Arizona’s “Truth in Sentencing” Law

Sentencing Reference Material

Criminal Code Sentencing Provisions; currently 2017-2018

If that link goes dead, there’s a landing page at azcourts.gov for the sentencing material.

Sentencing is fairly intricate; With felony crimes the primary determinant being whether or not the crime is sentenced as “dangerous” vs. “non-dangerous”; this apparently is determined on a case-by-case basis; and non-dangerous crimes are all probation-eligible (meaning can be no prison time; even for serious offenses)

References; here are the general rules, there are many other sub-categories with special rules for offenses e.g. involving children, or drugs:

  • §13-707 misdemeanor jail sentence
  • §13-802 misdemeanor fines
  • §13-702 felony prison / non-dangerous offenses (all probationable) / non-repetitive
  • §13-704 felony prison / dangerous offenses (not probationable) / first offenders
  • §13-801 & §13-803 felony fines

Also note that, unlike a civil judgement, criminal restitution is not dischargeable through bankruptcy.

Arizona’s “Truth in Sentencing” Law

I feel like I’ve looked this up before…
Arizona passed a major overhaul to the state’s sentencing code (Senate Bill 1049, Chapter 255, 1993 laws) in the 1993 legislative session. Annoyingly, the online lookup azleg.gov doesn’t go back before 1997, so at the moment I don’t have access to the bill itself. (need to look it up thru library).

These sorts of sentencing overhauls were very popular at the time, the early-to-mid 1990’s, and were known as “Truth in Sentencing” laws. See e.g. the US DOJ report STATE LEGISLATIVE ACTIONS ON
TRUTH IN SENTENCING: A Review of Law and Legislation in the
Context of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994

One of the major provisions of the law is that (dangerous or repetitive) felony sentences mandated a minimum of 6 out of every 7 days of time to be actually served, and the elimination of parole and various other early releases of inmates.

6 divided by 7 is where the 85% figure comes from. Many of the misinformed will often kvetch: “he’ll be out in half the time on good behavior”. That is simply not possible in Arizona under current sentencing rules. The quickest anyone can get out is 85% of the sentenced amount.

Def’n of ‘dangerous’: sometimes, prosecutors play games with ‘dangerous’ designation, including (but i have to look it up) a driver who was given a plea deal for ‘non-dangerous’ negligent homicide. The mandatory sentencing only applies to those guilty of ‘dangerous’ crimes.