Monday, June 27, 2016


    At The Law Offices of Randall J. Craig PLLC we have tried some large cases here in Arizona, many of them capital cases.  These are very difficult cases in which a defendant’s life is at stake.  Contrary to non death felony cases, these cases present a trifurcated procedure in which there is a guilt phase, an aggravation phase and then the penalty phase. Recently the Court decided that a capital defendant’s pretrial offer to plead guilty in exchange for a natural life sentence is admissible at the penalty phase of trial to show in mitigation their acceptance of responsibility for the murder, a non statutory mitigating circumstance.  Under Arizona Revised Statutes Section 13-751(g) and 752(g) as well as State v. Sansing, acceptance of responsibility by a defendant in a capital case is non statutory mitigating circumstance and a trial court is constitutionally required under the United States Supreme Court’s decisions in Lockett v. Ohio and Eddings v. Oklahoma to admit such proffered evidence. However, any evidence offered to show acceptance of responsibility must also be relevant. Busso-Estopellan v. Mroz and State of Arizona (RPI). If you have been accused of a crime please call our office at 480 767-0400. You may also reach us via the web at

    At The Law Offices of Randall J. Craig, PLLC we handle all sorts of homicide cases and all types of felony cases whereby there is ballistic or firearm evidence.  So many times, the identification of the shooter is at issue. In numerous felony cases, firearms are a key component of the case. Recently, in a murder case here in Arizona evidence alleged to tie the defendant to the murder included six shell casings recovered from the crime scene. In typical fashion, the state’s police firearms expert concluded the casings were fired from the defendant’s firearm.  In a correct ruling by the Supreme Court, it was held that the trial court erred by precluding the defense from offering expert testimony that the firearms examiners used “subjective” rather than scientifically rigorous methods in drawing conclusions from indentions on the shell casings. The Court further found that such methods that are generally used in conventional toolmark analysis fall short of scientific standards for experimental design, because Rule 702 of the Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure allows an expert witness to testify if, among other things the witness is qualified and the expert’s “scientific, technical or other specialized knowledge will help the trier of fact to understand or give appropriate weight to the evidence. State v. Romero, CR15-0039-PR, 1/20/16. If you have been accused of a crime, you may reach us via the web at or by calling The Law Offices of Randall J. Craig at 480 767-0400

Sunday, June 26, 2016


At The Law Offices of Randall J. Craig we provide criminal defense to those accused of a crime.  Part of that service is finding where the prosecutor or law enforcement has erred in the investigation of the crime itself.  We recently handled a case whereby the the police showed up with their trained dog some 65 minutes after a a car was stopped for transporting narcotics.  It is already settled that a trial court may err by “suppressing evidence” in a drug transportation prosecution in finding a lack of reasonable suspicion for an additional 40 minute detention required to allow a narcotics drug sniff dog to arrive at the scene in a case involving a police officer that is highly experienced in drug interdictions who forms a reasonable suspicion based on the suspect’s suspicious actions/inconsistent statements, his driving a rental car with no personal belongings inside, his extensive criminal history involving transporting drugs, and the presence of unmarked and sealed shipping boxes with “very solid weight” consistent with drug packages in the trunk of defendant's vehicle that defendant refuses to allow the officer to open.

Saturday, June 25, 2016


    At The Law Offices of Randall J. Craig, PLLC we handle numerous criminal cases around the Phoenix, Arizona area.  These cases range from homicide & drugs to general burglary cases. Sometimes a defendant has numerous prior felony convictions that can add numerous years onto a potential sentence.  The Arizona Court of Appeals recently ruled that a trial court does not abuse its discretion in admitting an Arizona Department of Corrections (ADOC) “pen pack” as a self authenticating, certified copy of a public record pursuant to Rule 902(8) of the Arizona Rules of Evidence to prove a defendant had historical prior felony convictions for sentence enhancement purposes where the pen pack also included a photograph of the defendant, a fingerprint card, and an in state exemplification or “jurat” that exceeds the requirement of the rule because the signer “must be placed under oath swearing or affirming that the contents of the documents are true and correct”, rather than merely acknowledging by notarization the authenticity of the signature. State v. Solis, 2 CA-CR 2014-0084, 11/26/14

Burglary is what?


