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» Entries tagged with "maximum"

A Small Step

For any lawyer who practices a lot in federal court, the recent Supreme Court decision in Johnson v. United States is a pretty big deal. It involves the “Armed Career Criminal Act,” a part of 18 U.S.C. § 924 that has an enormous impact at sentencing for certain defendants convicted under the federal prohibited possessor law, 18 U.S.C. § 922(g). What the act does is increase the penalty from a ten-year maximum to a fifteen-year mandatory minimum and a maximum of life in prison for people who have three or more convictions for a “serious drug offense” or a “violent felony.” The issue in Johnson was the definition of “violent felony,” specifically what courts call the “residual clause” of the definition. Although the definition includes some more clearly … Read entire article »

Filed under: SCOTUS Cases

Imaginarily Sufficient But Not Greater

It’s always struck me as silly that we as a society have decided that justice is somehow best measured by time in confinement. Speaking with an experienced former prosecutor who spent time in a foreign country helping to set up a “modern” criminal justice system, I was amused when he said they were backwards with punishment and human rights. When someone did wrong, he explained, the punishment might be giving the victim his finest goat. A convicted criminal might even be forced to give the victim his firstborn boy as a slave or his firstborn daughter as a bride for a serious offense. I could only think about how, here in Arizona, we’d just stick the dad in a cage and all but guarantee the son eventually becomes … Read entire article »

Filed under: Prosecutors, Sentencing

Except For That, Of Course

The silliest part of any guilty plea is the part when the court asks if anyone has threatened or coerced the defendant into pleading guilty. People are inclined to say no when it’s obviously the answer the judge wants to hear no matter what the circumstances happen to be. The desire to please is intense enough when the person asking the incriminating question has a badge and gun, but it’s even more powerful when the person asking sits high above the fray wearing a robe and keeps getting called “your honor” by everyone in the room. Several of my clients have given an admirable hell yes and briefly tried to elaborate before being cut off by others suddenly made aware of the absurdity of the question. I respect the clients … Read entire article »

Filed under: Clients, Courts

Mandatory Minimums, Maximums

Arizona’s sentencing statutes contain ranges of permissible prison sentences for different classes of felonies. Defendants with historical prior felony convictions face ranges with longer minimum and maximum sentences. If a defendant has more than two historical priors, the additional priors may be considered aggravating factors which merit a longer sentence within the statutory range, but there aren’t any special statutory sentencing ranges for people with three, four, or five historical priors. Usually, the most a judge can give someone with two historical priors will be the same as what the judge can give someone with three or more historical priors. Prosecutors regularly get that wrong. I recently had a prosecutor argue that my client, who had a ton of historical priors and was charged with a class two felony, … Read entire article »

Filed under: Arizona Statutes, Practice in General, Prosecutors

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