How Much Should You Pay Your DUI Lawyer?

One of the most difficult decisions facing someone charged with a DUI is which lawyer to hire. One main factor in deciding which lawyer to hire is how much they charge. Some lawyers in the Phoenix area might charge as little as several hundred dollars while others charge over 10,000 dollars. As you can see there is a very wide gap in what people charge.

Generally, with defense lawyers you get what you pay for. If you hire the cheapest lawyer you can find you will probably regret your decision. If most lawyers tell you they will charge you 5,000 dollars but one lawyer tells you they will charge 500 dollars what do you think it says about that lawyer? When looking for a good DUI defense lawyer saving a few bucks up front could come back to haunt you in the end.

The prices that the Benikov Law Firm offers our clients are not cheap. The reason for this is because we believe you pay for quality. A good steakhouse charges a lot more for a sandwich then a fast food place. The Benikov Law Firm has gained a large amount of experience in DUI matters over the past eight years and thousands of DUI cases handled.

I recommend potential clients speak to more than one DUI lawyer before making a decision. After doing this a client will have a better idea of what a reasonable price to pay is.

What Kind of Person Needs a Defense Lawyer?

What Kind of Person Needs a Defense Lawyer?
As a criminal defense lawyer I get this questions lot. The person asking is usually implying that only a guilty or a bad person needs a criminal defense attorney. The question is usually an offsite of, how can you defense those people?

The answer is that lots of non criminals need defense lawyers. I have represented many people that were found to be innocent. Just because someone is charged with a crime does not mean they are guilty of that crime. This is often difficult for people to understand. Most people that are not familiar with our criminal justice system falsly assume that just because someone has been charged with a crime means they are guilty. In reality this is not true. The police are people and people make mistakes. I have had countless cases over the years where a person is charged that should not have been.

I represented a family friend several years ago who turned out to be such a case. The friend had a dispute with a neighbor. The neighbor over reacted and called the police and my friend got charged with several crimes. My friend should not have been charged as his actions did not come to a standard needed to show criminal behavior. I tried to get the prosecutor to dismiss the case but they would not. It was only after we went to trial, and I won the case that my friend was able to keep a criminal conviction off his record. Next time you hear of a person being charged with a crime don’t assume they are guilty.

Emotional Toll of Being Charged With a DUI in Arizona

Being charged with a DUI in Arizona can take a large emotional toll. There are several steps a person can take to help them deal with the emotional toll. The first step is to hire a good DUI lawyer. An experienced and knowledgeable defense lawyer can answer many of the questions that come up and make everything less scary. When a person is charged with a DUI they have a million questions and not a lot of answers. Another step that will help with the emotional toll is to understand that things will get better. Many times my clients are being charged with a crime for the first time in their life. It is part of my job to help assure them that they will be able to move on with their life and that things will get better. Oftentimes my clients look back on the experience of being charged with a DUI and say they were more scared than they should have been.

Advice on Avoiding Being Charged with a DUI in Arizona

Many people in Arizona have heard that you have to have a BAC of over .08 to be convicted of a DUI. This is partially true. In Arizona there are several different DUI statutes. The one that most people think of is that a person who has a BAC of over .08 can be charged with a DUI. The statute that most people don’t know about is that a person is impaired to the slightest degree can also be charged with a DUI.

What this means is that you can have a BAC of under .08 and still be charged. I have seen cases where people with BAC of .06 and .05 have been charged with DUI in Arizona. Several years ago I represented a woman who had a BAC of .068. The prosecutor told me that since she had driver poorly and done poorly on the field sobriety tests he would not dismiss the charges even though her BAC was under .08. In general, prosecutor’s are unwilling to proceed on DUI cases where the reading is under .08. It took a long time for me to convince the prosecutor to offer my client a Reckless Driving charge instead of a DUI. The bottom line is you have drank alcohol and you feel impaired or buzzed in anyway avoid driving. There are so many cheaper alternatives today such as Taxi services, Uber, Lyft, and designated drivers.

