Mandatory Minimum Sentences in Arizona Criminal Proceedings
All crimes carry negative consequences for those who get caught. Arizona’s criminal justice system aims to pinpoint the right punishment that’s based on the severity of the crime, the circumstances and whether the person is a first time offender.
Criminal offenses do come with a minimum mandatory sentence that’s determined by Arizona law. The minimum depends on whether the person has committed a felony or a misdemeanor and if they have a clean criminal record or not.
Minimum Mandatory Sentences for Felonies and Misdemeanors
Misdemeanors carry a lower sentence because they’re usually related to less severe crimes than felonies.
In some misdemeanor cases, the perpetrators will face probation rather than jail or prison time. Felonies, however, will always be linked to some time behind bars. Here are the general guidelines:
- A first-time felony offense comes with a sentence ranging from six months to four years in prison
- Repeat, non-dangerous felony offenders will have to spend anywhere between six months and four years behind bars
- People who have been convicted of at least three felony offenses on separate occasions in the past and break the law again will have to serve a prison sentence ranging from one to six years
- Those who are convicted of a felony with two or more past felony convictions will have to spend three to 14 years in prison
The minimum mandatory sentence for dangerous felonies is different from the ones stated above.
A first-time, Class 6 felony for a dangerous crime will come with a minimum prison sentence of 1.5 years. For a Class 2 felony, the perpetrator will have to spend at least seven years in prison.
In Arizona, sex crimes and dangerous crimes against children fall under a separate category when it comes to minimal sentences. Dangerous crimes against children include sexual conduct with a minor and molestation. These crimes carry a minimum sentence of 10 years with no possibility for early release.
For all other types of sex crimes, the minimum mandatory sentence in Arizona is five years in prison.
Minimum Mandatory Sentence Rules and Exceptions
The mandatory minimal sentence guidelines provide Arizona judges with some idea about the punishment that the severity of the crime entails.
Depending on the circumstances and the defense strategy chosen, however, the mandatory minimal sentence can be reduced.
Mitigating circumstances can be used by the lawyer to help reduce the severity of the punishment. Plea bargaining is another option for bringing the sentence down. A plea bargain occurs between the defense and the prosecution. The defendant agrees to plead guilty to a lesser charge for the purpose of receiving a more lenient sentence.
It’s also possible for the prosecution, however, to seek and demonstrate aggravating circumstances. If this is the case, the judge could decide to give the defendant a sentence that exceeds the minimum set by Arizona law.
Federal Minimum Sentence Guidelines
As you can see, state-based minimum sentencing guidelines can be quite complex. Arizona judges will have to take a lot in consideration to rule adequately and select a just punishment.
Whenever a person commits a federal crime, however, the situation becomes even more troublesome. Federal crimes come with their own specific minimum sentence guidelines.
Under the Federal Sentencing Act that was passed in 1984, state courts have to follow a strict set of specific guidelines for sentencing whenever a person is found guilty of a federal crime.
Federal crimes usually come with stricter punishment. The defendant risks having to spend a long time in prison, which is why adequate legal representation is crucial.
Regardless of the severity of the crime, you need to partner up with a knowledgeable Arizona criminal defense attorney. Otherwise, you may have to go through a lengthy and complex battle that’s not going to result in the best outcome for you.
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