Bank fraud crimes can take many forms

As thieves become more sophisticated than ever when it comes to cheating individuals and banking institutions out of money, law enforcement has applied more and more resources and activated complex operations to catch would-be thieves.  This aggressive stance also applies to the court system, where it is not uncommon to see lengthy prison sentences be handed down upon conviction.

Although more and more criminals are attempting to circumvent the system, just because you are charged with a banks fraud charge, does not mean that you are automatically guilty.  However, banks fraud cases can be extremely complicated and require a lot of financial forensic work, so if you are facing any kind of fraud charge, it is important to seek help from an experienced banks fraud attorney.

Banks fraud can take on many forms, including:

  • Embezzlement
  • Stolen checks
  • Counterfeiting
  • Credit card fraud
  • Wire fraud
  • Mortgage fraud
  • ATM thefts
  • Accounting irregularities
  • Forgery

Because the nation’s banking system is highly complex and interconnected, there are many other types of fraud that are attempted on a regular basis as well.  For example, a person may not only attempt to acquire money from a bank illegally, in some instances, they may also pose as a bank in an attempt to prey on unsuspecting customers.

It’s important to note that banks fraud can be considered a state level crime or a federal crime, depending on the circumstances surrounding the accusations.  However, because banks are protected by federal statutes, most times a bank fraud charge will be considered a federal criminal offense.  That means penalties can be particularly harsh with less wiggle room to plea down a charge in an effort to gain a reduced sentence.  However, a defendant may be able to craft a defense strategy that involves helping the bank recover as much of their assets as possible, leaving open the possibility of an agreement that benefits both parties.

Dwane Cates Law Group proudly serves clients in Phoenix, Tempe, Glendale, Scottsdale, Mesa and surrounding Arizona communities.

A close look at possible kidnapping defense strategies

If you’ve been charged with kidnapping, you’re facing a large legal battle, and you need to retain a top flight kidnapping attorney as soon as possible. Your future freedom for many years to come will rest heavily on how well they can defend you.

The good news is that despite being charged with kidnapping, there are many possible defense strategies that can be employed. Much of how a defense is crafted will depend on the evidence, facts and witness statements as part of the case.

One of the most common defenses centers around the fact that the victim may have consented to go with the defendant. Absent other supporting facts, this claim may have enough weight in the courtroom to raise enough reasonable doubt in the eyes of the jury.

Another possible defense is that a defendant may claim ignorance if they do not believe they are committing an act of kidnapping. For example, in child custody cases, if one parent removes a child from the other parent’s care and they believed they were doing so within the boundaries of the law, this may be enough to get charges dropped or may lead to an acquittal in a trial. A careful presentation of the facts may help draw jurors to the conclusion that a person was justified instead of the fact that they committed a kidnapping.

Sometimes, a defendant may be able to claim that they were coerced or forced under duress to commit a kidnapping. If a person is threatened with violence if they don’t commit a kidnapping, they may be able to show that imminent danger pushed them to commit a kidnapping.

While it is a lot less prevalent and much more of a long shot, a defense attorney may be able to make the claim of insanity. Without rational thought being present, kidnapping charges may be reduced to a lesser charge, although the defendant may wind up paying a price through mental health confinement as a result.

Dwane Cates Law Group proudly serves clients in Phoenix, Tempe, Glendale, Scottsdale, Mesa and surrounding Arizona communities.

Common defenses against aggravated assault charges

As opposed to simple assault, aggravated assault occurs when the amount of violence in an assault reaches a certain level of injury or the threat of injury could be significant.

For example, slapping a person across the face could be a simple assault, but using a gun, or threatening to use a gun could be construed as an aggravated assault. Aggravated assaults occur when the assault takes place against a member in a protected class, such as a fire fighter, police officer, paramedic, social services worker or an elderly person.

A skilled lawyer who has experience in aggravated assault cases may be able to craft several possible defenses in this type of case.

Self defense is the most common of these. You can claim self defense if you can show that you reasonably believed that you or someone else was in immediate danger and feared suffering death or a serious injury. You must also be able to show that the use of force was necessary and that you only used as much force as was necessary to repel the immediate danger.

