Wearing a Crime Mask Could Lead to Criminal Charges
It can seem innocent to sport a Halloween outfit or ski mask but add in criminal activity and you could be facing some severe consequences in Arizona. That’s thanks to a new law that Arizona passed that provides stricter sentencing for those who try to get away with a crime by using a mask or disguise.
In March 2018, Arizona passed HB2007, which made wearing a mask during or after a crime an aggravated offense. If you’re facing an aggravated crime for wearing a mask, you might need an Arizona criminal defense attorney to help you plead your case during trial.
The law states that a crime is aggravated when “during or immediately following the commission of the offense, the defendant used a mask or other disguise to obscure the defendant’s face to avoid identification.”
HB2007 does not make it illegal to wear a disguise casually. It is only an offense when used in conjunction with committing a crime as a way to try and get away with the action without being identified.
Defining a mask or disguise
There is no definition within HB2007 of what a mask or disguise is. Given that the law is not very old, there also is no case law to clarify the definition. In other circumstances where terms like this were not defined within the law, the courts have looked to the literal definition of the word.
The specific usage of the disguise will be examined by the judge and jury to understand the intent. If this intent is to avoid detection and law enforcement, the use of the mask or disguise can make the sentencing of the crime more severe.
What an aggravated factor does to your sentencing
Crimes can be aggravated by multiple factors, including use of or threatening to use a deadly weapon, the use of an accomplice, prior convictions of the defendant, the defendant receiving payment for the crime, the crime being labeled as a hate crime and many other factors. There are 27 factors listed that can make a crime aggravated, but the court can also use its discretion to consider a crime aggravated for other reasons.
When a crime is elevated to aggravated, it can receive more severe penalties during a trial. The element of an aggravated factor comes into play once a defendant is found guilty or accepts a plea deal. At this point, the judge will evaluate the circumstances surrounding the crime and mask or disguise to decide how severe it was.
The law adds other factors to sentencing, such as age, the defendant’s background, or the nature and circumstances of the crime. The defendant’s knowledge of how wrong the act or crime was will also factor into how the court sentences the defendant and how much weight is placed on the concealment of his or her identity.
How a criminal defense attorney can help in such cases
A criminal defense attorney can help a defendant prove various factors of their case, including the intent of a mask or disguise. By clarifying and proving intent, a defendant can lessen their sentencing or even prove innocence for the crime entirely.
Because the court looks at the specific circumstances and background of the defendant, an experienced criminal defense attorney in Arizona can evaluate your specific case and advise on best practices and next steps.
Navigating a criminal defense alone can be frustrating, difficult and result in accept a more severe punishment for the crime you’re accused of. It is your right to a day in court and to a fair defense.
Click here for information on what happens when charged with aggravated assault in Arizona.