A pillar of our democracy is the presumption of innocence: before a person has been convicted of a crime, they are considered completely innocent under the law. Yet across the country, people who have not been convicted are punished—both explicitly and implicitly—based on the mistaken assumption that they are dangerous, purely on the basis of an accusation. We do not live in a society where you can be incarcerated or monitored simply because you have been accused of a crime. Doing so violates constitutional rights, fuels mass incarceration, and impedes a fair and functioning justice system.
Arguably, the most important moment in one’s case is the decision whether to release an arrested person on bail, and if so under what conditions. Nothing predicts a later criminal conviction more than being jailed pretrial. The difference between being locked behind bars or able to return to your family, maintain your job, and work with a lawyer to defend yourself can make or break your chances of winning your case. All too often, people succumb to the pressure to plead guilty—regardless of actual guilt—because of the horrors of incarceration.
Even for those who are released pretrial, the ordeal doesn’t end. Increasingly, presumptively innocent people are subject to onerous and expensive conditions upon their pretrial release such as ankle monitoring, drug testing, or physical checks ins with probation officers. In much of the country, people released may have to pay for the costs of any such conditions, which can cost hundreds of dollars every month.
But this critical pretrial decision is often infected by a knee-jerk fear: Simply because a person is accused of a given crime, they must be dangerous. This tendency undermines the presumption of innocence and is out of touch with reality. Over 98 percent of people released pretrial with pending felonies avoid arrest for a violent felony.
Arizona provides key examples of problematic presumptions of dangerousness. In 2002, Arizona voters passed a ballot initiative requiring that people accused of various crimes sit in jail pending trial. The ballot initiative was based entirely on fear-mongering, claiming without evidence that “it has happened time and again” that “slick defense lawyers” get bond amounts reduced and were thus “allowing predators back on the street for just a few hundred dollars.” We argued that these automatic jail laws were unconstitutional, and the Arizona Supreme Court struck down two provisions. The message was clear: You cannot presume someone is dangerous based simply on charge, even if the allegations are serious. Individuals deserve a determination of their pretrial freedom based on their specific circumstances.
However, Arizona still has laws on the books that shortchange crucial individualization pretrial. Under one state law, anyone accused of a sex offense is put on 24/7 GPS monitoring as a mandatory condition of their release. This means people have to wear an ankle monitor that tracks their every move, requires charging every day, and can be extremely stigmatizing to wear. In Mohave County, people have the added burden of having to pay a private, for-profit company for their monitoring, which can range between $8-$20 per day and run up to hundreds of dollars each month. If someone cannot afford these fees, they are thrown back in jail, which churns more people into the mass incarceration machine.
Those facing monitoring in Arizona, including our clients, have been accused of serious crimes. However, mandatory monitoring over an entire category of charges does not allow consideration of the facts of each specific case, and is clearly unconstitutional. Under current Arizona law, an 18-year-old with a partner who is 17 would be subjected to automatic monitoring if charged, as would a woman accused of indecent exposure if a person younger than 15 saw her breasts. Further, many people are wrongfully accused and overcharged: A third of all felony cases end in dismissal nationwide. And police and prosecutors have wide latitude to make charging decisions—with a documented history of harming people of color in particular—and may choose to tack on a higher charge to trigger the monitoring condition even where the evidence is thin.
Just because someone has been accused of a serious crime does not mean they are dangerous. Nor do they forfeit their constitutional rights. The Supreme Court made clear nearly seventy years ago that adding onerous bail requirements simply based on the crime charged is arbitrary and totalitarian. We must continue to fight to ensure these principles of our democracy are made meaningful in practice. We’ll be in court on August 22nd fighting against Arizona’s pretrial shortcuts to ensure that everyone is afforded their constitutional right to the presumption of innocence.
Attorney General Mark Brnovich had his nunchucks ready when Gov. Doug Ducey signed legislation in May ending a ban on the weapon in Arizona.
The state’s top prosecutor recorded a short video in his office showing the world his surprisingly good — too good, perhaps — nunchuck skills.
