arizona criminal defense

Police Gain Greater Access to Phone Records with No Search Warrant Required

Should Federal agents be allowed to access a phone caller’s location without a warrant?

A Cincinnati-based federal appeals court recently said yes with their latest ruling on the topic of protecting the privacy of data which is transmitted by one’s personal device.Phone Records

The records in question, obtained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), were that of two men located near multiple robberies when they occurred.

Timothy Carpenter and Timothy Sanders were found guilty of being involved in nine armed robberies but argued that their phone records should have been dismissed as evidence.

Why did they argue this?

  • The phone records were obtained without a search warrant.
  • The Fourth Amendment should have protected the FBI’s access to their phone records.

Unfortunately, the court ruled against them.

In a 2-1 panel, the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision stated that collecting this information did not require a search warrant and was not categorized as a “search”.

Judge Raymond Kethledge wrote, “Cell-site data—like mailing addresses, phone numbers, and IP addresses—are information that facilitate personal communications, rather than part of the content of those communications themselves.”

Carpenter’s lawyer continues to focuses on the next step. In these situations, it’s crucial to secure a criminal defense lawyer who is willing to fight till the end and be the client’s voice in the courtroom.

Carpenter’s lawyer will either ask the Sixth Court to rehear the case or head to the U.S. Supreme Court.

What’s the Supreme Court’s record when it comes to privacy?

Recently, the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of privacy. However, Judge Kethledge wrote that his decision was based on the Supreme Court’s ruling in Smith V. Maryland. The Smith V. Maryland ruling stated that when a person dials a number on their landline, they are willingly releasing that information to phone companies and therefore, it’s not protected by the Fourth Amendment.

While landlines and cellphones are different, Judge Kethledge saw this as a solid reference for his decision.

What’s next?

This controversy will continue to be disputed as similar cases appear and questions continue to be asked.

Is this fair? Should the FBI be able to access this information? If police have access to this type of data, especially this much, shouldn’t they have to have a search warrant?

In this case, police had extensive amounts of information. They had months of data from more than 1,000 different locations. Carpenter was sentenced to more than 116 years in prison and Sanders was sentenced to approximately 14 years in prison.

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

Former NFL Player Accused of Operating International Drug Trafficking Ring

Former NFL player and current Scottsdale resident Derek Loville has been accused of operating in an international drug trafficking ring.

According to court documents, Lovelle was in a federal grand-jury indictment that includes charges of:

  • Racketeering conspiracy
  • Drug trafficking
  • Illegal gambling
  • Money laundering

Led by Owen Hanson, a former athlete from USC, the operation went by the name of “ODOG”, which made fake companies to cover up illegal gambling and drug trafficking.

Along with other crimes, Hanson and others threatened someone to pay them a $2.5 million debt, according to the indictment.

The threat included a delivered package containing photos of the customer’s spouse and family. Allegedly, they also sent an email titled “Operation Shovel”. In the email, it contained a photo of the customer’s gravestone, implying they would die soon.

Later, “ODOG” sent a DVD showing a masked person beheading two men with a chainsaw and a knife. The DVD had a message that said “If you don’t pay us our money, this will happen to you.”

According to authorities, Loville sold illegal narcotics to someone in Phoenix for “ODOG”. Then, two days later, Loville transferred $1,150 to Hanson.

On January 13 the U.S District of Southern California issued a warrant for Lovell’s arrest. Loville then made his appearance in court on January 27 and then was released.

With more court dates to come, we will soon find out if Loville was a part of “ODOG” and whether he distributed drugs for Hanson.

Arizona Representative Aims to Change Photo Radar Requirements

Imagine getting a photo radar ticket for something you didn’t do. Arizona Rep. Bob Thorpe of Flagstaff is proposing a bill (HB 2366) that would do just that.

With this new bill, it would end the requirement for photo radar tickets to have a picture of the vehicle’s driver. The only thing the government would need is a picture of the license plate.

On its face, the bill’s main purpose is to put photo radar cameras on school buses. With a camera attached to a bus, Arizona law enforcement hopes it will be be able to catch drivers who don’t stop for school buses.

Under Arizona law, motorists must stop when a school bus has its flashing lights on and a stop sign extended. Anyone who violates this law must pay a $250 fine. If the violation occurs three times within a 36-month period, motorists can lose their license for at least six months.

If the bill is approved, however, the photo radar law will affect more than just school buses. Car owners will no longer be able to prove who was driving their vehicle. When a photo radar camera takes a picture of the license plate and not the driver, car owners will have two options; pay the ticket or provide the name of who was driving the vehicle.

Since it’s entirely plausible that a family member, friend or mechanic could drive someone else’s car from time to time, the threat of overreaching and unfair photo radar ticketing becomes a concern. If for some reason, the car exceeds the speed limit, the government won’t know who’s behind the wheel. The car owner will then receive the ticket and face the penalty unless they can provide another name.

