Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell announced Thursday that she would change prosecution policies for cases involving gun violence in an attempt to ensure that violent criminals face jail time.
“The revision to our plea policies recognizes that these crimes will not be tolerated in Maricopa County. Those who choose to put the residents of this county at risk by using a firearm in the commission of felony will be held accountable,” Mitchell said. “I will not let the Valley of the Sun and surrounding communities become another San Francisco or Chicago where law and order has been overlooked by prosecutors, which has caused unnecessary chaos.”
According to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office (MCAO), during the ten days between August 19 and 29, the office received submittals for 16 homicides. Fifteen of the cases involved a gun, and five were domestic violence crimes. Mitchell’s decision arose from this rise in violence, and the new policy went into effect Friday.
Now, under Prosecution Policy 7.3, any plea deal made to a defendant charged with using a firearm during a crime must include a prison term. However, there are exceptions, as the policy does not apply in instances where the defendant used a BB, pellet, or CO2 gun. The gun must also be used while committing the crime, so merely possessing a firearm is not enough to force jail time. However, if a person were previously convicted of a felony and therefore prohibited from owning the gun, their offer would include prison time. There is no plea offer available for people who discharge a firearm at a peace officer while they are acting within their official capacity.
Any deviations in cases will require approval from a supervisor.
The Arizona Sun Times reached out to the MCAO for more information about the required jail time but did not receive a response.
In an interview with KTAR News’ Mike Broomhead, Mitchell shared that her office is also working to deal with staffing shortages. She said the MACO is expected to drop from a 20 percent staff deficit to under 10 by the end of the year. Furthermore, Mitchell said she is “confident” that word of this policy will spread and that it will deter people from committing crimes with guns, knowing that jail time will be the result.
Arizona Revised Statutes currently outline what punishments caught “dangerous offenders” should receive without a plea deal.
As reported by The Sun Times, the MCAO is not the only entity in Arizona cracking down on gun violence. In July, the Phoenix Police Department (PHXPD) began “Operation Gun Crime Crackdown” to get guns out of the hands of criminals. Between its late-June implementation and mid-August, the PHXPD had arrested 526 individuals and seized 711 guns associated with crimes.
The Gun Violence Archive reported that there have been 332 homicides or unintentional killings and 327 injuries caused by a firearm to date in 2022.
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Neil Jones is a reporter for The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Neil on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Rachel Mitchell” by Rachel Mitchell and “Maricopa County” is by Maricopa County.