Recently, the Arizona legislature passed a bill creating a new aggravated sentencing factor. The bill says that if a defendant wore “a mask or other disguise to obscure defendant’s face to avoid detection” during a crime they are convicted for, that can now be considered an aggravating circumstance during the sentencing phase. Ultimately, what this means is that a harsher penalty can be imposed upon the defendant, but it is important to understand in depth what is involved in this recent development.
What is an Aggravated Sentencing Factor?
An aggravated factor is one which makes a crime more serious and triggers more severe penalties. During sentencing, a court considers factors that could both aggravate and mitigate a guilty defendant’s sentence. In Arizona, there are sentencing ranges for certain crimes, and while aggravating factors can increase a sentence, mitigating factors can decrease it. The judge in a case ultimately has final say to determine which penalties should be imposed—within the range of the sentencing guidelines.
The applicable penalties in sentencing vary depending on the charge. Mitigated sentencing includes sentences which are the least severe within the possible range of sentences for that crime, and aggravated sentencing includes the harshest sentences within that range. An example of mitigating factor is a defendant’s attempts to minimize harm to others during the commission of their crime, or alert authorities to stop the commission of the crime. Common examples of aggravating circumstances include using a deadly weapon during a crime and having an accomplice.
How Does an Aggravated Factor Get Admitted Into Sentencing?
For an aggravated factor to be taken into account during sentencing, the prosecution needs to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that this factor existed. However, if a defendant admits that the aggravating factor existed, prosecution do not need to meet this burden of proof.
What is a “Mask or Disguise” Under Arizona Law?
While the new Arizona statute penalizes wearing a mask or disguise during the commission of a crime, Arizona law does not actually define what a “mask or disguise” is. This is one of the many reasons you need a skilled criminal defense attorney advocating for you if you have been charged with committing a crime while wearing a mask or disguise. Our experienced Arizona criminal defense attorneys know that for these kinds of crimes, a court will look to previous case law, the literal definition, or the intended purpose of the mask or disguise in determining whether the aggravating sentencing factor should apply.
Charged With Committing a Crime While Wearing a Mask or Disguise?
If you have been charged with committing a crime while wearing a mask or disguise, you need to contact the experienced attorneys at Arizona Lawyers immediately. This new law has not yet been tested in the courts, meaning it is especially important your attorney be skilled in arguing that precedent and circumstances should not make this an aggravating factor in your case, and that they be able to persuade the court to consider mitigating circumstances as well. Our attorneys serve criminal defense clients across the Phoenix, Scottsdale, Mesa, Yuma, Flagstaff, and Glenndale are ready to defend you in court, Contact Arizona Lawyers today.