As this new bill makes it way through the legislature, it’s clear it is more about making a profit than safety. Every year, photo radar companies and the government look to maximize their revenue from photo radar tickets.

As the process for prosecuting photo radar tickets continues to change, Corso Law Group is one of the few firms in Arizona that specializes in photo radar defense and understands how to fight them. Should you have questions about photo radar or any other moving violation, please contact us for a free consultation or call (480) 471-4616.

Could Implied Consent Be a Thing of the Past?

If you’re pulled over, are you required to participate in sobriety testing like Breathalyzer and blood tests? For anyone with a driver’s license, the answer is yes.

Implied consent laws, which are in force in all 50 states, require anyone suspected of drunk driving to participate in tests that determine impairment, such as breath, blood and urine tests.

Drivers automatically give consent to this type of testing when applying for a license.

In general, the risk of getting charged with a DUI is magnified with the help of implied consent laws, as refusing tests automatically leads to license suspension and other penalties.

Several cases are challenging implied consent, some making it to the Supreme Court, which could lead to the elimination of these laws altogether.

Implied Consent

If a driver is pulled over on suspicion of DUI, they may be asked to perform a series of tests to determine impairment. These tests fall into two categories, field sobriety tests and chemical tests.

Field sobriety tests, such as walking in a straight line, reciting the ABCs, standing on one leg and more, are not required. Chemical tests such as Breathalyzer, blood alcohol content (BAC) and urine tests are required, and refusing any of these leads to automatic license suspension and other penalties depending on each state’s specific laws. 

Gaede v. Illinois

The trouble with implied consent was brought to light by Gaede v. Illinois, which has made its way to the Supreme Court and focusses on the Fourth Amendment.

In 2012, Christopher Gaede fled the scene of an accident after hitting a parked car with his motorcycle. He was intercepted by police and asked to perform several field sobriety tests, all of which he failed.

When asked to perform a breath test, Gaede refused. In addition to a 12-month license suspension, his refusal was also used against him at trial, which then resulted in a guilty verdict.

On appeal, Gaede’s attorneys argued that police should have to obtain a warrant in order to collect evidence, in this case biological evidence, instead of relying on the implied consent law.

Essentially, they argued that using implied consent instead of getting a warrant violates constitutional rights against unlawful searches and seizures.

The Supreme Court announced it will weigh a series of implied consent cases from Michigan, North Dakota and 11 other states to determine whether it’s illegal for police to require BAC tests without securing a warrant.

Depending on what the Supreme Court decides later this year, implied consent laws could be negated around the nation, allowing drivers to refuse a BAC or breath test without that decision having major consequences later on.

College Football National Championship Game Brings Crime to Phoenix According to Criminal Defense Attorneys at Corso Law Group

Thousands of football fans will flood the Valley for the College Football National Championship in Glendale, Ariz. on Jan. 11., leading to increased crime and police presence on game day, according to criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor Christopher Corso, founder of Corso Law Group.

Approximately 72,000 fans are expected to attend the championship game in Glendale, and 20,000 more will be watching from surrounding bars and restaurants in Westgate, The Arizona Republic reports.

While this spike in visitors is great for the local economy and tourism, large crowds, parties and alcohol consumption bring crime to hosting cities. In some instances where games resulted in upset, crimes such as assault increased by 112 percent, according to a study examining the connection between college football games and crime.

“Large crowds can bring about security and safety issues. With so many people concentrated in one area, large-scale events like college football games become targets for accidents and criminal activity,” Corso said.

Police in Glendale, downtown Phoenix, where additional events will take place, and across the Valley know this to be true and aren’t taking any chances.

Officials in Glendale are planning to implement extensive security for the national championship game, which will take place at University of Phoenix Stadium. In Phoenix, the director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management for the city said thousands of law enforcement and fire officials will be working the event, including 300 to 400 at the command post, KTAR News reports.

“Police will be on high-alert for any violation of the law, whether it’s assault, drunk driving or theft,” Corso said. “Arizona is becoming a destination for national events, and officials are doing whatever it takes to keep it that way.”

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.

Reducing Sentences Leads to Possible Criminal Defense Changes

Reducing sentences has been a common topic lately in the United States. Recently, a judge rethought a sentence that had a profound impact on an inmate named Francois Holloway.

Holloway was released from prison three years earlier than expected thanks to U.S. District Judge John Gleeson in Brooklyn, New York.

Although federal trial judges don’t commonly possess extraordinary power when it comes to sentencing decisions as prosecutors rely on set in stone minimum punishment laws, typically new evidence or excessive legal error are the only ways a reduction on their part is possible.

However, judges can create a sense of public or personal pressure that causes prosecutors to rethink their sentencing decisions. When these types of situations occur, such as Holloway’s sentence reduction, it reveals attitudes continue to change in these types of circumstances, looking at the criminal justice system and its policies in a new light.

