Over the past decade, more states are coming to realize the detrimental—and unfair—effects that result when applying existing laws. For example, laws imposing mandatory minimum punishments, the system’s failure to account for mental health issues (including addiction), and harsh collateral consequences that come along with a conviction have all started to get a second look. Recently, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed several bills into law bringing Arizona in line with the many other states that are making significant efforts to adjust what many consider to be a broken criminal justice system.
Specifically, HB 2318 and 2319 address the state’s harsh sentencing system and the impact of a conviction for a non-violent drug crime.
House Bill 2318 deals with first-time offenders who may otherwise receive a disproportionately high sentence. The Bill deals with a situation where a person is convicted of one or more felony offenses that were either consolidated for trial or do not count as “historical prior felony convictions.” Under the old law, a person with two or more offenses was considered a repeat offender, meaning they faced significantly higher penalties. However, for arrests taking place after March 24, 2021, consolidated felony cases will be considered a “single offense” for sentencing purposes.
In this way, HB 2318 gives prosecutors and judges significantly more discretion when sentencing those who do not have a criminal record but face more than one open case.
House Bill 2319 deals with the collateral consequences of a drug conviction. A collateral consequence refers to any detriment that, while not technically part of a punishment one receives for a conviction, still has a significant impact on their life. For example, a conviction makes it harder for individuals to qualify for certain types of housing, get into school, or obtain employment.
HB 2319 helps those with an Arizona drug conviction on their records by prohibiting state agencies from denying an otherwise qualified applicant from obtaining a regular or provisional work license. However, there is an exception for teachers and health professionals, meaning these individuals will still be precluded from obtaining a license if they have a drug conviction on their record.
To be sure, these recent bills are a step in the right direction; however, there is still far to go. Arizona is known as a “tough on crime” state, which unfortunately means those facing even minor offenses have a lot on the line.
Contact an Experienced Arizona Criminal Defense Attorney
If you face criminal charges, Maricopa County criminal defense lawyer James E. Novak is here to help. Attorney Novak is a veteran defense attorney who skillfully handles all types of cases on behalf of his clients, including Arizona DUI offenses, drug crimes, violent offenses and weapons crimes. He provides a unique form of client-centered representation, always placing your needs and concerns first. He will diligently work to develop a compelling defense to whatever charges you are facing. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation with an experienced Arizona criminal defense attorney, reach out to the Law Office of James E. Novak to schedule a free consultation today at 480-413-1499.