About Me

My photo
I am an attorney and law firm owner who practices in both Criminal Defense and Family Law matters. Please visit our website at www.PhoenixLawFirm.com or call my office at 623-738-5291 for a free consultation.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Five DUI Do's and Don'ts

Five DUI Do’s and Don’ts1.  DO be polite and courteous to the Officer.   They are just trying to do their job, but even more importantly they can make your life much easier or much harder.  Simple decisions like whether to tow your vehicle or not are up to them.  Be nice to them and it is more likely that they will be nice back to you.

DO NOT take the Portable Breathalyzer Test or PBT.  It is highly inaccurate and the results are not likely to help you in any way.   The PBT is a small Breathalyzer test that is given on the side of the road.  It will be a hand held device that the officer will have you blow in to.  This will only give the officer more probable cause to arrest you and suspend your license.  Politely refuse but tell them you will consent to the blood 

DO NOT do the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus or HGN test.  This is the test where the Officer tells you to look forward and follow either their finger or a small light with your eyes.  This is a very subjective test and the results will most likely be hurtful to your case.  Politely decline when the officer requests that you do the test.

DO NOT do the Field Sobriety Tests or FST’s.  These are the physical tests that the officer does on the side of the road such as walk in a straight line, raise your foot and count, lean back and touch your finger to your nose, etc.  These are very subjective tests and I have never seen them helpful to a client’s case.  Politely decline to take them.

DO let them draw your blood for a Blood Alcohol test.  If you refuse to do this test, then they will quickly get a warrant and do it anyway, but then your driver’s license will be automatically suspended for a year.  Therefore, you do have to let them do this test.  

While the best way to avoid a DUI is to of course not drive after you have had any alcohol, following these five easy steps will increase the chances that your attorney will be able to get you a positive outcome in your case.  

If you have gotten a DUI, call our office for a free consultation to go over your legal options.  The earlier in the case you get a private attorney involved, the more they will be able to do in your case.  

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Divorce's Effect on Children

When getting a divorce it is very important to consider how that will affect you both practically and financially, however one thing that should not be overlooked is how the most important assets in your life are also adapting to the changes- your children.   Parents should not overlook the fact that they may be confused about the changes and not understand why it is happening or what it means. 

At the Law Offices of Stephanie Lee Ehrbright, we are dedicated to helping you through the entire process of your divorce.  Our Firm has a library of books and videos for children of all ages to help explain and ease the transition.  Any client is welcome to browse the library and check out any of the books or videos for their children free of cost.   Below is a current list of our library.  All books and DVD’s are also available at Amazon.com and local book retailers. 

Little Kid Books- appropriate for around ages 1-6
Standing on My Own Two Feet by Tamara Schmitz
Dinosaurs Divorce by Laurene Krasny Brown and Marc Brown
It’s Not Your Fault Koko Bear by Vicki Lansky
Was it the Chocolate Pudding?  By Sandra Levins and Bryan Langdo
My Family Is Changing by Pat Thomas
Two Homes by Claire Masurel and Kady MacDonald Denton

Big Kid Books- appropriate for around ages 7-11
Mom’s House, Dad’s House for Kids by Isolina Ricci, Ph.D
What in the World Do you Do When Your Parents Divorce by Kent Winchester and Roberta Beyer

Teenager Books- appropriate for around ages 12-18
The Divorce Helpbook for Teens by Cynthia MacGregor
Divorce is Not the End of the World by Zoe and Evan Stern

Website with free divorce videos & activities appropriate for kids 1-6

Kid’s Divorce DVD appropriate for kids ages 6+
Taking the Duh Out of Divorce by Trevor Romain

Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Father's Child Custody Rights

Frequently I have male clients that are worried whether the mother of their children will be able to take their kids away from them based solely on the fact that they are the children’s mother.  In a word the answer is a resounding- NO. 

According to Arizona Statute, custody of children is based on what is in the child’s best interest.   Not only do Arizona Statutes not offer any presumption that the mother should have the children based on her gender, but it specifically forbids any custody decision based on a parents gender.  

Arizona Revised Statute 25-403.01 states directly that “The court in determining custody shall not prefer a parent as custodian because of that parent’s sex”.   In other words, both parents start out with the presumption that being with their child as close as possible to 50% of the time is what is in the best interests of the child.   

