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Sheriff Joe Ongoing Legal Matter

Sheriff Joe ongoing legal matter

There’s a new Sheriff in town. At long last, the contentious elections are finalized. The polls were not only heated in the national election. Here in Arizona we had some controversial votes to cast. Along with legalizing recreational marijuana, Maricopa County had to decide on who will run the sheriff’s office.  The results of the polls ousted the long time and infamous Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The 84 year old served 6 terms in Maricopa County and is now facing a much different future than he is used to. While his time as top cop has come to an end, he still facesongoing serious legal issues from his time in office. Still confused about these legal matters? Here is an overview.  In 2011, a judge issued an injunction ordering Arpaio to stop racially profiling Latino drivers. Subsequently, prosecutors gathered enough evidence to show the judge that the MCSO continued to racially profile Latino drivers after the injunction, defying the judge’s orders, for at least a year and a half.  The evidence of continued immigration patrols and willful disobeying was presented to the judge and in October, less than a month before the 2016 elections, Arpaio was formally charged with criminal contempt.

What is criminal contempt

Contempt of court can be criminal (misdemeanor) or civil, resulting from actions that defy, disrespect, or insult the authority of the court.  If found guilty of Arizona criminal contempt, it can carry up to 6 months in jail.  Interestingly, a misdemeanor would not prevent a person from serving as sheriff. Judges look extremely unfavorably on criminal contempt charges. They see this defiance by acting against their specific orders as harmful to the court’s capability to do its job of administering justice.  In Sheriff Joe’s case, evidence was presented that showed the judge the actions taken by Arpaio after the injunction were willful, therefore the decision to take further criminal action was justified.

Experience with criminal contempt

In my experience there are many times when a judge orders a client to do or not to do something relating to a criminal matter, formally or informally.  Judges have a lot of discretion when it comes to charging someone with contempt.  Witnesses, attorneys, jurors, family members, and even police officers can be roped into a legal proceedings themselves if they disobey a judge’s orders.  As an attorney, it is important that I am able to gather all the information relating a criminal contempt charge.  Sometimes it is simply an issue of miscommunication or misunderstanding of the original order.  I take these case very seriously because it is a delicate charge; it can quickly get out of hand for a client who may not be aware of how seriously judges take legal proceedings in their court room.  It is a painful lesson to learn but an experienced Arizona attorney can help.

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