After a defendant is found guilty of a crime, whether by judge or by jury trial, the court will then move on to the sentencing phase. Arizona law provides for a sentencing range within which the judge must sentence the defendant. For the most part, a judge has discretion on the sentence that he gives a defendant, as long as the sentence is within the statutory range.
A skilled Arizona criminal defense attorney can help defendants compile compelling mitigation evidence in hopes of receiving a lenient sentence. Judges will normally look at a defendant’s background, including the defendant’s contributions to society as well as their prior convictions, when fashioning a sentence. A judge, however, cannot sentence a defendant to the maximum statutory term without a jury finding that an aggravating circumstance exists. Similarly, a judge must document at least one mitigating circumstance if he intends to sentence the defendant to the minimum allowable statutory sentence.
Arizona Revised Statutes section 13-701 specifies Arizona’s aggravating circumstances. Recently, Arizona lawmakers passed House Bill 2007 (HB2007), adding an additional aggravating circumstance to the list of 26 that were previously enumerated in the statute. The newest aggravating circumstance is triggered when a defendant “uses a mask or other disguise to obscure the defendant’s face to avoid detection.”