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Arizona Court Denies Defendant’s Request for a Lesser Sentence

In a recent opinion in an Arizona negligent homicide case, the defendant’s request for a lesser sentence was denied. After having been found guilty of homicide in 2016, the defendant was sentenced to nine years’ imprisonment. The defendant appealed this sentence, arguing that it was unfair for the court to take two of his previous convictions into account when calculating his sentence. The court disagreed, citing a law that allows courts to consider previous offenses when they have happened within five years of the present, relevant offense. The court thus affirmed the defendant’s sentence.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant went to the victim’s home on November 16, 2016. Upon finding the victim outside, the defendant used a cement block to severely injure him. Four days later, on November 20, 2016, the victim died from his injuries. At trial, the jury found the defendant guilty of negligent homicide.

After the jury found the defendant guilty, it was the court’s job to sentence the defendant. While embarking on this process, the court decided to use two of the defendant’s prior convictions – possession of narcotic drugs for sale and a drug paraphernalia violation – to decide the amount of time the defendant should be required to serve. Because of these prior convictions, the court viewed the defendant as having committed three offenses instead of just one offense. The court then sentenced the defendant to nine years’ imprisonment.

The Decision

On appeal, the defendant did not argue he was innocent of the homicide charge; instead, he argued that the court sentenced him to too much time in prison. It was not fair, said the defendant, for the court to use both of these previous convictions when deciding how much time he would have to serve. The defendant did recognize the law that states that as long as the defendant’s previous violation was committed no more than five years before the present offense, this offense can qualify as a “historical prior conviction” and be rightfully considered when calculating the defendant’s sentence. The issue, said the defendant, was that the drug paraphernalia violation happened more than five years before the homicide offense.

The court disagreed. The drug paraphernalia offense, said the court, was within the five-year time span required for the law to apply. If the homicide had been committed on November 20, the two crimes would have been over five years apart; however, the court used the November 16 date to calculate the time between crimes, since November 16 was the actual day that the defendant committed the crime. Because the court was correct to use November 16 as the date of the homicide instead of November 20, the sentence was calculated correctly and the defendant’s appeal was denied.

Have You Been Unfairly Sentenced in Arizona Based on Previous Offenses?

Often, when defendants in Arizona are found guilty and sentenced to time in prison, the court considers not only their most recent conviction but also convictions that have happened in the past. If you have experienced this form of sentencing, you are not alone, and there may be options available to you to challenge the court’s ruling. At the Law Office of James E. Novak, we are familiar with Arizona sentencing law and we are ready to fight for justice on your behalf. For a free and confidential consultation, give us a call at 480-413-1499.

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