But the celebration was a bit premature as Senate Bill 1291 wouldn’t actually become law for several months. That time has come.
Tuesday marks 90 days from the end of this year’s legislative session and is when most new laws passed during the annual gathering of Arizona lawmakers take effect.
As curious as the nunchuck legislation is, it will hardly be the most significant among the new laws.
These are 14 new laws that take effect Aug. 27.
Vacation rentals are not just for vacations.
Websites like Airbnb and VRBO have given rise to a cottage industry of property owners leasing out homes for weddings and other events, much to the ire of some neighbors who have found their communities flooded with revelers.
House Bill 2672, sponsored by Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, bans short-term rentals for special events, such as weddings, or other “nonresidential uses.”
While backers hope this goes some way toward cracking down on so-called party houses, Kavanagh had proposed going further.
Legislators have mostly tied the hands of local governments when it comes to regulating vacation rentals. But rising rents and a housing crunch in some communities may prompt lawmakers to revisit the issue next year.
Electric scooters have popped up on city streets across Arizona and the country. Senate Bill 1398, by Sen. Tyler Pace, R-Mesa, gives riders all the rights and privileges of bicyclists. So, scooters can go wherever bikes can go but must also follow the same local laws.
One of Ducey’s priorities during this year’s session was legislation that would make it easier for professionals licensed in other states to move to Arizona and get to work in their chosen fields.
House Bill 2569 creates a universal licensing recognition program. Barbers, real estate agents, optometrists and a range of other professionals should be able to get licensed in Arizona if they are licensed and in good standing in another state.
They still will have to apply, pay fees and undergo any existing testing or background check requirements. But they may not have to go through the same sort of training and education programs required of new applicants.
LEARN ABOUT THIS LAW: How Arizona’s professional licensing law will work
Guilty or not, just about everyone who goes to jail is photographed. And thanks to the internet, those booking photos can live on forever.
But erasing those photos from some websites can cost you.
Some websites have made a profit by gathering mugshots and charging people a fee to take down the picture.
Sponsored by Rep. Kevin Payne, R-Peoria, House Bill 2191 will ban the practice of charging money to remove mugshot photos from a website and level hefty fines against any company that violates the new rule — up to $500 a day.
The framers of the Arizona Constitution envisioned a state where the public could take an active role in government and bypass the Legislature by proposing laws and placing them on the ballot, or by repealing laws they don’t like.
Legislators haven’t always been thrilled about it.
This year brings more changes in the rules for placing a proposal on the ballot.
Sponsored by Sen. David Gowan, R-Sierra Vista, Senate Bill 1451 requires anyone paid to gather petition signatures for a statewide initiative or referendum, or volunteering from outside the state, to register with the Secretary of State’s Office. They also must submit a notarized affidavit.
The Secretary of State’s Office says the law does not apply to petitions that already were issued serial numbers for circulation.
The bill also requires candidates for office to will have to file a statement of interest with election officials before circulating petitions to get a place on the ballot, preventing surprise candidates from breaking into the field.
Trained school personnel can administer certain drugs to minors in an emergency without parental consent under Senate Bill 1026, a proposal that was sponsored by Sen. Heather Carter, R-Cave Creek.
The drugs include epinephrine, which is used to treat severe allergic reactions, and naloxone hydrochloride, which is used to reverse opioid overdoses.
Teacher training programs in Arizona will have to include training in suicide prevention, identifying warning signs of suicidal behavior among adolescents and teens and appropriate techniques for intervening.
Suicide is a leading cause of death among young people in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sponsored by Sen. Sean Bowie, D-Chandler, Senate Bill 1468 also requires school districts to provide suicide awareness and prevention training to staff, starting in the 2020-2021 school year.
Animal cruelty in Arizona can be punished as a class one misdemeanor or, one notch worse, a class six felony.
A new law by Kavanaugh will allow a tougher penalty for the crime of subjecting a domestic animal, like a pet, to cruel mistreatment or killing the animal without the owner’s consent.
