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Committing a criminal act can carry serious punishments, no matter where you commit them. When a crime is committed within a school zone, the stakes can be even higher, and the need for a criminal defense lawyer more important than ever. An Arizona criminal defense lawyer is skilled in handling cases of this magnitude. They may even be able to get the extra school zone charges reduced or dropped entirely.
What is considered a school zone?
For the purpose of the law, the word school is defined as any public or nonpublic kindergarten, elementary, middle, or high school setting. Around these schools are specified school safety zones. These zones are classified to mean:
- Any areas that are within three hundred feet of a school or its grounds
- Public property within one thousand feet of a school or the grounds associated with it
- Any mode of school transportation, for example, a school bus
- Any mode of transportation contracted by a school for the purposes of transporting students, during the times in which the contracted transportation is in use by the school
- A bus stop used by a school
- Any stop where the school has students waiting to board a bus or where they have exited the transportation
In most circumstances, school zones will have students present in them, which makes it even more dangerous when criminal acts are committed.
How Sentencing in a School Zone is Different
Per ARS § 13-709, unless outlined in another specific Arizona revised statute, a person who receives a conviction of any felony offense that is committed in a school zone is guilty of the same class of felony as the offense just as if it had not occurred in a school zone. However, the court withholds the right to add an additional year of sentencing to the minimum, maximum, or presumed sentencing for that specific charge if that person is not affiliated with a criminal street gang.
If the defendant is found to be a member of a criminal street gang, the court reserves the right to add an additional five years to the base sentencing for that felony. The court would have to have irrefutable proof that the defendant was a member of the accused gang.
Combating a School Zone Charge
School zones can be a tricky situation, especially if they are not clearly marked. A criminal defense lawyer in Arizona can help you in situations like this. They may be able to get an enhancement from a school zone dropped by showing that there was not clear marking in the area where the suspected felony act occurred.
If the courts try to add the additional five years for being a member of a criminal street gang but have insufficient proof, your criminal defense lawyer can help fight that additional charge.
The crucial part of handling a felony charge in a school zone is to find a criminal defense lawyer who has dealt with cases like this in the past. If you reside in the state of Arizona and are facing a felony charge enhancement due to a school zone, do not try to handle your case on your own. Experienced criminal defense attornies are waiting to help you in the circumstances like this.