Posted in Criminal Defense on June 26, 2018
Any criminal offense in Arizona has serious consequences; however, the use of a weapon during the offense can bring harsher sentencing. For example, the law can classify an assault charge as a misdemeanor, but it can be a felony if the perpetrator has a weapon. Arizona law considers such crimes as dangerous offenses. If the police have charged you or a loved one with a dangerous offense, talk to a criminal defense attorney.
What Is a Dangerous Offense?
Arizona law defines a dangerous offense as any offense that involves the use or threat of a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument with the intent or infliction of serious bodily harm on another person. A deadly weapon is anything designed for lethal use, such as firearms, and a dangerous instrument is anything able to cause serious harm or death. A dangerous instrument does not need to itself be lethal. It can include anything as innocuous as a book or a bath towel – depending on the circumstances.
A perpetrator does not need to use the deadly weapon or dangerous instrument to receive a dangerous offense charge. The presence or threat of using the weapon or instrument during the crime is enough to show the intent of harm to another person. In fact, many courts will charge a perpetrator with aggravated assault even when the victim did not sustain any injuries.
Sentencing Structure Considers Level of Danger
The level of danger is what makes such offenses worse than the same offense conducted without a weapon. Because of this, dangerous offenses have their own sentencing structure, which has harsher consequences than a non-dangerous offense.
Like other felonies, state law classifies dangerous offenses based on the type and seriousness of the underlying crime. Class 6 felonies are the lowest, while the most serious dangerous offense is a Class 2, which falls just short of homicide. All levels of dangerous offense are punishable by prison time.
The level of sentencing is much longer for a dangerous offense in comparison to a non-dangerous iteration of the same crime, even for first-time offenders. Someone convicted of a Class 2 felony without dangerous enhancement would face three to 12 years in prison, with a presumed starting point of at least five. The same Class 2 felony as a dangerous offense would mean perpetrators face seven to 21 years in prison, with the presumed starting point falling at 10½ years.
Factors That Can Influence Sentencing
While Arizona has mandatory sentencing for certain offenses, other factors can influence the length of the sentence. Especially for first-time offenders, the court may consider mitigating factors and reduce the sentence closer to the minimal required length. Some mitigating factors include:
- Lack of a criminal record
- Established good character
- Model backgrounds, such as high academic performance or charity work
- Connections between troubled childhood and the assault
Inversely, aggravating factors during the assault can increase the sentence time, especially for cases involving perpetrators with past offenses. Aggravated factors can include the amount of harm caused, as well as a lack of regret or remorse.
What to Do If You Face a Dangerous Offense Charge
If you’re facing a dangerous offense charge, talk to a lawyer. A dangerous offense is one of the most serious charges an individual can face, and a guilty verdict can come with intense imprisonment and long-lasting consequences. Cases can become even more severe if the dangerous offense charge is in conjunction with multiple other felony charges.
Such cases require work as early as possible to minimize potential risks in sentencing. If you or a loved one faces a dangerous offense charge, contact our office as soon as possible to protect your legal rights after an arrest.