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Phoenix Criminal Law Blog

Arizona man reportedly behind extortion of sex offenders

Arizona residents convicted of sex crimes face tough penalties, and many people would say that is rightfully so. However, even after they have served their time and been removed from sex offender registries, they can face continued challenges to their efforts to move forward with their lives.

A Cave Creek, Arizona, man has been ordered to pay millions of dollars in judgments for allegedly operating a network of websites that identify people who are reportedly sex offenders. He is accused of using information from law enforcement databases to blackmail people in multiple states. Plaintiffs say he demanded payments in exchange for not posting their names, pictures, addresses and personal information.

When do officers need a warrant for violent crimes evidence?

We have spent some time in recent weeks discussing search and seizure policies in Arizona and other states. Those who are accused of violent crimes and other violations are often unaware that they do have the right to privacy through a variety of legal protections. Law enforcement officers have been known to bend the law to suit their investigation needs -- sometimes leading to a criminal conviction. Defendants need to know their rights so they can determine whether a police investigation has gone too far.

First, let's consider officers' right to search your private property. Items within your home or on your property are considered private, so authorities have to have a search warrant in order to enter to collect evidence. In some cases, warrantless raids are permitted, but those are only allowed in situations that demand quick and decisive action for public safety.

Arizona high court rules on when police can frisk a person

The Arizona Supreme Court has ruled that police in our state cannot frisk a person unless they have a "reasonable suspicion that criminal activity is afoot." The ruling stems from a case involving a man who was arrested for illegally possessing a weapon.

Police reportedly stopped and questioned a man whom they saw walking in a "gang neighborhood." It was not reported that they witnessed him doing anything illegal or even suspicious. Police even described him as "very cooperative and polite" during their encounter. However, when one of the officers saw a bulge in his waistband, he was asked if he had a gun. He confirmed that he did. The officers ordered him to place his hands on his head and they took the weapon from him.

Gmail scan leads to arrest for Internet sex crimes

If you think that Google is respecting the private nature of your e-mail conversations, think again. Arizona residents who use the popular search engine's e-mail program, Gmail, may be surprised to learn that information sent through the Google system may be used to convict defendants accused of sex crimes. In fact, Google may be directly responsible for allegations brought against a variety of e-mail users, thanks to algorithms designed to ferret out child pornography and other "tagged" communications.

One man in Arizona's regional neighbor of Texas found that out the hard way when his e-mail communications were referred by Google to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. That group then notified a detective in the Houston area. The man has since been apprehended and charged with possession of child pornography.

Suns player sentenced for 'super extreme DUI'

If you don't know what a "super extreme DUI" is, consider yourself lucky. Phoenix Suns player P.J. Tucker learned the hard way. The forward, who last month signed a $16.5 million, three-year contract with the team, pleaded guilty to the charge on Aug. 4.

According to a July 29 Washington Post article on the case, Arizona added this charge in 2007. It applies to any driver accused of having a blood alcohol level of 0.20 percent or more. The article notes that Arizona also has an "extreme DUI" charge. This applies to those alleged to have a blood-alcohol level of at least 0.15 but under 0.20.

Damaging data, hacking systems lead to Internet crimes charges

Most of us use computers on a regular basis. In fact, it is likely that you are using a home computer or mobile device to access this website as we speak. Although computers can be helpful tools for your job -- or they can be entertaining for your family -- computers are also key components in crimes in the modern era. In fact, Internet fraud and other violations continue to remain high priorities for investigators. The definition of computer crime has expanded in recent years to include a variety of violations. So, just how do you know whether you have committed a computer crime? Today, we give you a bit of insight about criminal defense for these alleged missteps.

First, it is important to define "computer crime." In many cases, individuals are accused of technology-based violations if they improperly access a computer system or network. This could include hacking into a government or corporate system with nefarious intention, for example. Further, those who introduce viruses or technological contaminants into a computer system -- or modify or damage programs or data -- can also be successfully prosecuted for computer crimes. Stealing information, interfering with another person's computer use and using a computer in a fraud scheme are also considered criminal violations.

'Revenge porn' now considered felony sex crime

A new law that went into effect in Arizona in late July has increased the penalties for "revenge porn," or posting illicit photographs of an ex-lover online out of spite. In general, experts say that this type of alleged sex crime is an attempt to embarrass or shame an ex-girlfriend or boyfriend with nude pictures that are distributed among friends or posted to pornographic websites. Now, that crime is considered a felony offense that could land the offender in prison for up to a year. Additional consequences could include a $150,000 fine.

The new measure also added an amendment to existing domestic violence statutes, categorizing revenge porn as a type of domestic violence. Residents of Arizona are expressly prohibited from intentionally distributing or publishing pictures, videos and other recordings of a nude individual -- or someone engaged in sexual activities -- if it is clear that the other person did not consent to the disclosure. Internet-service providers are not being targeted under the law; rather, it is the individual posters who will be brought to justice under the new sex crimes statute.

Study: Reducing prison populations may lead to less violent crime

Recently we talked about the move by the U.S. Sentencing Commission to reduce the criminal penalties for the majority of drug crimes. As we noted, this means a reduction in sentences for a number of people incarcerated in Arizona prisons and other facilities throughout the country.

A recent report by the Sentencing Project lends credence to the argument that reducing the number of incarcerated people actually has a positive effect on the community. According to the report, in California, New Jersey and New York, where the prison population has been significantly reduced in recent years, the crime rate has actually decreased.

Wrong-way driver accused of drunk driving after injury accident

An alleged wrong-way driver in Arizona has left a victim hospitalized after smashing into another car on Loop 202. The driver, a 33-year-old woman, is facing allegations of endangerment and aggravated assault, according to news reports. The woman was thought to be drunk driving at the time of the collision, though information has not been provided about her blood alcohol content. An expert in drug recognition has told reporters that the woman may have been intoxicated during the crash.

The woman allegedly crashed into an SUV while driving eastbound in the westbound lanes of the loop. The accident, which occurred on July 16, left the driver of the SUV with serious injuries, though they were not thought to be life-threatening. Officers said that the woman likely drove the wrong way on the loop for at least five miles before the collision occurred. Police were unable to locate the woman before the crash, even though some witnesses had called 911 to report the wrong-way driver.

Sentencing commission reduces prison time for drug charges

It's no secret to anyone who follows the news that Arizona's prisons and those across the country are overcrowded, and that much of that overcrowding is due to non-violent people serving time for drug offenses. In April, the U.S. Sentencing Commission decided to do reduce the criminal penalties for the majority of drug crimes. This month it voted unanimously make that decision retroactive.

By rolling back some of the toughest drug sentencing guidelines, it hopes to reduce the amount of money the Justice Department spends on prisons (about a third of its budget) and reduce overcrowding. According to one prison-reform advocate, half of federal prisoners are serving time for drug-related offenses. He calls this move a "historic shift in the decades-long war on drugs."

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