Milke and her four-year-old son, Christopher, shared an apartment with James Styers. While Milke worked at an insurance agency, Styers watched Christopher.

In September 1989, shortly after beginning a new job, Milke took out a $5,000 life insurance policy on Christopher as part of her employee benefit plan. The policy named Milke as the beneficiary. Sometime between the time she bought the policy and the time of Christopher’s death, Milke and Styers discussed the policy and the benefits.

On Saturday, December 2, 1989, Styers, with Milke’s permission and use of her car, took Christopher from the apartment. Styers told Christopher they were going to Metrocenter so Christopher could see Santa Claus. Styers then picked up Roger Scott, and the two men and Christopher had lunch and ran some errands.

Later, Styers told police that he first dropped Scott off and then took Christopher to Metrocenter to see Santa Claus. Styers told the police he had to use the restroom, so he took Christopher into the men’s room at Sears and had him wait outside the stall.

According to Styers, that’s when Christopher disappeared. Styers reported this scenario to Metrocenter security; eventually the police were called. In this initial testimony, Styers claimed that he met Scott outside of Sears while looking for Christopher, that Scott told him that he had come to Metrocenter with a friend named Phil, that Styers and Scott looked for Christopher, and that Styers eventually walked Scott to the bus stop and Scott went home.

The Phoenix police interviewed Scott. His first story coincided with Styers’, but ultimately Scott led police to Christopher’s body. After that, a Phoenix police detective interviewed Milke. She was told that her son had been found shot to death in the desert and that she was under arrest.

Milke told police that she did not have a $5,000 life insurance policy on Christopher, but her father did. She denied that insurance money was her motivation, but admitted that it may have been Styers’ and Scott’s because Styers knew of the policy. Milke was taken into custody.

A question of evidence

A lack of physical evidence pervaded Milke’s case and trial. The only evidence that could provide motive for the murder were the inconsistencies in her testimony about Christopher’s life insurance policy: Milke initially denied having a life insurance policy on Christopher, which later changed. Milke later admitted to purchasing Christopher’s life insurance policy.

The inconsistencies of Milke’s statement lead the trial court to believe the insurance policy was the motive behind killing Christopher.

According to an article written by the New York Times, Phoenix police Detective Armando Saldate said Milke confessed to plotting the boy’s death in an unrecorded conversation while they were alone. Milke denied confessing, making his account of what happened a case of he said, she said.

Based on this testimony, Milke was convicted of ordering Christopher’s death to claim a share of the insurance policy she had taken out on him.

“The credibility of Armando Saldate should have been called into question before now,” said John M. Rhude. “Saldate has a documented record of perjury and tainting confessions, who is to say that Saldate’s account of Debra Milke’s unrecorded confession was accurate?”

Another source, Injustice Anywhere, states the warning signs that Milke was wrongfully convicted as defined by the Michigan Law University and Northwestern Law:

Co-Defendant Confessed (CDC) – A co-defendant of the exoneree, or a person who might have been charged as a co-defendant, gave a confession that also implicated the exoneree.

False Confession (FC) – The exoneree falsely confessed if (1) he or she made a false statement to authorities which was treated as a confession, (2) the authorities claimed that the exoneree made such a statement but the exoneree denied it, or (3) the exoneree made a statement that was not an admission of guilt, but was misinterpreted as such by the authorities.

Inadequate Legal Defense (ILD) – The exonoree’s lawyer at trial or on appeal provided obviously and grossly inadequate representation.

Official Misconduct (OM) – Police, prosecutors, or other government officials significantly abused their authority or the judicial process in a manner that contributed to the exoneree’s conviction.

Perjury or False Accusation (P/FA) – A person other than the exoneree falsely accused the exoneree of committing the crime for which the exoneree was later exonerated, either in sworn testimony or otherwise.

As Milke’s case goes back to trial, she faces being sent to death row once again. And the questionable confession used to convict her almost a quarter century ago will once again be called into question.