Also remember that if you have drugs in your system you can also be charged with a DUI in Arizona. Arizona has a drug DUI statute that says if you have an illegal drug in your system you can be charged with a DUI. It does’t matter under the statute, how recently you ingested the drug. Also remember that the impaired DUI charge and the Drug DUI charge are not mutually exclusive. What his mean is that you can be charged with both. This is actually very normal and I see this with my clients often.

What Does Domestic Violence Designation Mean in Arizona?

A lot of my clients are charged with what are called Domestic Violence (”DV”) crimes. In Arizona Domestic Violence is a designation and not a crime in itself. So a person can be charged with Assault and have it be non Domestic Violence. A person can also be charged with Assault and it could have a Domestic Violence designation.

Most people think that the domestic violence designation applies to only romantic partners like husbands, wives, boyfriends and girlfriends, but this is not true. Under the Arizona statute Domestic Violence has a wide ranging definition. Relationships such as relatives, or roommates fall under the Domestic Violence Statute in Arizona. Several years ago I represented a roommate that got into a fight with his college roommate. Because the two had been living together the crime was designated a Domestic Violence. In Arizona a domestic violence offense can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony.

the full language of Arizona’s Domestic Violence statute is below:

13-3601. Domestic violence; definition; classification; sentencing option; arrest and procedure for violation; weapon seizure

A. “Domestic violence” means any act that is a dangerous crime against children as defined in section 13-705 or an offense prescribed in section 13-1102, 13-1103, 13-1104, 13-1105, 13-1201, 13-1202, 13-1203, 13-1204, 13-1302, 13-1303, 13-1304, 13-1406, 13-1425, 13-1502, 13-1503, 13-1504, 13-1602 or 13-2810, section 13-2904, subsection A, paragraph 1, 2, 3 or 6, section 13-2910, subsection A, paragraph 8 or 9, section 13-2915, subsection A, paragraph 3 or section 13-2916, 13-2921, 13-2921.01, 13-2923, 13-3019, 13-3601.02 or 13-3623, if any of the following applies:

1. The relationship between the victim and the defendant is one of marriage or former marriage or of persons residing or having resided in the same household.

2. The victim and the defendant have a child in common.

3. The victim or the defendant is pregnant by the other party.

4. The victim is related to the defendant or the defendant’s spouse by blood or court order as a parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, brother or sister or by marriage as a parent-in-law, grandparent-in-law, stepparent, step-grandparent, stepchild, step-grandchild, brother-in-law or sister-in-law.

5. The victim is a child who resides or has resided in the same household as the defendant and is related by blood to a former spouse of the defendant or to a person who resides or who has resided in the same household as the defendant.

6. The relationship between the victim and the defendant is currently or was previously a romantic or sexual relationship. The following factors may be considered in determining whether the relationship between the victim and the defendant is currently or was previously a romantic or sexual relationship:

(a) The type of relationship.

(b) The length of the relationship.

© The frequency of the interaction between the victim and the defendant.

(d) If the relationship has terminated, the length of time since the termination.

B. A peace officer, with or without a warrant, may arrest a person if the officer has probable cause to believe that domestic violence has been committed and the officer has probable cause to believe that the person to be arrested has committed the offense, whether the offense is a felony or a misdemeanor and whether the offense was committed within or without the presence of the peace officer. In cases of domestic violence involving the infliction of physical injury or involving the discharge, use or threatening exhibition of a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument, the peace officer shall arrest a person who is at least fifteen years of age, with or without a warrant, if the officer has probable cause to believe that the offense has been committed and the officer has probable cause to believe that the person to be arrested has committed the offense, whether the offense was committed within or without the presence of the peace officer, unless the officer has reasonable grounds to believe that the circumstances at the time are such that the victim will be protected from further injury. Failure to make an arrest does not give rise to civil liability except pursuant to section 12-820.02. In order to arrest both parties, the peace officer shall have probable cause to believe that both parties independently have committed an act of domestic violence. An act of self-defense that is justified under chapter 4 of this title is not deemed to be an act of domestic violence. The release procedures available under section 13-3883, subsection A, paragraph 4 and section 13-3903 are not applicable to arrests made pursuant to this subsection.