Another defense is that you did not willfully commit an aggravated assault. In other words, you may have been coerced by someone else to commit the act, perhaps because you or a loved one was threatened if you did not act the way that you did.

In addition, innocent people are accused of crimes they did not commit all the time. A witness may make a mistake under the pressure and in the heat of the moment of a crime being committed. Being falsely accused may also stem from the fact that someone is angry at you and they are seeking a form of revenge. This can happen when an angry ex-spouse or lover is involved, or may involve custody battle or disputes between business partners.

Dwane Cates Law Group proudly serves clients in Phoenix, Tempe, Glendale, Scottsdale, Mesa and surrounding Arizona communities

The difference between being charged with a Federal crime and a State crime

When you are charged with a crime, one of the keys to finding the right lawyer is understanding how your case will be charged, so that you can find the right attorney based on their appropriate experience.

Basically, you will either be charged with a state level crime or a federal level crime, meaning that you’ll want an attorney who either specializes as state criminal attorney or as a federal criminal attorney.

But how do you know which level of crime you’ll be charged with, and what are the implications of each?

Typically, if a crime is committed in only a single state, it will be considered a state crime, unless federal law specifically supercedes it. This means, murder, robbery, assaults, traffic violations and the like will be considered state level crimes. Any crime that takes place in more than one state or takes place on federal property will generally be considered a federal level crime. This may include crimes such as drug trafficking, IRS violations, mail fraud, kidnapping, immigration offenses or counterfeiting, among many others.

In some cases, a crime may either be charged as a state or a federal crime. In those instances the US Constitution has a “Supremacy Clause” which means that a federal law will take precedence over state law.

One of the most important distinctions between state and federal crimes involves sentencing after a conviction. While state courts are often guided by state legislation, judges do often times have discretion on minimum and maximum penalties. Federal courts rely on Federal Sentencing Guidelines which are applied in calculating penalties for convicted felons. Federal courts also use a point system when considering enhancements to sentences, based on various factors such as a person’s background, criminal history, and facts of the case.

Dwane Cates Law Group proudly serves clients in Phoenix, Tempe, Glendale, Scottsdale, Mesa and surrounding Arizona communities.

The basics of filing an appeal

If you’ve been convicted of a crime, you have the right to challenge the decision through an appeal process. The basis for the appeal can be filed based on the claim that key legal mistakes were made that affected the outcome of the trial and the sentence that was imposed. In an appeals process, a criminal appeals attorney is hoping to have the case dismissed or at the very least, re-tried or re-sentenced. Appeals are heard in what is known as an appellate court.

The attorney will present their reasons that an appeal should be validated by filing a brief with the court. No new evidence may be introduced and the court may only review the proceedings of the lower court. In response, the government will also file its own brief stating why the conviction should be upheld. In some cases, the presiding court will also ask both sides to present oral arguments before reaching a decision.

There are four main grounds for an appeal:

The lower court made a serious error of law that materially affected the outcome of the trial. Judges make mistakes and when one impacts the outcome of a trial or a sentence imposed, a challenge can be brought to correct the deficiency.

The evidence does not support the verdict that the judge or the jury reached. Because an appellate court is limited in what they can have access to, the “weight of evidence” claim may put appellate judges at a disadvantage when it comes to determining the validity of an appeal.

The lower court did not use appropriate discretion and made an errant ruling. A judge may be overturned if an appellate judge determines that he or she was clearly unreasonable or arbitrary in a way that did not support the facts of the case.

The defendant can claim that they had an ineffective assistance of counsel, a right protected under the Sixth Amendment. It is not enough to claim that an attorney was ineffective, it must also be shown that the ineffectiveness had a material outcome on the trial itself. Sometimes, the level of incompetence is not enough to impact the outcome.

Dwane Cates Law Group proudly serves clients in Phoenix, Tempe, Glendale, Scottsdale, Mesa and surrounding Arizona communities.