Head Back to School the Safe Way

It’s that time of year again. Summer is over, and it’s time to start packing up the kids for the new school year. A feeling of worry always seems to accompany sending young children back to school, especially as those kids become more independent. Is there a way to put these worries at ease? In the technological world we live in today, there is.

A variety of applications are available for smartphones specifically designed to help parents keep their children safer. Below is a list of popular child safety apps, and how they can keep your family safe.

MamaBear

MamaBear Sample Screen

This app is designed to help keep your child safe online. MamaBear provides parents with access to their child’s Facebook feed, and sends alerts if there are signs of bullying and inappropriate language. It also monitors their check-ins and tagged photos. Offline, parents will receive alerts when their child leaves a location, when they need to be picked up or when they need a parent in an emergency situation.

Norton Safety Minder

This app is designed to monitor a child’s electronic activity and their smartphone habits. The child-safety app can be downloaded to a child’s smartphone or Kindle Fire device. Parents can view the websites kids visit, block the sites they access, see who and what your kids are texting and what apps they install.

Near Parent

Near Parent allows parents to care for their children through a social network of people they trust. Children can check in and the app will let parents know that everything is okay. If a child is in need of help, a request is sent to a community of trusted adults chosen by the parent. With MyZones, parents can define safe areas for their children with a set timeframe of when their child should be in a specific area. There is also an option to set up weather warnings in order to receive notifications for various kinds of weather events such as floods, heat and earthquakes.

Hero

Hero keeps both parents and children safe by spreading vital information such as abductions, robberies and car accidents quickly. Users can stream video, audio and GPS coordinates to their social network contacts and all other app users within a five-mile radius, providing details that can aid in locating a missing child or a potential suspect.

Sending children back to school doesn’t have to cause a parent to worry. Peace of mind is only a download away.

Massachusetts Legal System Struggles with Crime Lab Scandal, Evidence Issues

When it comes to criminal prosecution, making sure evidence is secure is always a vital piece of proving any criminal charge. However, when Annie Dookhan worked as a chemist in the Hinton State Laboratory in Boston’s historic Jamaica Plain neighborhood, she neglected to ensure that key evidence was secure. She is now embroiled in a Boston crime lab scandal.

The Damage

Dookhan admitted to tampering and mishandling evidence for years. She confessed to sometimes recording drug evidence as positive when it was actually negative. According to Dookhan, she would take a handful of drug samples, only test one or two of them, then conclude that the rest of the samples were also positive. She also took samples out of the evidence room without signing it out. Massachusetts Crime Lab Scandal

As a result of Dookhan’s admission, the Hinton State Laboratory was forced to shut down and all 34,000 cases that Dookhan handled are now being reviewed. At least 100 people imprisoned by faulty evidence have already been released.

Defendants are Granted Freedom

While some defendants’ convictions can be upheld on gun or assault charges, for example, most drug cases in which Dookhan was the primary chemist will be impossible to prove beyond a reasonable doubt.

However, it is unclear where to draw the line. According to Middlesex County District Attorney Gerry Leone, some offenders are arguing that every test from the lab where Dookhan worked should be considered tainted.

In another recent case, a defendant had their guilty plea withdrawn because Dookhan proved to be a secondary chemist in the case. The argument was that the lab was “pretty much wholly and fully contaminated by Ms. Annie Dookhan because she had access to everyone’s drugs.”

What You Can Do

Criminal convictions can cost jobs, driver’s licenses, child custody, marriages – and can even result in deportation for non-citizens. To face conviction because of unethical crime lab work is a perfect example of the importance of hiring criminal defense lawyers who spend their time not only defending their clients, but also protecting the legal system.

No matter what the charge may be, hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney is the best way to protect yourself and your family.

The Arizona criminal defense attorneys at Corso Law Group are your advocates through whatever challenges life may present you. Corso Law Group lawyers are skilled Arizona criminal defense lawyers experienced in handling everything from DUI defense and criminal charges to civil speeding tickets.

Rest assured, our criminal defense lawyers are your advocates for any and all family issues that may arise.