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Arizona Rule 32

In Arizona, guilty pleas and verdicts are often viewed as the end of the legal process for those charged with crimes. After a jury has made its decision, how can a defendant do anything to help himself? In some cases, however, Arizona law provides a process by which an individual can appeal his or her guilty verdict or plea.

Watch this short video where David explains Arizona Rule 32 in Arizona:

What is Rule 32 in Arizona Criminal Law?

Under rule 32 of the Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure, an individual may appeal a conviction for one of three reasons: ineffective assistance of counsel, newly discovered evidence, or substantive change of law. Ineffective assistance of counsel refers to situations in which a defendant’s lawyer provided unprofessional or substandard representation that materially affected the outcome of the court proceedings. It is not enough to prove that a defendant received poor representation; you must also prove that the outcome of the case would have been better had you received more effective counsel.

Substantive change of law allows for relief to defendants convicted under certain criminal statutes that have since been changed. Recent developments in Arizona statutory law have made this category of rule 32 all the more important. A substantial proportion of cases dealing with violent or deadly force fall under the umbrella of “justifiable use of force” cases. In these cases, the defendant does not deny that he committed a violent act but argues that he did so for a justifiable reason, such as defense of property or of his own life. Until 1997, Arizona law required that prosecutors prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant did not act in a justifiable manner. That is, the burden of proof was on the prosecution to disprove the defendant’s claim of justifiable use of force.

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Changes to Rule 32 in Arizona

In 1997, the law was changed so that the defendant now had the responsibility to demonstrate that the preponderance of the evidence supported the view that he acted in a justifiable manner. Thus, the burden of proof shifted to the defendant.

Finally, in 2006 the law was changed again, back to the pre-1997 standard. There are a number of cases that arose between 1997 and 2006 in which a defendant who claimed justifiable use of force was judged to be guilty. Under rule 32, these guilty defendant’s may qualify for a post conviction relief petition, which allows a judge to review whether or not the defendant might have received a better outcome under the newer statutes.

A textbook case illustrating this situation is State of Arizona vs Rios, in which the defendant was judged guilty of second degree murder for an act committed in 2005. The defendant claimed justifiable use of force. After his conviction, state law changed, and the defendant submitted a rule 32 appeal and was granted a new trial, this time under the post-2006, more lenient self-defense laws.

If you or someone you know was involved in a justifiable use of force case between 1997 and 2006, you may be able to file for a rule 32 appeal of your conviction. Call our offices at (602) 307-0808 for your free consultation. You can also send us a confidential email here.

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