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Violent crime in Arizona includes actions that cause death, physical injury, or involve a deadly weapon. These offenses are treated seriously in the legal system, often leading to severe penalties compared to non-violent offenses.

If you are facing violent crime charges, contact the defense attorneys at the Law Office of Daniel Hutto for expert guidance and representation.

Here’s what this article will cover:

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types of violent crime in arizona

What is the Definition of Violent Crime 

 In Arizona, a violent crime is defined legally as any criminal act that results in death or physical injury or involves the use of a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument.

Types of Violent Crimes

 Here are some of the principal types of violent crimes recognized under Arizona law:

  • Homicide: Includes murder and manslaughter, where the perpetrator causes the death of another person.
  • Assault: Actions that intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly cause physical injury to another, ranging from simple assault to aggravated assault.
  • Robbery: The act of taking property from someone else through force or threat of force.
  • Sexual Assault: Engaging in any sexual act with another person without consent, often involving force or coercion.
  • Kidnapping: The unlawful confinement or abduction of a person against their will, often involving the use of force.
  • Domestic Violence: Certain acts of violence committed within a domestic setting, which may include physical harm or threats.

These categories represent the most commonly prosecuted violent offenses in Arizona.

violent crime allegations

How Does the Court Deal With Violent Crime Allegations 

When handling allegations of violent crime, Arizona courts follow set procedures to ensure justice and protect public safety. 

Initial Allegations and Charges

Once an allegation of a violent crime is made, it must be formally charged in the indictment or information. This includes a clear statement of the violent act as per the requirements of Arizona law.

The courts allow such allegations to be added to charges at any time before the trial

as long as it does not unfairly prejudice the defendant, especially if added close to the trial date.

Pre-Trial Procedures

During pre-trial, the courts conduct thorough examinations of the evidence presented, ensuring all collected evidence complies with legal standards and the rights of the accused are upheld. Pre-trial motions and hearings can address issues like probable cause, the admissibility of evidence, and other procedural matters.

Trial and Adjudication

At trial, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the violent crime as charged. The defense has the opportunity to counter the prosecution’s evidence, present an alternative narrative, and demonstrate any weaknesses in the case against the defendant.

Sentencing

If the defendant is found guilty of a violent crime, sentencing follows. Arizona courts consider various factors, including the nature of the crime, the defendant’s criminal history, and any mitigating circumstances. Violent crimes typically result in more severe penalties, reflecting the seriousness of the offenses.

Appeals and Post-Conviction Relief

Defendants have the right to appeal their convictions if there are grounds to believe legal errors affected the trial’s outcome. This can include procedural errors, incorrect jury instructions, or issues with evidence admission.

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violent crime sentencing guidelines

How Does The System Penalize Violent Crime Offenders 

Arizona enforces harsh penalties for individuals convicted of violent crimes, particularly for those with prior convictions for serious offenses.

Life Imprisonment for Repeat Offenders

Under ARS 13-706, individuals who are at least eighteen years old or who have been tried as an adult and are convicted of a serious offense (excluding drug offenses, first-degree murder, or dangerous crimes against children) and have at least two prior convictions for serious offenses not committed on the same occasion are sentenced to life imprisonment.

These individuals are not eligible for suspension of sentence, probation, pardon, or release from confinement on any basis until they have served at least 25 years, unless their sentence is commuted.

Enhanced Sentences for Multiple Violent or Aggravated Felonies

For those convicted of committing, attempting, or conspiring to commit any violent or aggravated felony, and who have previously been convicted on separate occasions of two or more violent or aggravated felonies not committed on the same occasion, the law prescribes life imprisonment.

This sentence is mandatory regardless of other sentencing provisions that might suggest shorter terms. Eligibility for commutation is possible only after the offender has served at least 35 years.

Criteria for Enhanced Sentencing

To qualify for the enhanced penalties under subsection B, the following conditions must be met:

  1. The prior convictions for aggravated or violent felonies must have been entered within 15 years of the third offense’s conviction, excluding any time the individual was in custody or on probation, or while absconding.
  2. The sentence for the first conviction must have been imposed before the conduct that led to the second conviction occurred, and similarly for the second before the third.

Consideration of Offenses Committed in Other Jurisdictions

The statute also accounts for offenses committed outside Arizona, considering them as equivalent to in-state offenses if they match the elements of serious offenses defined under Arizona law. This ensures that offenders cannot evade enhanced penalties by committing crimes in different jurisdictions.

Definition of Serious and Violent or Aggravated Felonies

ARS 13-706 specifically lists offenses classified as serious or violent/aggravated felonies, including first and second-degree murder, various forms of assault and sexual offenses, kidnapping, armed robbery, and other serious crimes.

What Defense Strategies Can Be Used? 

Here are some of the most effective defense strategies that experienced attorneys might employ:

Self-Defense

One of the most common defenses in cases of violent crime is self-defense. This strategy is applicable when the defendant can demonstrate that their actions were a necessary response to an immediate threat of harm. The defense must show that the force used was reasonable and proportional to the threat faced.

Insanity Defense

In situations where mental health issues are relevant, the insanity defense may be applicable. This defense argues that the defendant was incapable of understanding the nature of their actions or distinguishing right from wrong at the time the crime was committed, due to a severe mental disease or defect.

