Arizona increases punishments for crimes that endanger other people. State statutes classify these offenses as dangerous crimes; this includes any offense that involves using, or threatening to use, a dangerous weapon or instrument. Even if the perpetrator doesn’t use any type of object, an offense can still qualify for this classification if the offender intentionally causes serious physical harm to another person.
If a criminal offense qualifies as a dangerous crime, Arizona law extends the presumptive sentence for the crime, without priors, 1.25 to 5.5 years. This penalty is in addition to the sentence for a similar, non-dangerous crime. It also mandates that the perpetrator must serve time in prison, even for a first-time offense.
Elements of a crime are the things that the state must prove to get a conviction. For a dangerous crime to exist, the defendant’s behavior must be:
Failing to prove any of these elements to the ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ standard will prevent the court from applying the dangerous crime classification.
A deadly weapon includes anything designed to cause death or great bodily harm. A dangerous instrument could be almost any object that can cause severe physical injury. Since a car frequently qualifies as a dangerous instrument, many traffic incidents can meet this standard.
Aggravated assault becomes dangerous under Arizona law if the offender uses a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument. This offense can include threatening another person with a weapon or causing serious physical harm. Sentences are all significantly enhanced by the dangerousness classification.
Manslaughter is recklessly causing the death of another person. The most common way manslaughter is elevated to dangerousness is when a drunk driver causes another person’s death in a traffic accident. The prosecution must show that the defendant performed an action that he or she knew created a substantial risk of death for another person and ignored that risk. Sentences range from 7 to 21 years with a dangerous classification.
Kidnapping doesn’t just mean tying someone up and demanding ransom. It also includes restraining another person while committing a felony. If the perpetrator limits the victim’s freedom by threatening them with a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument, the offense can become a dangerous crime. Sentences range from 7 to 21 years with a dangerous classification.
Armed robbery occurs when an offender threatens another person with a deadly weapon to compel them to surrender their property. This offense almost always will qualify as a dangerous crime since it includes the use of a deadly weapon. Sentences range from 7 to 21 years with a dangerous classification.
Being charged with a dangerous crime puts the defendant in serious legal jeopardy, especially since prison is mandated on a first offense. However, there are many ways that an experienced criminal lawyer can defend against the dangerous crime classification. For example, a common defense strategy is to contest the evidence that establishes the dangerous nature of the crime. Another way is a plea resolution with the State where the State dismissed the dangerousness allegation.
Dismissing the dangerous crime allegation is a key goal for any criminal defense attorney. Probation becomes possible in many situations when the crime cannot be termed ‘dangerous’. Even if avoiding prison is impossible, eliminating the dangerous designation will reduce the sentence.
This brief overview shows that there are many possible legal issues involved in any Arizona dangerous crime case. Did the defendant carry out his or her actions with intent, knowledge, or recklessness? Does the object used by the defendant qualify as a dangerous instrument? Did the defendant intend to cause serious harm to a person?
If you have been charged with a dangerous crime or have any further questions about Arizona criminal law, please contact Robert A. Dodell, Attorney at Law. Robert’s 30 years of experience can help you devise the best legal strategy to handle any Arizona criminal case.