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Sentencing and collateral consequences in Arizona

People who face criminal charges in Arizona may find it reassuring to know that judges should not sentence them arbitrarily. Instead, there are Criminal Code Sentencing Provisions posted by the Arizona Judicial Branch that should result in consistent sentencing. 

There are different factors that may cause a sentence to be lighter or more serious, known as mitigating and aggravating factors. The age of the defendant, his or her mental state, duress and the defendant’s personal role in the offense may be mitigating factors. Aggravating factors may include the following: 

  • Causing or threatening serious physical harm to someone else while committing the offense 
  • Using or threatening to use a dangerous instrument or deadly weapon 
  • Using an accomplice 
  • Committing the crime in a particularly heinous or cruel manner 

Class 1 felonies include first-degree murder, which may result in life in prison or the death penalty, and second-degree murder, which may result in a sentence of 16 years to life. 

Classes 2 through 6 felonies range from a possible life in prison for a dangerous offense against children to 0.25 years for a mitigated non-dangerous offense. Penalties for misdemeanors range from no jail and up to $300 for a petty offense to six months in jail and a fine of no more than $2,500 for a Class 1 misdemeanor. 

The state’s sentencing provisions do not mention collateral consequences for these crimes. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights explains that someone facing charges should investigate what consequences he or she may experience after release from prison. 

The criminal history may trigger a variety of sanctions, disqualifications and restrictions that include the inability to get a wide range of professional licenses, ineligibility for financial aid for higher education and other barriers to successful employment. Collateral consequences may also affect a person’s ability to find housing, access public benefits and create other difficulties to reentering society. 

Collateral consequences vary depending on the nature of the offense, the jurisdiction and the discretion of the judge. There are over 45,000 collateral consequences across the U.S. Of these, more than 18,000 are mandatory or automatic, and over 26,000 are permanent or indefinite. The judge and prosecutor do not have to mention the potential collateral consequences of a conviction at any point during the trial process.