Alibi

An alibi defense involves proving that the defendant was not present at the scene of the crime when it occurred. This can be supported by witness testimony, surveillance footage, or other forms of evidence that confirm the defendant’s whereabouts during the time of the alleged crime.

Duress

The defense of duress can be used when the defendant claims that they were coerced into committing the crime due to the threat of immediate harm to themselves or someone else. This requires demonstrating that the defendant had a well-founded fear that failure to commit the crime would result in serious harm.

Mistake of Fact

This strategy is employed when the defendant misunderstood some fact that negates a key element of the crime. For example, if the defendant believed that a borrowed item was actually given to them permanently, this could negate an intent to steal.

Inadequate Evidence

A common defense approach is simply to highlight the lack of evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime. This can involve questioning the credibility of witnesses, the integrity of law enforcement investigations, or the validity of forensic evidence.

Constitutional Violations

Defense attorneys may also look for violations of the defendant’s constitutional rights during the investigation or arrest. Examples include illegal search and seizure, failure to administer Miranda warnings, or other procedural errors that could affect the admissibility of evidence.

Each of these strategies can be crucial in defending against a violent crime charge. The choice of defense often depends on the specific circumstances of the case, requiring a thorough legal analysis and strategic planning by a skilled defense attorney.

Violent Crime: FAQ 

Are all assaults considered violent crimes?

Not all assaults are classified as violent crimes. In Arizona, an assault can range from a class 1 misdemeanor, involving minor physical contact, to aggravated assault (a class 2 or 3 felony), which involves serious physical injury or the use of a weapon.

Can damage to another person’s property be considered a violent crime?

Generally, crimes involving damage to property are not considered violent crimes unless they also involve harm or a threat to a person. However, certain actions like arson could be considered a violent crime if there is a risk of harm to individuals.

Is kidnapping always considered a violent crime?

Yes, in Arizona, kidnapping is always considered a violent crime, especially when it involves the seizure or detention of a person against their will, coupled with a demand for ransom, the intention to inflict harm or death, or the commission of a sexual offense. This is typically classified as a class 2 felony.

Are threats alone considered violent crimes?

Yes, in certain circumstances, threats alone can be considered violent crimes if they involve the threatening exhibition of a deadly weapon or if the threat could realistically be carried out and cause fear of imminent physical harm. This type of offense may fall under assault or even terrorist threats, depending on the specifics.

What common mental states are associated with violent crimes?

Violent crimes in Arizona often require that the perpetrator has a certain mental state at the time of committing the offense. The most common mental states include “intentionally,” “knowingly,” or “recklessly.” For example, aggravated assault requires that the perpetrator intentionally or knowingly cause serious physical injury to another, or commit the assault with a deadly weapon.

What are the legal consequences of being part of a criminal street gang involved in violent crimes?

Being identified as part of a criminal street gang involved in violent crimes significantly increases the severity of penalties under Arizona law. Membership in a criminal syndicate or street gang can lead to enhanced charges, particularly if the violent crime committed is in furtherance of gang activities. This could mean facing higher class felonies, mandatory prison sentences, and fewer opportunities for sentence reductions or plea bargains.

How does the defense of property differ from self-defense in cases of violent crime?

In Arizona, the defense of property involves actions taken to prevent the theft, damage, or trespassing on one’s property. While similar to self-defense, which involves protecting oneself or others from immediate harm, the defense of property does not typically justify the use of deadly force unless there is also a threat to personal safety. 

What role do police investigations play in shaping the case against the accused in violent crime scenarios?

Police investigations are important in violent crime cases as they gather the evidence that forms the basis of the prosecution’s case. Criminal defense lawyers often scrutinize these investigations to ensure that evidence is collected lawfully and without violating constitutional rights. Mistakes or oversights during investigations, such as failing to secure a crime scene properly or coercing statements from suspects, can be grounds for dismissing evidence or even the entire case.

How does Arizona handle cases of violent crimes committed without the intent to kill?

In Arizona, violent crimes committed without the intent to kill, such as certain types of aggravated assault or reckless endangerment, are still treated seriously but may carry different penalties than offenses like murder or manslaughter.

The intent behind the crime often affects the classification of the offense and the severity of the penalties. For example, a reckless act leading to serious injury might be prosecuted as a class 3 felony, while intentional murder is charged as a class 1 felony with more severe consequences.

Can a conviction for a violent crime be expunged in Arizona?

Arizona does not currently allow for the expungement of criminal records, but it does offer a “set aside” remedy for some convicted individuals, which can provide relief similar to expungement in other states. However, serious violent crimes, especially those involving serious physical injury or the use of a deadly weapon, are often ineligible for this relief. An experienced criminal defense attorney can provide guidance on what post-conviction relief options are available based on the specific circumstances of a case.

Contact the Defense Attorneys at the Law Office of Daniel Hutto

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Our firm understands the serious implications of violent crime allegations and works tirelessly to protect your rights and secure the best possible outcome. For professional guidance and aggressive defense, contact the Law Office of Daniel Hutto.

Schedule a consultation via our website at or call us directly at 602 536-7878.

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