Arizona drug laws are some of the toughest in the nation

Despite a trend toward relaxing penalties related to certain drugs throughout much of the United States, Arizona is still known as one of the states with some of the toughest drug laws on the books.  Part of this is a general conservative attitude toward drugs in the state, and part of it comes from being a border state that is a prime target for drugs moving across the border with too much regularity.

All of these forces combine to create a severe punishment for anyone who is caught violating Arizona’s drug laws.  That means it is imperative to retain the services of an experienced drug crime attorney for even the smallest and most simple of drug related charges.

In Arizona, drugs are divided into six categories, and the type of punishment a person may receive will depend partly on which category of drug is involved.  Those categories are:

  • Marijuana
  • Prescription drugs
  • Narcotics
  • Peyote
  • Substances that release toxic vapors
  • Dangerous drugs such as metheamphetamines

In addition, you can also be charged with a drug crime if you possess the compounds used to make any of the aforementioned drugs as well.

The main dividing line in drug charges has to do with marijuana versus all other types of dangerous drugs.  Since the legalization of medical marijuana in Arizona, possession laws have become a bit fuzzy, but there are still harsh penalties for possessing larger quantities of the drug, as well as transporting, distributing and manufacturing it as well.

For many other drugs that are classified as dangerous drugs, you can be charged with a Class 4 felony, and depending on the quantity and circumstances, you can be looking at almost four years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000 upon conviction.

There is some leeway in these statutes and sometimes, through a plea bargain, charges and penalties can be negotiated down to lesser charges, but only with the help of a skilled drug crimes attorney.

Dwane Cates Law Group proudly serves clients in Phoenix, Tempe, Glendale, Scottsdale, Mesa and surrounding Arizona communities

Finding the right criminal defense lawyer to represent you.

You’ve been charged with a crime.  It may be something relatively minor, such as simple assault.  Or something much more serious, such as fraud, robbery, manslaughter or another crime that has the potential to be life changing.

You’re going to be in for the fight of your life, trying to do everything you can to protect your freedom.  But you can’t do it alone.  You know you’ll need the best possible criminal defense lawyer for your situation that you can afford.

So what do you do to find that person or that firm?

First, you got to determine what your legal needs will be.  A minor charge may only require a consultation from an attorney about how to best proceed.  But make no mistake, if you are facing a serious charge, you will want the full services and attention of top flight legal representation.

Then you’ve got to decide what type of defense attorney you’ll need.  It may seem obvious, but if you’re charged with a federal crime, then you’ll want an experienced federal defense attorney.  A state level charge means you will probably want to seek out someone with relevant experience in that type of court system.  This is important because when you’re prosecuted at the federal level, you’ll be prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s office, which has a lot more time and resources to put into your case.  It also pays to try and find a specialized attorney who has experience with exactly the type of charges you are facing.

You’ll need to figure out what your costs are going to be, which you can accomplish after an initial consultation with one or more attorneys who may represent you.  If you can’t afford the costs associated with a law firm, you may need to talk to a public defender, who are assigned by the courts to represent people with limited resources.

Finally, while there are many highly skilled attorneys out there, you need to make sure you find one with the qualities that are important to you as well.  Do you want someone who is compassionate?  A bull dog?  A strong negotiator?  What kind of reputation do they have?  What’s going to make you feel like you can trust this person to represent you the way you want to be represented as you face the tests you will encounter going forward?

Dwane Cates Law Group proudly serves clients in Phoenix, Tempe, Glendale, Scottsdale, Mesa and surrounding Arizona communities.

Understanding the different types of robbery you can be charged with

Robbery is defined as a form of theft that involves violence or some type of threatened violence, making any kind of robbery conviction one in which a defendant could face serious jail time.

In Arizona, robbery is broken into three distinct crimes:

Robbery, which is defined as the taking of another person’s property by using force of the threat of force, and against the victim’s will.  In most cases, a defendant will be charged with a Class 4 felony and could face up to three years in prison.

Aggravated robbery carries the same burden of proof as a regular robbery, except that a defendant will commit the crime with one or more accomplices.  Aggravated robbery is considered a Class 3 felony and can carry a penalty of up to seven years in prison.

