What is a violent crime in Arizona? The law defines a violent crime as a crime in which one person uses force upon another. Violent crimes are prosecuted very seriously in the state of Arizona, and the stakes for defendants charged with these types of crimes are incredibly high. Crimes classified as violent crimes often draw plenty of attention from the public, as well. This creates extra pressure for judges and prosecutors to obtain a conviction and to avoid offering generous plea bargains that they might otherwise offer a defendant.
Defendants charged with violent crimes in Arizona need an experienced violent crime attorney to help them navigate the political landscapes of the courtroom.
Which Crimes are Violent Crimes in Arizona?
Violent crimes encompass a range of activity, including:
- Robbery and armed robbery
- Assault and aggravated assault or battery
- Weapons offenses
- Manslaughter and Homicide
This is not a comprehensive list, but these are certainly the most common violent crimes tried in Arizona courts. Due to the nature of these crimes, they are always thoroughly and aggressively investigated by law enforcement.
What are Dangerous Offenses in Arizona?
Arizona state law includes a subset of violent crimes known as “dangerous” offenses.
The law defines a dangerous offense as an offense that involves the use or threatening exhibition of a deadly weapon or other dangerous instruments, or the intentional or knowing infliction of serious physical injury on another person.
Though the definition of a deadly weapon is relatively clear, the definition of a “dangerous instrument” is less so. For example, we all know that a deadly weapon might refer to a knife (See: Arizona Knife Laws) or a gun, but what exactly would a dangerous instrument be? Arizona state law defines a dangerous instrument based entirely on its use. If in a certain instance, someone uses a broom handle to assault someone else, a broom could be classified as a dangerous instrument under Arizona law. In turn, this means that assault charge just got upgraded into the dangerous offense category.
Very few instances of violent crimes do not fall under this category of being “dangerous”. If convicted of a dangerous offense, a judge has no choice but to impose a prison sentence.
What are the Penalties for Violent Crimes in Arizona?
Nearly all violent crimes in Arizona have mandatory sentences attached to them. This means that the judge has very little leeway to determine a sentence they find appropriate. Instead, the state requires the judge to impose a sentence that falls within a certain range pre-determined by the law. This happens regardless of the individual facts of the case. The potential penalties for violent crimes in Arizona usually include prison sentences as well as steep fines. Convictions of these crimes could also make a defendant ineligible for parole.
Violent crimes can range from misdemeanors to felonies. And penalties run the gamut from one month in jail and a fine of $500 for a class 3 misdemeanor to a prison sentence of 7 to 21 years for a class 2 felony. Defendants charged with a felony could also face fines of up to $150,000.
The severity of a defendant’s violent crimes charges depends on certain aspects of their particular case, such as:
- The danger involved in the offense
- Criminal history of the alleged offender
- Age of the offender (whether or not the offense involved a child under the age of consent in Arizona)
- Was the offense unprovoked or did someone provoke the alleged offender
The presence or absence of these aspects can elevate misdemeanors to felonies or lower-level felonies to higher-level felonies. There is obviously a massive range from one end of this spectrum to the other. Therefore, only an experienced violent crime attorney can advise you what the penalties might be for your case.
Violent Crime Defense in Arizona
There are plenty of possible defenses for violent crimes in Arizona allowed by Chapter 4 of the Arizona Revised Statutes. Not all of these defenses are applicable in every situation. But an Arizona violent crime attorney can help you identify your best legal strategy. The following possible defenses are available to those accused of violent crimes in Arizona:
- Self-defense. If an individual believes that physical force is necessary to protect themselves, they may be entitled to use self-defense to beat violent crime charges.
- Defense of property or premises. An individual may use the defense of property or premises if they reasonably believe physical force was necessary to prevent theft of their property or criminal trespass onto their premises.
- Defense of a third person. If an individual has sufficient reason to believe that physical force is necessary to defend a third party from harm, they may use the defense of a third person.
- Duress. If an individual was forced to engage in violent crime by threat or immediate use of physical force that could result in serious physical injury, they could use this defense.
- Lack of mental state. An individual can use a lack of mental state as a defense if they did not have the required mental state, or if they did not act knowingly, recklessly, or intentionally.
Violent Crime Defense of Mental States
Alleged violent crime offenders are required to have a certain mental state, or to have acted knowingly, intentionally, or recklessly. The state requires the prosecuting attorney to prove guilt. Because of the difficulty in proving a particular mental state, or lack thereof, many violent crime attorneys base their argument on this premise. The law bundles the most common violent mental capacities into three categories:
- Knowingly: having acted with the awareness that their actions were criminal or assault-like in nature.
- Intentionally: having acted with the objective of engaging in criminal conduct
- Recklessly: having acted with active disregard to a substantial and unjustifiable risk that their conduct might be considered criminal or assault-like.
Therefore, if a prosecutor cannot prove one or more than one of these mental states, it’s possible that your charges could be reduced.
Prepare Your Violent Crime Defense Strategy with Belen Olmedo Guerra
Belen Olmedo Guerra is an experienced Phoenix, AZ criminal defense attorney who will handle your case with a thorough investigation and craft a precise and optimal defense. She examines each piece of evidence the prosecution intends to use against you and countering it.
A violent crime charge can carry very serious consequences and should not be taken lightly. Belen will drive your case forward to the most optimal result for you.