New Arizona Law Makes Wearing Disguises or Masks an Aggravated Factor When Committing a Crime

Lawmakers in Arizona passed a law earlier this year making wearing a disguise while committing a crime an aggravating circumstance. Prior to the passage of House Bill 2007, which amended ARS § 13-701, juries were required to find that people who committed a crime while in disguise did so in order to avoid detection.

This new law doesn’t simply make wearing a mask or other disguise a crime in and of itself – rather, it allows prosecutors to pursue increased punishments for someone convicted of a crime while wearing a disguise. While this legal update was intended to add additional punishments for people convicted of robberies and burglaries, the most common crimes where people typically attempt to disguise their appearance, opponents of this bill worry that it could be used to punish people who commit non-violent and less serious crimes.

Some of the initial concerns were addressed earlier this year, when the proposed bill was rewritten in response to First Amendment concerns. State Rep. Jay Lawrence, R-Scottsdale announced plans to introduce the bill, which would have made it a felony rather than an aggravating factor to wear a disguise or mask while committing a crime, in a Facebook post after anti-fascist protesters (antifa) and white supremacists clashed in Phoenix in August 2017. This drew condemnation from activist groups and the American Civil Liberties Union who stated that if the bill passed as initially planned, it would severely impact protesters’ free speech rights.

In response to the criticism, Lawrence updated the bill in order to avoid impacting people’s rights and acknowledged the issues present in that first proposal. Now included in ARS § 13-701, the updated law states that,

“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.”

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