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Arizona sentencing laws are not always flexible

When facing criminal charges, perhaps the most common concerns relate to the penalties associated with the crime. After all, fines for certain offenses can destroy your personal finances. Perhaps more urgently, if there is potential that you may go to jail for a conviction, it is important to understand how long that sentence might be.

While a sentence of six months or even two years is not a walk in the park, if the charges you are facing carry the potential for 10 years or even longer, you may miss your kids' entire childhood. The world you re-enter may be very different from the one you left. This is why it is critical to understand criminal sentencing in Arizona before you begin building your defense strategy.

What can you expect?

The sentencing phase of a trial happens after a judge or jury reaches a guilty verdict, or a defendant pleads guilty. In some cases, such as misdemeanor convictions, the judge will immediately name the sentence. If the case involves a felony or more complex matters, the procedure is more complicated. Your attorney, the prosecutor and others will make recommendations to the judge, asking for consideration of relevant factors including:

  • Arizona's sentencing laws
  • Your criminal history
  • Your expression of regret for your actions
  • The role you played in the crime, such as if you organized the circumstances or acted under duress
  • The level of cruelty involved in the crime or the amount of suffering the victim endured

There may be other circumstances that could influence your sentence, but depending on the crime, the judge may be bound to the laws of the state. In some states, for example, you automatically receive a life sentence if this is your third felony conviction, particularly for violent crimes. While Arizona does not have a "three-strikes" law, it does have mandatory minimum sentencing for some offenses, such as drug crimes and crimes involving the use of a weapon.

No matter the charges you face, you would be smart to take a hard look at the potential penalties you face for a conviction. A skillful criminal defense attorney will explain your options and guide you in taking the steps that will most benefit the outcome of your case. This may include building a strong defense with the goal of avoiding conviction or presenting mitigating circumstances with the hope of reducing the penalties for conviction.

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