Articles Posted in Sentencing Issues

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Restitution is when a court orders a defendant to pay a crime victim for their financial losses related to the crime. Unlike civil law, restitution is typically limited to the costs that the victim actually incurred. In a recent Arizona murder case, the state’s high court discussed the constitutional limits on the court’s ability to place a cap on the amount of restitution in a criminal case absent the victim’s consent. However, unlike the vast majority of criminal cases, this case discussed the crime victim’s constitutional rights, rather than the defendant. Of course, the court’s decision impacts criminal defendants in that it increases the amount of potential restitution they could be forced to pay.

The Facts of the Case

A detailed recitation of the fact is not necessary to fully understand the import of the court’s opinion. However, in summary, three defendants were charged with abusing and killing a younger family member. All three defendants plead guilty to a lesser offense. As a part of the plea agreement, the defendant would pay the victim’s family restitution. However, under the terms of the plea agreement, the maximum amount of restitution is limited to $500,000. The victim’s family objected to the cap on restitution, but the court upheld the cap and proceeded with the pleas. The victim’s family appealed the lower court’s decision.

On appeal, the court first addressed the state’s argument that the court should wait to see if the cap on restitution actually limited the recovery amount. However, the court rejected this argument, noting that there is no requirement for caps on restitution.

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Earlier this year, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in an Arizona drug case discussing whether the defendant was eligible for probation under Arizona Revised Statute section 13-901.01. Section 13-901.01 is titled “Probation for persons convicted of possession or use of controlled substances or drug paraphernalia,” and states that “any person who is convicted of the personal possession or use of a controlled substance or drug paraphernalia is eligible for probation.”

While section 13-901.01 provides a general rule that a person convicted of a possessory drug offense is eligible for probation, the statute outlines several exceptions. The question in this case was whether the defendant was eligible for probation despite his prior convictions. Under section 13-901.01, a person is not eligible for probation if they have three prior convictions for personal possession of a controlled substance or drug paraphernalia.

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant was convicted of possession of drug paraphernalia in 1996, and solicitation to sell a narcotic drug in 2006. In 2017, the defendant was arrested and convicted for several drug offenses.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in an Arizona homicide case discussing the state’s challenge to the defendant’s sentence. The state claimed that the trial court failed to follow the law when it sentenced the defendant to “life without possibility of parole for twenty-five years.” However, the court held that because the state failed to raise the issue in a timely manner, it was precluded from raising it after the defendant sought parole after having served 24 years. As a result, although the defendant’s sentence was illegally lenient, he was entitled to parole after serving 25 years in custody.

The defendant was found guilty of first-degree murder for a killing that took place in 1995. At sentencing, the trial court sentenced the defendant to “life without possibility of parole for twenty-five years,” to be followed by a period of “community supervision.” However, at the time, there was a law on the books that prohibited defendants who were convicted of first-degree murder from being eligible for parole. At the time of the defendant’s sentencing, the prosecution did not object, nor did it appeal the sentence.

After the defendant served 24 years in custody, he sought parole. The defendant was told he was not eligible for parole, and the defendant sued the Arizona State Department of Corrections. The state then sought a determination as to whether the defendant was eligible for parole.

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