C. A peace officer may question the persons who are present to determine if a firearm is present on the premises. On learning or observing that a firearm is present on the premises, the peace officer may temporarily seize the firearm if the firearm is in plain view or was found pursuant to a consent to search and if the officer reasonably believes that the firearm would expose the victim or another person in the household to a risk of serious bodily injury or death. A firearm that is owned or possessed by the victim shall not be seized unless there is probable cause to believe that both parties independently have committed an act of domestic violence.

D. If a firearm is seized pursuant to subsection C of this section, the peace officer shall give the owner or possessor of the firearm a receipt for each seized firearm. The receipt shall indicate the identification or serial number or other identifying characteristic of each seized firearm. Each seized firearm shall be held for at least seventy-two hours by the law enforcement agency that seized the firearm.

E. If a firearm is seized pursuant to subsection C of this section, the victim shall be notified by a peace officer before the firearm is released from temporary custody.

F. If there is reasonable cause to believe that returning a firearm to the owner or possessor may endanger the victim, the person who reported the assault or threat or another person in the household, the prosecutor shall file a notice of intent to retain the firearm in the appropriate superior, justice or municipal court. The prosecutor shall serve notice on the owner or possessor of the firearm by certified mail. The notice shall state that the firearm will be retained for not more than six months following the date of seizure. On receipt of the notice, the owner or possessor may request a hearing for the return of the firearm, to dispute the grounds for seizure or to request an earlier return date. The court shall hold the hearing within ten days after receiving the owner’s or possessor’s request for a hearing. At the hearing, unless the court determines that the return of the firearm may endanger the victim, the person who reported the assault or threat or another person in the household, the court shall order the return of the firearm to the owner or possessor.

G. A peace officer is not liable for any act or omission in the good faith exercise of the officer’s duties under subsections C, D, E and F of this section.

H. Each indictment, information, complaint, summons or warrant that is issued and that involves domestic violence shall state that the offense involved domestic violence and shall be designated by the letters DV. A domestic violence charge shall not be dismissed or a domestic violence conviction shall not be set aside for failure to comply with this subsection.

I. A person who is arrested pursuant to subsection B of this section may be released from custody in accordance with the Arizona rules of criminal procedure or any other applicable statute. Any order for release, with or without an appearance bond, shall include pretrial release conditions that are necessary to provide for the protection of the alleged victim and other specifically designated persons and may provide for additional conditions that the court deems appropriate, including participation in any counseling programs available to the defendant.

J. When a peace officer responds to a call alleging that domestic violence has been or may be committed, the officer shall inform in writing any alleged or potential victim of the procedures and resources available for the protection of the victim including:

1. An order of protection pursuant to section 13-3602, an injunction pursuant to section 25-315 and an injunction against harassment pursuant to section 12-1809.

2. The emergency telephone number for the local police agency.

3. Telephone numbers for emergency services in the local community.

4. Websites for local resources related to domestic violence.

K. A peace officer is not civilly liable for noncompliance with subsection J of this section.

L. If a person is convicted of an offense involving domestic violence and the victim was pregnant at the time of the commission of the offense, at the time of sentencing the court shall take into consideration the fact that the victim was pregnant and may increase the sentence.

M. An offense that is included in domestic violence carries the classification prescribed in the section of this title in which the offense is classified. If the defendant committed a felony offense listed in subsection A of this section against a pregnant victim and knew that the victim was pregnant or if the defendant committed a felony offense causing physical injury to a pregnant victim and knew that the victim was pregnant, the maximum sentence otherwise authorized for that violation shall be increased by up to two years.