Armed robbery involved the use of a deadly weapon or a simulated deadly weapon.  This means if a defendant uses a toy gun that appears to be a real gun, they can still be charged with armed robbery.  This offense is charged as a Class 2 felony and can result in up to 10 years in prison.

In each of these types of crimes, mitigating or aggravating circumstances can result in a penalty that is less than the maximum or confirm that a convicted defendant should receive the maximum sentence.  Much of the length of the sentence will be determined by how the judge perceives the facts of the case.

That’s why it is imperative to hire a skilled robbery attorney to represent you if you are charged with any form of robbery.  An attorney can not only mount a defense that may result in an acquittal, they may also be able to negotiate a lesser sentence when an acquittal is not possible.

Dwane Cates Law Group proudly serves clients in Phoenix, Tempe, Glendale, Scottsdale, Mesa and surrounding Arizona communities.

Arizona’s harsh DUI penalties

It’s been a tough week at work and you stop off with friends at your local watering hole for a couple of drinks.

Or, you’re watching the big game and you need to restock your frig at half-time.

Maybe it’s Saturday night, you’re at a party, and you’re feeling invincible when you’re selected to make the next beer run.

Whatever the case may be, when you get behind the wheel after too many drinks, you not only put your life other people’s lives in danger, you run the risk of messing up your life in a pretty big way, even if you don’t get into any kind of an accident.

Arizona limits the legal blood alcohol content limit for drivers to .08. While the punishments vary widely from state to state if you’re popped for driving while over this limit, in Arizona, you’ll be facing mandatory jail time, a suspended license, and you’ll have an ignition interlock device installed on your car. You will need to hire a lawyer who specializes in DUI to keep a bad situation from getting even worse.

It should be noted that the .08 limit applies to drivers who are of legal age to drink and drive. For anyone under 21 years old, there is a zero tolerance law in place, meaning that if you are busted for having any blood alcohol content whatsoever and you are under age, you can be charged with DUI. The law was put in place because nearly one-third of all fatalities for people under 21 years old are due to motor vehicle accidents. Of these, about one-third are caused by drinking and driving.

In addition, for those drivers who have a blood alcohol content of .15 or above, they will face aggravated DUI charges resulting in enhanced penalties upon conviction.

Those penalties start with a minimum 90 day suspension of a driver’s license and can rise to up to 3 years based on subsequent DUI convictions. While vehicle confiscation will not take place, a person will be required to go through mandatory alcohol education, assessment and treatment.

Dwane Cates Law Group proudly serves clients in Phoenix, Tempe, Glendale, Scottsdale, Mesa and surrounding Arizona communities

Defending yourself against manslaughter charges

A person charged in the accidental killing of another can either be charged with voluntary or involuntary manslaughter, depending on the circumstances of the situation and usually revolving around the degree of reckless and negligent behavior on the part of the defendant.  Defenses against manslaughter charges can be similar to other homicide charges, but there are a few other options as well.

An experienced manslaughter defense attorney may choose to use one or more of the following strategies in defending their client:

Self-Defense.  This is perhaps the most common of all manslaughter defenses.  An attorney must be able to prove that a defendant reasonably suspected that they were in imminent danger of being killed or seriously harmed.  They must also be able to prove that there was not an over-reaction on the amount of force used to protect ones self.  Sometimes, in a murder case, when this defense is used, a charge may be reduced from murder down to a plea of manslaughter, resulting in a lesser penalty.

Accidental.  A defendant may be able to show that the death was the result of an accident.  In cases where a dismissal may not be the outcome, it may be possible to have a charge reduced from one of voluntary manslaughter, which has an element of intent attached to it, to one of involuntary manslaughter, which only has some form of recklessness or neglect.

Innocence.  A prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person did actually commit manslaughter.  In some cases, it is possible to attach an alibi to a case or to introduce evidence that would create a reasonable doubt, leading to a dismissal of charges.

Dwane Cates Law Group proudly serves clients in Phoenix, Tempe, Glendale, Scottsdale, Mesa and surrounding Arizona communities