Two parents created the child and unless there are some sort of extreme circumstances, it is in the child’s best interest for them to grow up with both parents in their lives.   You may no longer like the person you had a child with, but that does not change the fact that it is almost always in your child’s best interest to have both parents active in their lives. 

There are factors that courts do take in to consideration when determining what is in the best interest of the children.  According to ARS 25-403, a judge has to consider all relevant factors when deciding custody including:

1.    The wishes of the child’s parent or parents as to custody.
2.     The wishes of the child as to the custodian.
3.     The interaction and interrelationship of the child with the child’s parents, the child’s siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interest. 
4.     The child’s adjustment to home, school, and community.
5.     The mental and physical health of all individuals involved. 
6.     Which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent and meaningful continuing contact with the other parent. 
7.     Whether one, both, or neither parent has provided primary care of the child.
8.     The nature and extent of coercion or duress used by a parent in obtaining an agreement regarding custody.
9.     Whether both parents took the mandatory parenting education class.
10. Whether either parent was convicted of an act of false reporting of child abuse or neglect. 
11. Whether there has been domestic violence or child abuse.

In future blogs I will discuss each of these factors in more detail, discuss the difference between custody, legal decision making, and parenting time, and discuss the ins and outs of establishing paternity in Arizona.  

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Felony Offenses in Arizona Explained

In Arizona there are six different types of felonies.  They range from Murder being the highest at a Class 1 felony down to a Class 6 being the lowest type of felony.   All are charged by the State in Superior Court.  In Arizona there are specific Sentencing Guidelines that the court must go by when sentencing someone to any level of felony.   Sentences can range from Probation with no jail time for lower level offenses with no priors up to Life in the Department of Corrections (i.e. Prison) or the Death Penalty for the worst offenses.   A Probation sentence can also include up to a year in the County Jail as punishment. 

There are some facts that may make a sentence for an offense harsher.  For instance, if the person has prior felony offenses then they placed in a higher sentencing range.  Or if in a drug offense there was an amount of the drug above the listed “threshold”, then they are also placed in a higher sentencing range.  Certain offenses such as Drug Offenses and Crimes Against Children have their own sentencing guidelines that are harsher than the traditional ones. 

Additionally, Felony Offenses can be charged as either “Dangerous” or “Non-Dangerous”.  An offense is deemed to be Dangerous if a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument was used in the offense.  This can include a variety of things such as guns, knives, vehicles, or sometimes even every day items such as a rock, letter opener, or hammer.  If the Felony Offense is labeled as Dangerous then the Defendant faces a higher sentencing range and is NOT eligible to get sentenced to Probation.  In other words, if a person is Found Guilty at trial or takes a plea to a Dangerous Offense then they must be sentenced to prison. 

Once it is determined which sentencing range the offense falls under, then the Court starts with the “Presumptive Sentence” and either increases it based on Aggravating factors or decreases it based on Mitigating factors.  These factors are presented to the Judge by Defense Counsel and the County Attorney.   The Judge decides the actual sentence if the person is Found Guilty after trial or Pleads Guilty in a plea bargain. 

There are several different types of Plea Bargains that can be reached.  A Plea is a set agreement where the Defendant pleads Guilty to the offense in exchange for getting a lesser sentence.  Please can either be open range, for example they may say 5-7 years, and the Judge decides where in that range they should fall.  Or a plea can be stipulated to, for example it may say 6 years, and in that case the Judge would sentence the person to that amount of time. 

With Class 6 felonies, there are a few different varieties.  A Class 6 felony can be either Designated or Undesignated (i.e. “Open”).  If the Class 6 felony is Designated, then it will remain a Class 6 felony on the person’s record.  However, in cases where the person does not have any priors and it is a lesser offense, it is possible for their attorney to negotiate an Undesignated or Open Class 6 Felony.  That means that after the person has finished their Probation and done everything they are supposed to, they can ask the Court to Designate (turn in to) the Offense a Misdemeanor.   Then they would no longer have a Felony on their record.  However, until such time as the Court Designates an offense to be a Misdemeanor then it is treated as a Felony for all other purposes.