Arizona’s Civil Forfeiture Laws Receive Poor Grade

Arizona’s civil forfeiture laws rank as some of the worst in the country, with a D- rating from Policing for Profit, a national report card grading these laws in every state by The Institute for Justice.

What is Civil Forfeiture?

If police believe that a person’s property could be linked to criminal activity, they can seize the assets in question to use as evidence during a trial.

These laws are considered controversial because even if no one is charged or convicted, law enforcement can keep up to 100 percent of the seized assets unless, depending on the state’s specific laws, the owner can prove his or her innocence in the case.

Arizona’s D- Grade for Civil Forfeiture Laws

In order for the government to seize property in Arizona, it only has to show that the property is more likely than not linked to a crime.

Another contributing factor to the state’s low grade is the law’s requirement of innocent property owners to bear the burden of proof. Essentially, you are considered guilty until proven innocent. This means you must prove your innocence if you want to get your property back.

Due to considerable fees associated with filing to get items back, many are discouraged to even try. For example, an Arizona woman had to pay a $304 filing fee just to gain the right to challenge the seizure of her assets in court.

The Problem with Asset Forfeiture

Why would law enforcement want to keep seized assets even if no one was charged? According to the FBI, the purpose of asset forfeiture is to, “undermine the economic infrastructure of the criminal enterprise.” By taking away assets and property linked to a crime, police aim to discourage criminal activity and make it less profitable for those involved.

Although criminals and innocent property owners may never see their seized assets again, certain parties are definitely profiting from these laws.

Last year, Arizona earned $36 million in forfeiture revenue, and a significant proportion of this money paid for salaries and overtime for law enforcement officers.

From 2000 to 2014, the state collected $412 million in forfeiture revenue, with 28 percent, or $62 million, of that total spent on “administrative expenses,” which includes benefits, salaries and overtime, The Arizona Republic reports.

Currently, local and national organizations, including the Institute for Justice, are hoping to reform Arizona’s forfeiture laws.

Violent Crimes on Game Day: Are Football Games Dangerous?

How safe is it to be a fan at a football game? With emotions running high due to team loyalties, tense rivalries and alcohol consumption before and during the game, what seems like a fun sporting event can end in serious legal trouble.

Recently, three San Francisco 49ers fans were charged with felony assault for brutally beating a Minnesota Vikings fan after a Monday night game at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.

In 2014, Arizona police arrested two men on assault charges, and stadium security removed several others involved in the two fights that took place in the upper decks of the Cardinals stadium in Glendale.

While these incidents sometimes fly under the radar of stadium security, who can be overwhelmed by 70,000 screaming fans, others are taking notice.

An investigative report on stadium crimes by Seattle news station, KIRO-TV, reviewed approximately 10,000 incidents over two-and-a half seasons, finding hundreds of felony and misdemeanor crimes had occurred during this time.

KIRO-TV also revealed that the National Football League (NFL) keeps a detailed crime record for each stadium on game day, but doesn’t always share this record with police in hopes of protecting certain teams.

The NFL is reacting to growing awareness of violent fan crimes by facilitating communication between each franchise and local law enforcement and stadium security to focus on crowd safety, The Arizona Republic reports.

Currently, most NFL teams have a hotline fans can text to notify stadium officials of concerns and problems during a game, but is this enough to keep thousands of fans in line during a heated game?

Next time you’re watching your favorite team, be aware of escalating arguments, potential fights and drunk drivers.

Our attorneys know from experience that assault and DUI are common charges in Arizona after a big game or event.

Paradise Valley Drone Ordinance on Par with New FAA Regulations

Soon after Paradise Valley passed a drone ordinance of its own, the first of its kind in the Valley, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced new regulations for drone owners, and now council members in Phoenix are weighing drone restrictions for the city.

Residents of Paradise Valley are allowed to use drones privately on their own property without restrictions, but are not allowed to use the devices on private property without permission. Those who do so could be charged with trespassing.

In terms of commercial use, the Paradise Valley ordinance states that Arizonans must register their devices with police first, a rule that aligns with the FAA’s new drone regulations.