    At The Law Offices of Randall J. Craig, we handle all sorts of criminal cases, especially burglary cases. Here is some latest case law we found interesting. The act of removing property from the open bed of a pickup truck constitutes “entry of a structure under the Arizona burglary statutes. The term “entry” under ARS Section 13-1501(3) means “the intrusion of ...any part of a person’s body inside the external boundaries of a structure.” Furthermore, pursuant to Sections 13-1501(12), a “structure” can include “any building, object, vehicle, railroad car or place with sides and a floor that is separately securable from any other structure attached to it and that is used for lodging, business, transportation, recreation or storage”, while under Section 13-105(41) a “vehicle” is a device in, upon or by which any person or property is...transported or drawn upon a highway.” The act of reaching into a truck bed amounts to an intrusion beyond the external boundaries of the structure because the sides of a truck bed provide the external boundary for that part of the vehicle.  State v. Bon, 2 CA-CR2014-0054, 11/28/14.

No Peremptory challenges

    At the Law Offices of Randall J. Craig our criminal cases consist of numerous issues. Sometimes a change in the trial judge is necessary.  Recently the Court of Appeals ruled however that a trial court’s denial of a defendant’s Rule 10.2 Ariz.R.Crim.P., request for peremptory change of judge may not be challenged on direct appeal and must be reviewed by special action.  In reviewing the issue, the Court of Appeals analogized the Arizona Supreme Court’s decision in Taliaferro in the context of a civil action, where the Court had reasoned that a peremptory change of judge essentially is a “matter of grace” that could be converted to “a trump card which would later destroy the validity of the entire proceeding.”  The Court of Appeals found that once a defendant has been convicted and sentenced, “it is too late in the day to be worrying about who tried the case, short of true challenges for cause.” State v. Ingram, 2/11/16.

I have been practicing criminal law for over twenty years.  At The Law Offices of Randall J. Craig we handle quite a few murder cases but this latest ruling has us shaking our head.  The Supreme Court ruled that a trial court did not err by entering a summary dismissal in a Rule 32 post conviction relief (PCR) matter related to a double homicide committed by a 17 year old. The PCR maintained there was newly discovered evidence  regarding recent scientific findings concerning juvenile psychology and neurology. The United States Supreme Court had held that the Eighth Amendment bars certain sentences for juvenile offenders when there was newly discovered evidence but here the Court ruled that the sentencing court had considered/contemplated similar evidence at the time of sentencing the defendant in 1993, whereby the alleged new evidence could not have changed the outcome.  State v. Amaral, CR-15-0090PR, 2/4/16

Friday, June 24, 2016

Probable Cause and You


    People are always confused about their rights to a hearing whenever they are wrongly arrested. The prompt probable cause review required by constitutional due process is explained by the United States Supreme Court in Gerstein v. Pugh:
...At common law it was customary, if not obligatory, for an arrested person to be brought before a justice of the peace shortly after arrest.  The justice of the peace would examine the prisoner and the witnesses to determine whether there was reason to believe the prisoner had committed a crime.  If there was, the suspect would be committed to jail or bailed pending trial.  If not, he would be discharged from custody  The initial determination of probable cause also could be reviewed by higher courts on a writ of habeas corpus.  This practice furnished the model for criminal procedure in America immediately following the adoption of the Fourth Amendment and there are indications that the framers of the Bill of Rights regarded it as a model for a “reasonable” seizure.

Both the standards and procedures for arrest and detention have been derived from the Fourth Amendment and its common law antecedents.  The standard for arrest is probable cause, defined in terms of facts and circumstances “sufficient to warrant a prudent man in believing that the suspect had committed or was committing an offense.”  This standard, like those for searches and seizures, represents a necessary accommodation between the individual's right to liberty and the state's duty to control crime.

