Mitigating Factors & Your Criminal Defense

How Mitigating Factors Can Impact Your Sentence

In Arizona, when a defendant is convicted of a crime, the judge will usually have sentencing guidelines when deciding which penalties to impose. These guidelines let the judge know the range of time the defendant should spend in jail or prison, as well as the maximum fine for the offense. There may be other accompanying penalties, like driver’s license restrictions or drug screening and counseling. All of these combined could have a profound impact on your life. That is why part of your defense strategy should be looking for mitigating factors in your case. Read on to learn more about how mitigating factors can affect a criminal conviction in Arizona. If you have additional questions or would like to talk to a lawyer about your charges, call 480-448-9800 to schedule your free consultation.

 Mitigating Factors & Criminal Defense

What Are Mitigating Factors?

Mitigating factors are among the considerations a judge will weigh when deciding how severe of penalties to impose on a convicted defendant. They are generally factors that show the defendant hasn’t previously been a danger to the public, is unlikely to be one in the future, and possibly that there were extenuating circumstances surrounding the crime. Mitigating factors can only be used on non-capital felonies, the only one charge of which in Arizona is first-degree murder. That means if someone is convicted of first-degree murder, these mitigating factors won’t apply. The mitigating factors for non-capital felonies in Arizona are laid out by A.R.S. § 13-701:

  • The defendant’s age- for example, a defendant who is barely out of high school may be granted more leniency than a 30-year-old defendant who has no excuse for his immaturity. 
  • If the defendant’s capacity to appreciate the wrongfulness of their conduct was impaired, but not to a degree that would constitute a defense against the charges. 
  • If the defendant was under unusual or substantial duress that wouldn’t amount to enough for a total defense against the charges.
  • If the defendant played a minor role in the commission of the crime- e.g., a friend thinks he is dropping friends off at a store for an errand and waits for them in the parking lot. They rob the store and shoot someone in the process, but he abets them in their escape as a getaway driver. This defendant’s role could be considered as more minor because he was unaware of the plan to commit the crime, didn’t brandish or shoot a weapon, and may not have even known that anyone inside the store was hurt. The friends who came up with the plan and pulled the trigger would be considered to have played more major roles in the commission of the crime. 
  • If despite committing a crime, the defendant complied with A.R.S. §§ 28-661, 28-662, and 22-663. 
    • A.R.S. § 28-661: A defendant who flees the scene of the accident causing bodily injury will be shown less leniency than one who stays at the scene in accordance with state law. 
    • A.R.S. § 28-662: A defendant who flees the scene of the accident causing property damage will be shown less leniency than one who stays at the scene in accordance with state law. 
    • A.R.S. § 28-663: Duty to provide driver’s license, vehicle registration, and other information at the scene of an accident. 
  • Any other factor regarding the defendant’s character or background or circumstances surrounding the crime that are deemed mitigating by the court. 

Arizona Criminal Penalties

If you’re facing a non-capital felony offense in Arizona, understanding the applicable sentencing guidelines will make it clearer why it is so important to find mitigating factors in your case. Additionally, if several mitigating factors are present in your case, the prosecution may be more inclined to offer you a plea deal to lesser charges. Here are the penalty ranges for criminal convictions in Arizona. Keep in mind that the penalty ranges increase sharply if the defendant has prior convictions under certain categories. 

Petty Offenses

Petty offenses are the lowest level crimes in Arizona. They are not punishable by jail time. The maximum fine for an individual convicted of a petty offense is $300, and $1,000 for an enterprise. 

Misdemeanors – A.R.S. § 13-707, A.R.S. § 13-802, A.R.S. § 13-902

Misdemeanors are divided into three classes, with class 1 being the most serious. A.R.S. 13-707 describes misdemeanor jail sentences. A.R.S. § 13-802 describes the fines for misdemeanors in Arizona. A.R.S. § 13-902 describes probation periods for misdemeanors and felonies in Arizona. The maximum penalties for misdemeanors in Arizona are as follows:

  • Class 3: 30 days in jail, $500 fine, 1 year probation
  • Class 2: 4 months in jail, $750 fine, 2 years probation
  • Class 1: 6 months in jail, $2,500 fine, 3 years probation

Non-Dangerous Felonies – A.R.S. § 13-702, A.R.S. § 13-902

Some felonies show disregard for human life, while others may not truly put the victim in peril, e.g., embezzlement. The penalties for non-dangerous felonies are, as expected, less severe than penalties for dangerous felonies. Felony probation periods can be found in A.R.S. § 13-902. You can find the prison sentencing guidelines for non-dangerous felonies in A.R.S. § 13-702. Non-capital felonies are divided into six classes in Arizona, with Class 2 being the most serious. The penalties are as follows:

  • Class 6: ½ to 1 ½ years in prison, 3 years probation. 1/3 year in prison if mitigated. 
  • Class 5: ¾ to 2 years in prison, 3 years probation. ½ year in prison if mitigated. 
  • Class 4: 1 ½ to 3 years in prison, 4 years probation. 1 year in prison if mitigated. 
  • Class 3: 2 ½ to 7 years in prison, 5 years probation. 2 years in prison if mitigated. 
  • Class 2: 4 to 10 years in prison, 7 years probation. 3 years in prison if mitigated. 

Clearly, mitigating factors can knock years off of a prison sentence after a felony conviction. These need to be pursued aggressively for a defendant to achieve a reduced sentence. 

Dangerous Felonies – A.R.S. § 13-704

The prison sentences for dangerous felony convictions are the most serious in Arizona behind capital felony, or first-degree murder. The prison sentences for first-time dangerous felonies are:

  • Class 6: 1 ½ to 3 years
  • Class 5: 2 to 4 years
  • Class 4: 4 to 8 years
  • Class 3: 5 to 15 years
  • Class 2: 7 to 21 years

While state law doesn’t provide for mitigated sentences for dangerous felonies, mitigating factors could be used to convince the court that the defendant should receive a sentence on the lighter side of the guidelines. If you’ve been charged with a dangerous felony in Arizona, you are facing serious prison time and the loss of some of your civil rights- you should contact a Gilbert defense attorney to begin planning your legal strategy as soon as possible.

When Your Liberty Is On The Line, Hire The Professionals You Can Trust

Depending on your criminal charges in Arizona, you could be facing severe penalties that will permanently damage your station in life. You aren’t required to go through your case with the public defender assigned to you by the court. Our criminal defense team has the experience necessary to deliver favorable outcomes for our clients facing criminal charges in Arizona. We can provide you an honest opinion if you’ve already received an acceptable plea deal from the prosecution, or if there is more work that could be done on your defense. Your initial consultation is 100% free and confidential- call 480-448-9800 to schedule your time to speak with an experienced Arizona defense attorney today

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