The FAA requires registration on a government website for all drones weighing more than .5 pounds. A unique identification number will be issued, which then must be written or attached to registered devices.

Officials from the FAA hope these restrictions will minimize an inundation of drones and keep drone owners accountable for their use of this technology, while others, including officials from the Academy of Model Aeronautics, said these regulations cause unnecessary burden to drone owners, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Phoenix City Council is considering proposed rules regarding the uses of unmanned aircraft systems within the city, as well as guidelines for how Phoenix agencies should use drones, according to The Arizona Republic.

The proposed ordinance by Councilmen Sal DiCiccio and Michael Nowakowski focuses on protecting privacy and limiting government surveillance.

Sections of the proposed regulations include prohibiting:

  • Operating a drone within five miles of an airport without permission.
  • Using a drone as a weapon or operating a drone recklessly, including the usage of these devices to kill birds or animals.
  • The usage of a drone to knowingly record or view another person without consent in situations prohibited by state law.

Regulations for drone use are still very new. Depending on what city council members in Phoenix decide, these rules could be a helpful tool in protecting privacy and ensuring public safety or they could interfere with development of drone technology.

Defense Attorneys Challenge TrueAllele DNA Interpretation Software

Defense attorneys around the nation are questioning the legitimacy of the DNA interpretation software, TrueAllele, which is used by law enforcement in at least six states to assist in separating and identifying DNA evidence.

Attorneys are interested in how TrueAllele’s software works to ensure that clients aren’t wrongfully linked to crimes based on the system’s interpretation of their DNA.

According to DNA experts, DNA from multiple people can intermix on anything including gun grips, clothing and victims, The Wall Street Journal reports. These mixtures can be complex, making it difficult for labs to sort out, resulting in inconclusive evidence more than half of the time.

Only seven out of every 100 crime labs nationwide were able to correctly separate a complex DNA mixture, according to a study by the Commerce Department.

To protect their clients from incorrect DNA matches, attorneys such as Noah Geary, are challenging TrueAllele’s reliability and methodology. Geary is the lawyer for Michael Robinson, who TrueAllele linked to the fatal shooting of two men in Pennsylvania after a crime lab deemed DNA from the evidence provided was too complex to analyze.

A judge denied Geary’s request to review TrueAllele’s codes, and it is unclear whether the defense will file an appeal. Robinson could be sentenced to death as a result of these charges.

The developer of TrueAllele, Mark Perlin, continues to refuse requests to review the system’s source code, but is offering defense experts guided tests on a limited set of data.

Issues with TrueAllele aren’t the only doubts regarding the reliability of forensic methods recently. Defense attorneys and experts have also faced problems with flawed hair forensics and bite-mark evidence.

 

Scottsdale DUI Attorneys Warn of Heightened DUI Patrols on New Year’s Eve

Phoenix – Veteran Scottsdale DUI attorney and founder of Corso Law Group, Christopher Corso, says Valley residents will be under extra scrutiny during Arizona’s DUI crackdown this New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

Police are increasing saturation patrols in Phoenix, the East Valley and the West Valley throughout the holiday weekend and New Year’s Day, according to a statement by the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.

The program is tasked with lowering the number of intoxicated drivers on the road with patrols and traffic stops that resulted in 14,079 sober, designated drivers contacted to escort impaired drivers home in 2014.

Corso says Valley residents can expect to see DUI patrols and stops in the days leading up to New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

“Law enforcement officials are well aware that New Year’s Eve ranks as one of the deadliest holidays, and they’re taking action,” Corso said. “Police will be on high-alert for drunk drivers and won’t hesitate to give out citations or make arrests for traffic violations.”

In recent years, Arizona officials have steadily increased their numbers during New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, sending a message to the public that drunk driving will not be tolerated during the holidays, when approximately 42 percent of traffic fatalities are related to drinking and driving, according to the National Safety Council.

Roads are particularly dangerous after midnight toasts and during the early hours of New Year’s Day, the day of the year with the highest percent of alcohol-related deaths. On New Year’s Day, the percentage of deaths involving a car accident increases by 51 percent.

“If New Year’s Eve festivities end in legal trouble, Valley residents can count on Corso Law Group to provide the defense they need,” Corso said.

