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 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 dischargable through bankruptcy.

§13-708. Involves sentencing for crimes committed when out on release for earlier felony crimes, see e.g. case of Frank Kitko.

Class 1?

The felony rules above, like 702/4, as well as the reference guide only cover class 2 through 6. What about class 1?

(In Arizona’s homicide world, Neg Hom is a class 4, Manslaughter is class 2, and 1st AND 2nd Degree Murder is class 1.)

13-710 Sentence for second degree murder
1st degree murder is: 13-1105
Sentence of death or life imprisonment 13-751.

Apparently 1st and 2nd degree murder are the only Felony Class 1 crimes.

Vehicular Assault / Vehicular Homicide

References to homicide / assault:

Jury Instructions

As a reference document: The State Bar of Arizona publishes a lengthy document — Revised Arizona Jury Instruction (Criminal) currently in its 4th Ed 2018, direct link

And contains amongst the instructions useful references to relevant case law.

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 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 (§28-603I, and §41-1604.07), 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.

Sentencing Reform Attempts

There’s been various movements to soften some of the sentencing mandates effected by “truth in sentencing” laws; e.g. Orange is the new Black author Piper Kerman spoke at the AZ Capitol to rally support for a law change in Arizona. There were a couple of efforts in spring 2019 legislature that would have affected sentencing

  • HB2270 — earned release credits; prisoners; literacy
  • SB1334 — sentencing; repetitive offenders (which was a striker)

The first one would directly affect the 6/7th time floor, lowering it to 1/1 (i.e. serve one get one release, or 50%), or 2/3rds (serve 2 get the 3rd day as release) in some situations.

Statute of Limitations

good roundup here.

§13-107 lists criminal stuff

  • any felony; at least 7 years
  • misdemeanor; 1 year, with some exceptions, notably 28-672 is 2 years

civil traffic tickets — 60 day unless involving a crash §28-1592 , which extends time limit to 180, or 1 year

2 thoughts on “Arizona’s “Truth in Sentencing” Law”

  1. This 2020 ruling relates to the rules set up under 1993 “truth in sentencing” law:

    …Both sides agreed the Chaparro’s sentence is “illegally lenient” because it violates state law. Arizona abolished parole in 1993. Technically, an adult who committed a crime on or after Jan. 1, 1994, isn’t eligible for parole.

    …In the state Supreme Court’s opinion, Justice James Beene said the lower court’s use of parole and community supervision is “ambiguous” and the court’s later correction showed it meant for Chaparro to be eligible for parole after 25 years.

    …”Chaparro’s sentence is ambiguous because it refers both to ‘parole,’ which was abrogated before the conduct that resulted in his conviction, and to ‘community supervision,’ which applied to all qualifying offenses committed on or after January 1, 1994,” Beene wrote in the opinion.

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