The Problems with Prior Legal Offenses

Problems You May Face Having a Previous or Prior Offense

A.R.S. § 13-105(22) broadly defines a “historical prior felony conviction” as any prior felony conviction that involved one of the following:

  • A mandated term of imprisonment
  • A dangerous offense
  • Illegal control of a criminal enterprise
  • Aggravated driving under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs
  • Dangerous crime against children
  • Any class 2 or 3 felony listed above that was committed within 10 years of the present offense
  • Any class 4, 5 or 6 felony not listed above that was committed within 5 years of the present offense
  • Any felony conviction that is a third or more prior felony conviction
  • Any offense committed in another state that was punishable as a felony within that state and was committed within 5 years of the present offense
  • Any offense committed in another state that was punishable as a felony within that state and that involved the discharge, use or threatening exhibition of a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument or the intentional or knowing infliction of death or serious physical injury

Clearly, virtually all prior felony convictions are “historical prior felony convictions” in Arizona.

The American Friends Service Committee identified another problem with priors in their report entitled A New Public Safety Framework for Arizona:  Charting a Path Forward published in December 2016:

“However, Arizona currently uses a category of “priors” that is virtually unheard of in American jurisprudence. The current statute allows the sentencing court to count up the number of distinct “occasions” on which the defendant committed felony offenses that led to convictions rather than to confirm that the defendant had at least been convicted for an earlier offense before committing the offense for which a sentence was now being pronounced.

As a result, offenses committed on the same day (for which the person has not yet been convicted) can be treated as “priors” at sentencing, allowing to call for harsher penalties. For example, a person can break into a car, walk down the street and break into another car. Rather than simply being charged with two counts of burglary or theft, the prosecutor can label the first break-in a “prior,” triggering a sentence enhancement.”

In other words, a person who has no historical prior convictions under A.R.S. § 13-105(22) can find himself facing harsher sentencing under A.R.S. § 13-703 as a repetitive offender!

Almost anyone can have a problem with priors under Arizona law.  You need an experienced criminal defense attorney who knows how to handle problems with priors.

 

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