Those cases could be prosecuted as a class five felony, increasing the potential sentence from one year behind bars to 18 months.
Harassing a police dog or horse in a trailer or vehicle will also come with a new penalty as a class one misdemeanor under a new law sponsored by Rep. Walt Blackman, R-Snowflake.
Arizona Lottery winners who rake in more than $100,000 can keep their identities a secret starting Tuesday.
Currently, lottery winners are not identified publicly for 90 days after their prize is issued.
But House Bill 2552, sponsored by Rep. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix, will extend that confidentiality permanently for big winners.
Sponsored by Gowan, Senate Bill 1348 gives Arizonans more days to buy fireworks.
Vendors will be allowed to peddle their wares for several days around Diwali, the festival of lights celebrated by many Hindus, Sikhs and others, and around Cinco de Mayo. The bill also adds what are known as adult snappers to the list of permissible fireworks in counties with more than 500,000 residents.
Gowan’s bill raised eyebrows. He works for a fireworks company.
Defacing or removing a candidate’s campaign sign is a class two misdemeanor in Arizona.
Soon, that same penalty will apply to signs for ballot measures, not just candidates, thanks to House Bill 2023, sponsored by Kavanagh.
House Bill 2692 designates lemonade as Arizona’s official state drink.
The measure, sponsored by Rep. Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert, places Arizona among several states to have adopted an official beverage. Several states have designated milk as their official beverage while Florida has sided with orange juice and Massachusetts with cranberry juice.
Attorney General Mark Brnovich shows off his martial arts “skill” in video post after a law passed that decriminalizes possession of nunchucks. Attorney General Mark Brnovich
Arizona’s laws on weapons are pretty permissive. But it has had strict rules on nunchucks.
Gowan, who sponsored Senate Bill 1291, said states began adopting laws on nunchucks when Bruce Lee popularized it in his films during the 1970s.
But all Arizona’s law has done is prevent martial arts instructors from teaching their students about the traditional weapon, he argued. Lawmakers and Ducey agreed.
The backers of a measure to legalize marijuana in Arizona will make several “minor” changes following a legal review of the proposal by staff members of the state Legislature.
The 16-page “Smart and Safe Arizona Act” proposal was filed with the state in early August, and the backers opted for a review by the Legislative Council, a legislative committee that assists with the drafting of bills. The council responded with their review Friday.
The staff review by the nonpartisan committee is done mostly to assure the format and wording of the ballot measure is written and styled consistent with how bills are drafted at the Legislature, and also to address any potential conflicts the measure would create.
The biggest issue with Arizona legalizing marijuana is, of course, that it would conflict with federal law. That’s the first thing the review pointed out.
Smart and Safe Arizona will accept most of the changes proposed by the review, said spokeswoman Stacy Pearson, senior vice president with Strategies 360 in Phoenix.
But the conflict with federal law will remain. The federal government under both presidents Donald Trump and Barack Obama has taken a mostly hands-off approach to marijuana sales and use through state-regulated programs.
The Arizona legislative staff did make some important points, though, Pearson said. The staff noted that while the ballot measure proposes civil penalties and fines for violations of the act, it doesn’t say where money from those penalties should go.
“That’s a great catch,” Pearson said.
Many of the other suggestions in the review are grammatical or related to the format of the measure, such as alphabetizing certain sections. Many pages of the measure have dozens of suggestions for changes.
The measure would allow people 21 and older to have as much as an ounce of marijuana, while letting the state decide some important decisions such as potency.
The effort is funded by medical-marijuana dispensaries, who Pearson said made a concerted effort to address concerns from public safety officials, municipalities and other groups likely to oppose the measure.
The result is a measure that would limit retail sites mostly to the existing medical-marijuana dispensary locations in Arizona, tax sales at 16% above regular sales taxes, leave much of the regulation to the Department of Health Services and direct new revenues mostly toward community colleges and public safety.
Pearson said the measure should be refiled within a week with the changes.