What used to be a misdemeanor criminal offense may now be an aggravated felony thanks to a new Arizona law that makes wearing a mask an aggravating factor. Wearing a mask or other disguise while committing a crime can automatically upgrade the offense to an aggravated felony, even if all other factors remain the same. Learn the specifics of House Bill 2007 to better protect yourself as a potential criminal defendant in Arizona.
What Are Aggravating Criminal Circumstances?
The Arizona House of Representatives passed 347 new laws in the recent 53rd Legislature. All of these laws went into effect August 3rd, 2018. One of these laws deals with the subject of masked crime. Originally introduced in January, House Bill 2007 moved to expand the existing list of aggravating circumstances to include one more: wearing a mask.
The current list of aggravating factors for sentencing in Arizona is long and includes:
- Inflicting or threatening to inflict serious physical injury
- Possessing, using, or threatening to use a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument while committing the crime
- Taking or damaging property or the property’s value
- Having an accomplice
- Committing the crime in an especially “heinous, cruel, or depraved manner”
- Committing the offense in the expectation of receiving something of pecuniary value
- Committing a crime while on duty as a public servant, if the offense involved job-related conduct
- Causing the victim or his/her family physical, emotional, or financial harm
- Killing an unborn child in any stage of development during the course of the offense
- Having a previous felony conviction within the prior 10 years
- Wearing body armor
- Targeting a victim who is 65 or older, or who has a disability
- Lying in wait and ambushing the victim
- Impersonating a peace officer at the time of the offense
- Any other factor the state believes is relevant to the nature of the crime or the defendant’s character/background
There are several additional aggravating factors or circumstances as well, for a total of 27. The new law adds number 26: the defendant using a mask or other disguise to obscure his/her face and avoid identification. This goes for wearing a mask or disguise both during or immediately after committing the offense. As of August 3rd, committing a masked crime could instantly increase the severity of the crime to an aggravated felony in Arizona.
Penalties for Committing an Aggravated Crime
If a judge finds you guilty of committing any type of crime while wearing a mask or obscuring your face in Arizona, you could face serious, life-changing consequences. Your penalties may be harsher than they would have been had you not been wearing a disguise at the time. For example, wearing a mask could upgrade a misdemeanor robbery charge to an aggravated felony, with more serious penalties for the latter. Aggravated felonies generally come with mandatory minimum prison time and hefty fines.
It may be possible to avoid an aggravated criminal conviction and related penalties with help from a criminal defense lawyer. It is up to a judge to decide the sentencing range for a defendant. If a lawyer can convince the judge that the circumstances of the crime do not fulfill the qualifications under the new masked crime law, the judge may choose not to use an aggravated sentence. A lawyer can come up with the strongest defense strategy for the situation.
It is the prosecution’s duty to prove that you were guilty of the aggravating factor of wearing a mask or disguise based on evidence and facts. Hiring a lawyer can help you refute the prosecution’s allegations and provide evidence of your own. A lawyer can also prevent you from making major mistakes, such as saying too much and accidentally incriminating yourself. The new law can increase the severity of criminal consequences for defendants – making it more important than ever to protect yourself with an attorney.