Tucson Criminal Defense Attorney

Comprehensive Criminal Defense


Nathan D. Leonardo

If you have been charged with a crime, you probably have a lot on the line. You need help — you need a top Tucson criminal defense attorney at your side. Nathan Leonardo is certified as a specialist in criminal law by the State Bar of Arizona.

Having worked as a Tucson criminal defense attorney for over 18 years, Mr. Leonardo has the knowledge and experience needed to represent you when the stakes are high. Mr. Leonardo has worked as a Deputy Pima County Attorney and an Assistant United States Attorney but has spent the last 10+ years defending people who are facing criminal charges. Both the state and the federal government are represented by highly trained criminal lawyers. You should be too.

Choosing A Tucson Criminal Defense Attorney

With virtually unlimited resources, the government can be a formidable adversary. When you’re searching for a Tucson criminal defense attorney, it’s critical that you do some research. Look at a lawyer’s history, breadth of experience in criminal law, case results, and testimonials. Does the lawyer fully understand the criminal justice system, understand your adversary (the prosecutor’s office), and have a track record of success? It’s also important to talk to different lawyers to determine whether you are comfortable communicating with them and whether you feel that they are sincerely interested in helping you. The wrong decision could alter the trajectory of your entire life.

All Tucson criminal defense attorneys are different. Personalities and experience levels can vary significantly, and so can caseloads. At Leonardo Law Offices, we only handle a manageable number of cases at any one time. We pride ourselves on providing a high level of customer service along with high-quality legal work. Your case will not be handed off to an associate. Nathan or Suzette Leonardo will handle your case personally. If you are facing criminal charges in Tucson or southern Arizona, we would be happy to discuss your case with you at no charge. Feel free to contact us online or call us at 520.314.4125.

Criminal Defense FAQs

These are the two general classifications of crimes. Whether a crime is a misdemeanor or felony depends on the potential punishment. Misdemeanors are less serious crimes that are punishable by no more than one year in jail, although in Arizona the maximum sentence for a misdemeanor is six months in jail. These offenses are usually handled in lower level courts like municipal courts or justice courts.

Felonies are more serious crimes that can result in prison time. These cases are typically handled in superior court or federal court. If you are convicted of a felony, you lose your civil rights. This includes the right to vote and the right to bear arms.

Formal felony charges are made though an indictment, which is a charging document that can only be obtained by presenting a case to a grand jury or having a preliminary hearing in front of a judge. The grand jury or judge will decide whether the evidence presented is enough to establish probable cause for the charges. Law enforcement can arrest a person before or after this happens, or they can serve the person with a summons to appear in court. If they mail the summons and it is returned as undeliverable or you do not appear for the court date, then an arrest warrant is usually issued.

A bond, or bail, is an amount of money that you can pay, or post, to get out of jail. It is meant to make sure that you show up for future court dates once released. If you are taken into custody, bail can initially be set by a law enforcement officer but your attorney can argue that this amount be changed by the judge at your initial appearance. You attorney can also argue for a bail reduction later when a different judge is assigned to your case. This is why it is sometimes better to hire a criminal defense attorney before posting bail.

Bail can be posted by someone else on your behalf, including a bail bondsman. Bail bondsmen usually require payment of 10% of the total bail amount, which they will keep as their fee.

That’s up to you, but being charged with a crime is a serious matter with serious consequences. You’ll be facing a prosecutor hired and trained by the state, with virtually unlimited resources, whose job is to convict you of any crime they believe you have committed. You need someone looking out for your interests, asserting your rights, and answering your questions. Someone who knows the law, understands the rules of evidence, knows what motions to file, and knows how to make effective legal arguments. You also need someone who you can confide in and talk to freely with the knowledge that all communication is protected by the attorney-client privilege. 

A criminal defense lawyer will certainly give you piece of mind, but he or she can also advise you on how to deal with the criminal justice system and make sure you are protected and informed throughout the process.  An experienced criminal defense attorney knows the process and what to expect. He or she can develop a strategy for defending your case, reduce the severity of any penalties through plea negotiations, or even get a case dismissed altogether.  

There are some public defenders who are very good lawyers and some who are not, just like private lawyers. It’s hard to tell unless you do your research. It’s obviously better to have a public defender, if you qualify financially, than it is to represent yourself. But is it worth hiring a private criminal defense lawyer?

Public defenders work for the government. They are paid the same whether they do their jobs well or not. A lot of people who commit crimes can’t afford to hire their own lawyer, so public defenders handle a large number of cases. They can’t focus on all of those cases, so they often have to triage them. They also spend much of their time in court and they can be difficult to contact. I’ve had many clients come to me simply because they couldn’t even reach their public defender to get important information about their cases.