Corso Law Group is an experienced team of legal professionals who have handled thousands of Arizona DUI cases. Founder Christopher Corso is a former Maricopa County prosecutor who can help with drunk driving cases as well as other criminal defense needs such as criminal speeding, CDL tickets, photo radar tickets, felony charges, drug possession, weapons possession, violent crimes and more.

Free consultations are available with Corso Law Group by visiting https://corsolawgroup.com or calling (480) 471-4616.

Corso Law Group, PLLC is located at 14500 N. Northsight Blvd., Suite 116 in Scottsdale, Arizona, 85260.

Christopher Corso Discusses What It Takes to Be a Successful Leader

Recently, I was interviewed by TruPath, an executive search firm, as part of their company’s “Executive Interview Series”. They asked me a range of questions where I opened up about the culture at Corso Law Group, highlights and hardships in my career and my leadership philosophy that’s helped bring Corso Law Group and our clients to where we are today.

Take a look: http://bit.ly/1lcsS7q.

What’s most exciting to you at this point in your career?

After nearly 10 years in the industry, it’s rewarding to see which systems within your business are working successfully. As the head of a company, there’s a lot of trial and error in the early stages, but after a few years you realize what works for you and your team. For me, I’ve had great success as a mentor to my attorneys, and it’s been very exciting to watch them progress with the firm over time.

Give me an example of when you inspired people with a vision.

Our team understands that it’s our mission to care about the whole person, including their families, not just the case. The vision I project is showing my staff the positive outcome of treating every client with the utmost respect and care.

How do you build “culture” within your organization?

Unlike some law firms, the attorneys and legal professionals at Corso Law Group work individually and as a group to produce the best outcomes for each case. The entire firm knows about every case, which allows our attorneys to be interchangeable. Each of us has our own strengths and levels of experience to contribute, so we sit down together to look at every angle and analyze all the facts. This not only helps build a solid defense for the client, but also allows us to perform as a team and build strong relationships within the firm.

How would you describe your leadership philosophy?

You have to cater to each member of your team differently. You have to recognize that everyone has different strengths and different weaknesses, making them valuable in different ways.

I also make a point of leading by example. In our industry it might be easier for an owner to pass along the hard cases to an employee but that’s not how a successful team runs. You have to stand in the shoes of your employees and work together.

What’s the greatest compliment you’ve ever been given in your time as a leader?

I recently spoke with one of our newer attorneys, who has 20 years of legal experience but is still learning the ins and outs of how we do things at Corso Law Group, about a few mistakes he had made. We sat down together and I gave him advice and guidance on how to correct those errors and move forward. To me, this is more important than becoming upset about the mistakes that were made.

After, he told me how refreshing it was to actually come together and identify his mistakes, learn how to improve and avoid making the same errors in the future instead of just being scolded or chastised. That really puts things into perspective for you as a leader about what truly matters to your team.

Tell me about how you’ve scaled your organization. What was a defining moment or decision you made that put you on that path?

Decisions about the types of cases I take on and how I project myself as an attorney define my business everyday. Over the years, these moments have helped create a set of core values that I believe in deeply. Once we realized our philosophy worked, we knew it could be implemented anywhere.

Share with me one of your greatest accomplishments while being incredibly resource disadvantaged.

My greatest accomplishment comes from the most emotionally and financially taxing situation I’ve experienced in my career. In the middle of starting the expansion of Corso Law Group in Houston, there was a breakup in the firm’s original partnership, leaving me as the sole proprietor.

During this time, employees were leaving and the finances of the project were affected due to the break-up. I honestly wasn’t sure if the new business would ever come together.

While it was very difficult, I was ultimately able to open the Houston firm by believing in my leadership style and values. I feel accomplished knowing that we’ve overcome these challenging times, and it’s rewarding to see both locations doing very well.

How do you invest in yourself to increase your impact?

As the founder of Corso Law Group, it’s important to me to stand out as a leader by being heavily involved in my field. Currently, I belong to the American Bar Association, the Arizona Bar Association, the Maricopa County Bar Association and the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, all of which allows me to improve the legal education of myself and my staff by staying updated with the rapid changes in our industry.

