Arizona's legislature has created mandatory sentencing for any number of
criminal offenses. A mandatory sentence means that upon conviction, the judge or court has
no discretion and must impose a prison term, the minimum and maximum terms
are set by law. Even if the judge feels that probation is appropriate,
he or she is bound by the law to sentence a defendant to prison.
What Kind of Crimes Carry Mandatory Sentences in Arizona
Dangerous Crimes Against Children
are offenses committed against victims 14 years old or younger. Such crimes include
sexual conduct with a minor, child molestation, and sexual exploitation of a minor (possession or
child pornography.) Long mandatory prison sentences are mandated upon conviction and any
sentence must run consecutive, or back to back, with any other sentence
for a dangerous crime against children, and no early release is possible.
A conviction for
sexual assault, even if committed against an adult, requires mandatory prison; however,
the term is substantially less than for a dangerous crime against children.
Drug offenses which exceed the statutory threshold also require mandatory prison under
Arizona law. A drug offense exceeds the threshold if the value of the
drugs exceeds $1,000.00. As examples, a transportation of marijuana charge
involving about 2 pounds or a sale of narcotic drugs (cocaine) involving
more than 9 grams requires mandatory prison under Arizona law.
White collar offenses, such as theft, can also require mandatory prison if the amount
of loss exceeds $100,000.00, though such offenses are often prosecuted
in federal court when this loss amount is at issue.
Repetitive offenses, or offenses committed when one has prior felony convictions, also require
mandatory prison upon conviction. In other words, even though an offense
may be probation eligible, the fact that the accused has been convicted
of another felony offense in the last 5 or 10 years (depending on the
nature of the charge) can make prison mandatory.
Dangerous offenses are among the most common charges that have mandatory sentencing laws.
A dangerous offense is one that involves the use of a deadly weapon or
dangerous instrument in the commission of the crime. An offense can also
be classified as dangerous if the victim sustained a serious physical
injury, even if no weapon or dangerous instrument was involved.
In cases of vehicular crimes where someone is injured or killed, prosecutors
often allege that an automobile is a deadly weapon, to raise the stakes
by making prison mandatory upon conviction.
Examples of deadly weapons or dangerous instruments include guns, knives,
and even screwdrivers - depending on how it is used.
Aggravated assault, armed robbery, drive-by shooting, and
murder are common examples of violent crimes for which mandatory prison sentences
Just because you have been charged with a crime that carries mandatory
prison time doesn’t mean that your fate is sealed. With the assistance
of a determined Phoenix criminal defense attorney, it is not too late
to turn the tables.
Mandatory Terms Or Just Scare Tactics?
The reality is that
less than 5% of all cases go to trial. A lot of criminal defense lawyers try to scare their clients by telling
them the maximum mandatory sentence that is possible. They could also
tell them about the possibility of finding a purple baby elephant in the
back seat of your car when you leave for work one morning. Anything is
possible, but I think that being
honest, fair, and realistic is better than scaring people when they are emotionally vulnerable. It's
the right thing to do and, besides, karma is a funny thing.
How We Can Help You
Prosecutors and experienced criminal defense attorneys know how to effectively
negotiate and 'massage' charges to take mandatory prison off the table.
Sex crimes can be amended to something that is not prison mandatory
White collar crimes can have the amount of financial loss reduced to give a judge discretion
to order that no jail time be served
Drug offenses can be negotiated in a way to reduce the amount of drugs at issue to below
- Dangerous crimes can be treated as non-dangerous offenses
- Prior convictions can be dismissed to allow for probation
The point is that mandatory prison is often a trump card that prosecutors
use and one which some defense attorneys capitalize on to scare and bully
their clients. But an experienced criminal defense lawyer knows that the
prosecutor's trump card is often nothing but a bluff. Take a look at our
Recent Results page. You will see that most every charge listed started as a mandatory prison
offense. We didn't balk and aggressively represented and defended
our clients to achieve a highly successful outcome in each of these cases.
And if it takes going to trial to defend our clients' rights, then
that's exactly what we will do.
A Final Thought on Mandatory Sentencing in Arizona
"Don't Believe the Hype."
--Flavor Flav, 1988.
If you would like to learn more information about what the Law Office of
Jason D. Lamm can do for you,
call our office at (602) 663-9100 to begin your defense today.