On the other hand, a private lawyer has a financial interest in making you happy. A private lawyer depends on your business and must rely on his or her reputation to earn new clients. An unhappy client won’t refer other clients or leave positive reviews online. Achieving good results and client satisfaction has a direct impact on a private attorney’s business and reputation.

The police are only required to inform you of your Miranda rights prior to any custodial interrogation. That means you must be in custody (not free to leave) and being interrogated (questions designed to elicit an incriminating response) before Miranda warnings are required. If police didn’t inform you of your Miranda rights when they should have, the remedy is not dismissal of the case but suppression of the illegally obtained statements. If the suppressed statements led the police to discover additional evidence, that evidence may also be suppressed as fruit of the poisonous tree. On the other hand, a Miranda violation probably isn’t very helpful if you didn’t make any incriminating statements to police.

Generally, the best thing to do when you think the police want to speak with you about something is hire a lawyer. When you hire a lawyer, any police communication should go through the lawyer rather than the police contacting you directly. Whether you have a lawyer or not, it’s generally best not to make any statements to the police. Although this may seem awkward, just politely decline to make a statement. You can tell them you’ve been advised to invoke your right to remain silent, or simply that your attorney advised you not to make a statement. No matter how the police respond to this, they understand the right to remain silent and deal with people invoking it on a daily basis. 

We may have one of the better criminal justice systems in the world, but it’s far from perfect. Innocent people are charged with crimes all the time. Police officers are human beings and can make mistakes. They are usually working with information they’ve been given by witnesses, who can also make mistakes. Moreover, bad people sometimes try to manipulate the system for their own personal gain. Many times, there’s simply not much evidence of how a crime occurred or who committed it, which can lead to erroneous speculation.

Fortunately, in this country we have a constitution that recognizes the possibility of these mistakes and is designed to make it difficult for any of these mistakes to result in a conviction or otherwise unjustly deprive someone of life, liberty or property. One of the major safeguards the Constitution provides is the right to counsel. People involved in the criminal justice system – lawyers, judges, and police officers – all understand this. They don’t hold it against you if you hire a lawyer. They understand that this is your right and that you are simply doing what any intelligent person in your situation should do. The police may act offended if you “lawyer up” but it’s just an act. This happens to them on a daily basis and they understand it’s a constitutional right. If any of these police officers were charged with a crime, the first thing they would do is hire the best defense attorney they could afford.

It’s usually a good idea to hire a lawyer even if you plan to plead guilty. Even if you think the prosecution has a strong case against you, an experienced criminal defense attorney can identify and litigate legal issues that could make it crumble. Even if no such issues exist, a skilled defense lawyer can help negotiate a fair plea bargain on your behalf and minimize the negative impact a criminal conviction has on your life. 

Obviously, if you can get a case dismissed or win at trial then there is no sentence imposed. But if you can’t avoid a conviction, whether jail time is imposed depends on the type of crime you’re charged with and what kind of plea deal you can negotiate. The alternative to jail or prison is probation. In some felony cases, the law requires a prison sentence within a certain range. More often, it is up to the judge whether you are sentenced to prison or probation. If you’re going to plead guilty, you want to make every effort to negotiate a plea agreement that allows the judge to impose probation rather than prison time. Even if you are sentenced to probation, however, the judge usually has the discretion to impose some jail time as a condition of probation.

There are even some misdemeanor convictions that require a minimum jail sentence, although probation is much more common. In misdemeanor cases, the State will sometimes offer diversion programs that allow you to avoid a conviction altogether if you attend classes or a counseling program.

A jail sentence is served at the local jail whereas a prison sentenced is served at a state or federal prison. A jail sentence can include work release or even home detention. These options aren’t available if you are sent to prison.

Free Case Evaluation

Contact our experienced Tucson criminal defense lawyer today for a confidential case assessment.

Call us today at (520) 314-4125.

"I came to Nathan feeling very anxious and scared with no idea what to expect. I was met with respect and compassion. Nathan was very professional in handling my case and was helpful and knowledgeable. He communicated with me to keep me informed of the status of my case and spoke to me using words I could understand and not just legal jargon. He actively worked on my case to defend me and guided me along the entire process. I feel fortunate to have benefited from such an incredibly talented advocate. Because of him and his perseverance, I was cleared of my charges and was able to return to my life feeling relieved and grateful. Nathan is absolutely an incredible lawyer and without hesitation I would recommend him to anyone needing legal representation."

- A.C.