N. When a peace officer responds to a call alleging that domestic violence has been or may be committed, the officer shall determine if a minor is present. If a minor is present, the peace officer shall conduct a child welfare check to determine if the child is safe and if the child might be a victim of domestic violence or child abuse.

Understanding Different Diversion Programs in Arizona

A diversion program is basically a way for a defendant to be able to keep a criminal charge off their record. In other words, a diversion program can be a way to avoid a conviction. There are two main classifications of diversion programs in Arizona. The two types are pre and post adjudication. As the name implies one takes place before a plea is a taken and one takes place after a plea. In pre adjudication cases the court will give the defendant time to comply with the terms of the diversion program. Usually the terms are some kind of class, or classes. If the program is completed the case is over and no charges are brought. The reasoning behind offering diversion programs to first time offenders is to give them the opportunity to keep a clean record.

In post adjudication diversion programs the court accepts a guilty plea and then holds on to the plea to give the defendant time to complete the necessary program. If the program is completed the plea agreement is thrown out and there is no conviction. If the program is not completed the signed plea is entered in the court record and the defendant has a conviction on their record.

There are many different types of diversion programs that are available to defendants in Arizona. Diversion programs can be available in misdemeanor and felony cases, depending on the charge. For felony cases on of the most common charges where a person may be eligible for a diversion program is in cases involving drugs. Several years ago Arizona passed Proposition 200 that said a person has to be eligible for diversion when charged with a drug crime for the first time.

Many city courts have different diversion programs for misdemeanor charges. Not all courts have programs. For example, Phoenix has a prostitution diversion program, but Scottsdale does not. Many cities have diversion programs for people charged with shoplifting for the first time. In many of the programs the defendant has to attend a class and sometimes pay a fine or do some community service.

Sometimes a prosecutor will not want to offer a diversion program and I as the defense attorney have to advocate for my client to get them into the program. I have had many cases where I had to convince the prosecutor to allow my client to do the diversion program. A good defense attorney will not only know what programs are available in which Arizona court but will also know how to persuade prosecutors to possibly change their mind when there is good reason to do so.

Charged With A Domestic Violence Offense in Arizona?

Charged With A Domestic Violence Offense in Arizona?
Who can be the victim of a domestic violence offense:

The first thing to understand about Arizona’s Domestic Violence statute is that it is not a crime but a designation of a certain crime. For example, if you hit a stranger you could be charged with assault. If you hit a romantic partner you can be charged with domestic violence assault.

When most people think of domestic violence offenses they think of cases where the victim is a husband, or wife, or boyfriend, or girlfriend. Arizona’s domestic violence statute is actually much broader. A person can be charged with a domestic violence offense when the victim is a romantic partner, a former romantic partner, relative, or even a room mate. I represented a defendent a while ago who got into a fist fight with a roommate and was charged with domestic violence assault.

Consequences of a domestic violence offense:

There are broad consequences to being convicted of a domestic violence offense. One consequence is having a domestic violence conviction on your record. Such a conviction can hamper your ability to find employment or get into school. Another possible collateral consequence is that your right to own guns could be affected. Another consequence is mandatory education classes. The minimum number of classes in Arizona is 26 classes but he approved provider can assign more. Failure to complete the classes can lead to further consequneces such as more jail. One other collateral consequence can be your immigration status being impacted. If you are in the country on the visa or not a citizen of the United States a domestic violence conviction could affect your ability to stay in the country.

There is no minimum jail sentence for domestic violence offenses but often times the prosecutor will seek jail. Having a good defense lawyer on your side can be the difference between you going and not going to jail.

Which defense lawyer should you hire:

Not all defense lawyers are equal. While there are plenty of lawyers that will take your money and will tell you they have experience with domestic violence offense this is not always true. Many defense lawyers claiming to have experience in domestic violence cases don’t. Before hiring a lawyer ask them how many cases they have actually handled. Ask for an actual number. Don’t accept vague answers such as “many” or “lots.” The Benikov Law Firm has handled over 1,000 domestic violence cases over the past eight years. Our experience can be the difference to you going to jail and you staying out.