The point of the Fourth Amendment which often is not grasped by zealous officers, is not that it denies law enforcement the support of the usual inferences which reasonable men draw from evidence.  Its protection consists in requiring that those inferences be drawn by a neutral and detached magistrate instead of being judged by the officer engaged in the often competitive enterprise of ferreting out crime.

Probable Cause Flux

Probable Cause Generally

   Here is the general scenario how police officers make arrests.  A crime has been committed.  A police officer plans to make an arrest based on an investigation.  The Constitution requires the officer to present a sworn statement before a detached magistrate in order to determine probable cause.  This is what that means:  a magistrate, without any bias or attachment to the parties involved, must review the facts of the investigation to determine the suspected culprit more than likely committed the crime before an officer may constitutionally arrest a suspect.  This process results in an arrest warrant.  However, sometimes circumstances arrive when an officer is called to the scene of an ongoing crime or witnesses a crime in which the officer must make an arrest to protect the peace.  The officer must, however only make the arrest if there is probable cause the  arrestee committed the crime.  An officer cannot arrest someone for less than probable cause, e.g.,:spite.  However, because the officer is not a detached magistrate, the US Constitution still r that a magistrate determine probable cause after an arrest made without a warrant.  This is to prevent circumventing the arrest warrant protection afforded all US citizens.

    The United States Supreme Court in County of Riverside v. McLaughlin lays out a rule whereby the government is presumed to have promptly brought an arrestee before a magistrate for a probable cause review when the arrestee receives a probable cause review within 48 hours of a warrantless arrest.  The Supreme Court’s opinion was that a probable cause review held within 48 hours of a warrantless arrest places the burden on the arrestee to show a lack of promptness, i.e, the government violated its duty and your right to a prompt probable cause review.  And, when an arrestee is brought before a magistrate, after 48 hours the government is presumed to be in violation of its duty and your right to a prompt probable cause, which would then require the government to show extraordinary circumstances prevented a more prompt probable cause review

    Here are four instances where government action is in disregard to the rule.

   1)When a court resets the date of a probable cause review without the arrestee’s consent because the arresting officer is not present.

  2)When, in a most peculiar circumstance, an arrestee is given a bond hearing in lieu of a probable cause review-one would not need a bond if one were not confined due to an illegal arrest.

  3)When no effort is made at all to bring an arrestee before a magistrate for a probable cause review within 48 hours.

  4)When an arrest warrant is taken out after the arrest, while the defendant sits in confinement, purposely not brought before the magistrate to contest the officer’s testimony-an officer who now has an interest in ensuring his actions are seen as constitutional after the fact.
Do not just plead guilty

    As a trial lawyer I have had the opportunity to see it all in the courtroom over the years.  Many times I have seen defendants just plead guilty during their arraignments.  In a 2011 report issued by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers entitled Three Minute Justice: Haste and Waste in Florida’s Misdemeanor Courts, a number of problems in that state’s misdemeanor courts were outlined.  It was also found that many defendants simply pled guilty during their three minute  arraignments.  I and my fellow attorneys, especially here in Arizona have observed the same thing going on in the municipal courts.

    The most common problems in misdemeanor courts appear to be that defendants do not receive court-appointed counsel.  Those defendants in a criminal case are then encouraged to plead guilty without the advice of counsel.  Here is the problem, many judges do not believe  counsel is needed in many cases.  Their dockets move quicker without court appointed lawyers.  A guilty plea at arraignment also reduces the number of court appearances that a defendant will make.  That in turn moves the docket along.  Here is the real travesty.  Many judges, prosecutors and unrepresented defendants believe that because it is “only a misdemeanor,” defendants do not need an attorney for sentences of time served, a fine payment or probation.

    Do not just plead guilty.  In the State of Arizona, misdemeanors carry a potential sentence of 6 months in jail and a $2,500 fine.  Even in those cases where a jail sentence is unlikely, a criminal conviction can harm a person’s ability to gain employment or attend certain schools.  Any misdemeanor conviction is a criminal conviction so please be careful before you just plead guilty.