How does consistent learning and curiosity show up in your organization?

The minute you believe you know it all is the minute things start to go downhill. None of us eliminate the will or desire to stop learning about our industry and this business. You have to know that you don’t know everything, and that goes for everyone in an organization.

What’s one piece of advice you have for entrepreneurs who are just starting to hire C-Level talent?

There are two pieces of advice I would give. First, make sure their goals and mindset align with the culture of your business. You need a leader who is on the same track as the rest of the team. Second, identify people who complement the skills you lack so they can pick you up and catch you when you need it.

How do you attract the best and brightest?

The way to create an outstanding team is to offer the best and the brightest attorneys an environment where they can thrive. We have a sound infrastructure at Corso Law Group that is stable and organized. We’ve honed in on a unique system that focuses on teamwork as well as constant learning and improvement.

Demonstrate that you, the leader of the company, are focused on providing the optimal environment for each of your employees, and you’ll attract the right kind of people to your organization.

If you could go back to when you were just starting out at your organization and give yourself one piece of advice, what would you tell yourself?

While I truly believe that each mistake is part of the learning process, I would have told myself to avoid taking the easy route. Looking back, it can be tempting to accept instant gratification, but hard work and dedication to your goals will always lead you down a better, more significant path.

To schedule a free consultation with Corso Law Group, please call (480) 471-4616.

Christopher Corso Featured in US Daily Review for “Watch Out for Blackout Wednesday” Interview

Arizona DUI lawyer Christopher Corso discussed “Blackout Wednesday”, the evening before Thanksgiving day, and the shocking drunk driving statistics which accompany the holiday with Price of Business host, Kevin Price.

According to U.S. Department of Transportation, approximately 91 percent of travel will take place by personal vehicle over Thanksgiving, one reason why “Blackout Wednesday”, or commonly referred to as “Drinksgiving”, is a very dangerous time to drive. According to MADD, 40 percent of highway deaths in the U.S. are caused by alcohol-related crashes over the Thanksgiving holiday, starting on “Blackout Wednesday”.

Drivers should also be aware of being ticketed for other traffic violations.

“Travel contributes to Thanksgiving being one of the deadliest holidays of the year,” Corso said. “Nationwide, these numbers are also similar but out West, especially states with No-Refusal, that’s where you’re going to see an increase in DUIs. You just need to remember to be safe out there.”

Listen to the full interview here:  http://bit.ly/1XIcgjM.

With more than 50 years of criminal defense experience, Corso Law Group is an experienced team of legal professionals who have handled thousands of Arizona DUI cases. Founder Christopher Corso is a former Maricopa County prosecutor who can help with drunk driving cases as well as other criminal defense needs such as criminal speeding, CDL tickets, photo radar tickets, felony charges, drug possession, weapons possession, violent crimes and more.

To schedule a free consultation with Corso Law Group, please call (480) 471-4616.

Christopher Corso Featured in The Huffington Post for Blackout Wednesday

Arizona DUI lawyer Christopher Corso was featured in The Huffington Post during Thanksgiving to comment on the social phenomenon known as “Blackout Wednesday.”

Drunk driving accidents increase by 30 percent during the four-day period spanning Thanksgiving Eve through the following Sunday, MADD reports. In fact, Thanksgiving Eve is a particularly dangerous time to drive and is commonly referred to as “Blackout Wednesday” or “Drinksgiving.”

“There’s no getting around the fact people are drinking way too much over the Thanksgiving holiday,” Corso said. “We’ve seen the numbers increase over the last several years and it really drives home the point Thanksgiving is a very dangerous time of the year. Instead of just focusing on New Year’s Eve, people need to remember Thanksgiving.”

With more than 50 years of criminal defense experience, Corso Law Group is an experienced team of legal professionals who have handled thousands of Arizona DUI cases. Founder Christopher Corso is a former Maricopa County prosecutor who can help with drunk driving cases as well as other criminal defense needs such as criminal speeding, CDL tickets, photo radar tickets, felony charges, drug possession, weapons possession, violent crimes and more.

To schedule a free consultation with Corso Law Group, please call (480) 471-4616.