Holloway was sentenced to 57 years in prison in 1996 for being a part of armed carjackings, but Judge Gleeson who had put Holloway away, attempted to work with prosecutors for years in order to reduce Holloway’s sentence, before he was released early.

Which kind of cases does this deal typically happen to though? Thus far, these types of reductions have occurred for those who fought against sentencing that seemed underserved compared to the crime they committed.

In most cases, the defendant at hand decided against a plea deal and then lost during their trial. As a result, they were given a much more extensive prison sentence than if they were to have pleaded guilty.

These types of cases and this shift in the criminal justice system might be more common as 2016 approaches. Instead of focusing on a prison sentence, one might look towards court ordered rehabilitation if the consequence seems fitting for the crime.

However, not everyone agrees on this. In the same article, “Don Mihalek, vice president of law enforcement relations at the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association said that after the-fact reductions send the wrong message,” according to Joe Palazzo, author of the article “Judges Rethink Sentences.”

Said Mihalek: “Every criminal has their day in court, and that’s the bottom line.”

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.

Why You Need a Defense Attorney Instead of a Public Defender

No matter the crime, representation is a vital aspect of a criminal proceeding. Whether the charges are mild or severe, the repercussions of committing a crime could result in a range of outcomes from community service to years in prison. With such high stakes involved, the right defense is invaluable when it comes to protecting your rights and your future.

While anyone who has committed a crime has the option to defend themselves or rely on a court-appointed, public defender to represent their case, that doesn’t mean either of those options are a good idea.

Although both private criminal defense attorneys and public defenders have undergone years of higher education and testing to understand the legal system and different defense options, the differentiating factors between the two are specialized experience and workload.

Special Skills and Experience

Hiring a criminal defense attorney means you’re in charge of selecting a professional with the right experience and a specific set of skills that are beneficial to your case instead of settling for a public defender who has been chosen for you.

A private criminal defense attorney can work from a background of prior legal experience to provide optimal, individualized defense for your case, whereas a public defender who works with the same prosecutors and judges everyday might not be as comfortable with trying different defense strategies.

Excessive Workload

Private criminal defense attorneys have a say in not only the types of cases they take on, but also the number of cases they work on, allowing them more time to dedicate to each client from start to finish.

A major problem many public defenders face are excessive workloads. Many have huge caseloads to manage that exceed national standards. For example, the standard number of felony cases per year for public defenders is limited to 150, but it is not uncommon for them to have anywhere from 500 to 800 felony cases annually, according to the National Legal Aid and Defender Association. This can make it difficult for them to prioritize your needs and provide the most effective representation.

For the most effective and highest quality representation, it’s important to do your research. Hire an attorney with experience handling the charges in your case, who will take the time to get to know you and produce a specialized defense strategy.

At Corso Law Group, you can rely on our skilled criminal defense attorneys to do everything in their power to protect your rights and fight to defend your voice in the courtroom.

What are the Possible Outcomes of a Criminal Case?

Criminal law encompasses a wide variety of topics. At Corso Law Group, our attorneys work on cases involving DUI, criminal speeding, CDL tickets, photo radar tickets, felony charges, drug possession, weapons possession, violent crimes and more – all of which can yield different outcomes in court.

The following is a guideline illustrating the basics of a criminal case and the possible outcomes.

What is a plea bargain and what happens if you take one?

A plea bargain is a proposed agreement between the defense and the prosecution that involves sacrifices and benefits for both sides. The defendant gives up their right to a jury trial by pleading guilty but gains some form of leniency such as a lighter sentencing. The prosecution loses the opportunity to go to trial but is guaranteed a conviction.

Leniency may include pleading guilty to a less severe crime, less jail time or lower fines.

A plea bargain is made official in court by a judge who ensures the defendant has willingly chosen the plea bargain and understands the rights he or she is waiving. A judge may also adjust the proposed sentencing at this time.

What happens if you go to trial?

If a plea bargain isn’t reached, or if the defendant doesn’t plead guilty or not guilty, the case can be taken to trial where the defense and the prosecution will argue either sides of the case in order for a verdict to be reached.

There are several trial options, but the two main ones are a jury trial and a court trial. During a jury trial, which is the default option, a jury will examine evidence from the case and come to a conclusion. During a court trial, this is done by a judge.

What happens if you’re found guilty?

When a trial is concluded with a guilty verdict, the next step will be sentencing.

A specific date will be chosen when a judge considers a variety of influences such as the crime at hand, the person’s criminal record and more to determine an appropriate sentencing, which could include jail, fines, probation, community service and more.

If you’re found guilty but believe there is a legal reason to appeal the verdict, you can work with an attorney to begin the appellate process.

What happens if you’re found not guilty?

When a trial is concluded with a not-guilty verdict, the defendant is released from custody and there is no criminal charge. However, the arrest and trial verdict still exist, but can be expunged in some cases so they no longer appear on a permanent record.