Does Your Defense Lawyer Understand Immigration Law?

Often times a person who needs a defense lawyer only thinks about if the person they are hiring knows criminal law. This can be a costly mistake. Often times hiring a defense lawyer who is not familiar with immigration law can have terrible consequences down the road.

A common scenario is something like this: A person who is not legally in the United States gets charged with a DUI. The person hires a DUI lawyer who knows nothing about immigration law and does not tell the client that pleading guilty can have an impact on that person’s immigration case. The client pleads guilty and they think everything is fine. The person goes to get citizenship down the road and now immigration authorities tell the person that because they have a DUI they can’t get citizenship. This is just one example of how having a criminal defense lawyer who understands immigration law can be important.

The Benikov Law firm only handles criminal and DUI matters but we understand how a conviction can have an impact on your immigration status. We work with some of the best immigration lawyers in the Phoenix area to make sure we craft the best possible solutions for our clients. If you or someone you love has been charged with a crime and are worried if the charge will affect your immigration contact us for a free consultation.

Dealing with Driver License Issues After a DUI in Arizona

Dealing with License Issues After a DUI in Arizona
When you are charged with a DUI in Arizona you have a lot of things to worry about. You are worried about going to jail, how a conviction could alter your future, what your friends and family will think. One outcome that many people don’t think of after being charged with a DUI, but should, is how their drivers license will be affected.

When you are charged with a DUI in Arizona the officer is supposed to mail paperwork to Motor Vehicle Department (”MVD”). There are two likely types of suspensions that you will be looking at after being charged with a DUI. What is important here is that the suspension can start before you are ever convicted of a DUI. Many people in Arizona think they don’t need to worry about their license being suspended because they have not yet been convicted, this is a mistake. In Arizona you can have your license suspended just for being charged with a DUI.

The determining factor of the type of suspension you are looking at is if you submitted to the chemical tests that the officer asked you to perform. Under Arizona law you have to submit to the tests. If you refuse the officer will obtain a warrant and proceed with the tests. The most common one is a test for the amount of alcohol in your blood. If you submit to the tests you are likely looking at a 90 day suspension.

Out of the two common types of suspension the most common one is a 90 day suspension. While the suspension says it is for 90 days it is really for 30 days as after the first 30 days of no driving you can be given a restricted license for going to work or school for the next 60 days. The restricted license is not automatic and steps must be taken to get one. A good defense lawyer familiar with MVD can be a huge benefit in this area.

The second type of suspension is the one year suspension. If you do not submit to the officer’s chemical tests you face a one year license suspension. Even if you are later acquitted of the DUI charge you could still lose your license for one year. While this suspension can be challenged it is very difficult to overturn.

What to do When Stopped by Police?

What to do When Stopped by Police?
As a defense lawyer I get this question a lot. I also hear a lot of terrible advice given on the subject. The first thing to do is to remain calm. Once you stop being calm it is a lot easier to make bad decisions. The calmer you remain the better off you will be. I know this is easier said then done as having contact with the police is a stressful event for most people.

The second thing you should do is know your rights. In Arizona there are some things you have to provide the officer with like an ID if they ask to see one. There are some things that you don’t have to do. One common example are field sobriety tests when an officer is investigating a possible DUI.

Try to be polite to the officer. This is not always possible but do your best. If you become agitated the officer will also be more likely to be agitated and the situation can escalate. Remember the the officer has a lot discretion with certain types of offenses as far as what you are charged with.

Try to get as much information as you can about why the police are contacting you. It is ok to ask questions when speaking with the police. There are times when the police may not be able to tell you a lot and this is ok. Try to remember everything that happens. Try to write down everything as soon as you can. There is a lot of research on how flawed our memory is so the more you can write down the more beneficial this will be to your defense lawyer. Try to write down things as soon as you can. As you can guess your memory of the encounter with the police will be a lot better after one hour then it will be after two weeks.