An arrest on felony charges is a traumatizing experience, but it doesn’t have to be a life-changing one.
After the police arrest and charge you with a felony, every phase of the criminal trial process is important. Felonies in Arizona are no laughing matter. Prosecutors often push for the harshest penalties, and Arizona has some of the highest mandatory minimum sentences in the country. While the classifications listed may seem minor when compared to the result of the case, in reality, the classification can make the difference in what happens if you are convicted.
To avoid incurring a heavier sentence than you deserve, you need a criminal defense attorney beside you every step of the way.
Belen Olmedo Guerra is an experienced criminal defense attorney in the Phoenix area. In this post, Belen will give an overview of the Arizona felony classes and their associated penalties. If you’ve been charged with a crime in Phoenix, Arizona, contact the Belen Law Firm immediately. We offer payment plans and free consultations.
What is a Felony in Arizona?
A felony crime in Arizona is, by nature, more serious and severe than a minor or misdemeanor crime. Often these offenses involve possible prison time. Felonies in Arizona include but are not limited to the following:
Arizona Felony Classes
Under Arizona Revised Statute 13-601, felonies fall into six classes: Class 1 felonies through Class 6 felonies.
Class 1 felonies are the most serious and include homicide offenses.
Class 6 felonies are the least serious. These offenses carry a maximum sentence of two years in prison. Under certain circumstances and with a good defense lawyer, the courts may agree to charge a Class 6 felony as a misdemeanor.
Each felony charge is unique, depending on the facts of the case. Felonies in Arizona also have “enhancement categories” that increase the sentence. These categories include “dangerous offenses”, “dangerous crimes against children”, and “repetitive offenders”.
Some crimes, like possession of methamphetamine for sale, have enhanced sentencing. An “attempted” crime will reduce the class of felony by one classification.
For instance, attempted murder would be a Class 2 felony rather than a Class 1 felony.
Arizona Felonies and Penalties
Felonies are crimes punishable by one year or more in state prison.
Class 1 Felonies in Arizona
This class of felony is the most serious. First and second-degree murder are the only class 1 felonies in Arizona. First-degree murder is punishable by death or life imprisonment. Second-degree murder is punishable by 16 years to life imprisonment.
Presumptive, Aggravated, and Mitigated Sentences
For crimes outside the Class 1 felony category, Arizona lawmakers set a presumptive sentence for each felony class. A presumptive term is a standard sentence. This is the sentence the judge will give in most cases.
There are also mitigated and aggravated terms, according to Arizona Revised Statute 13-701. A judge may choose the aggravated term, which is longer than the presumptive term. The prosecutor must show aggravated circumstances. Examples of aggravated circumstances are:
- An accomplice was present
- The crime was especially cruel or heinous
- The victim was over the age of 65.
A mitigated term is shorter than the presumptive sentence. A judge may choose a mitigated sentence if certain mitigating circumstances are present. Mitigating circumstances include:
- The defendant’s young age
- A minor role in the crime in question.
Class 2 Felonies in Arizona
The presumptive term for a class 2 felony is five years in prison. The aggravated term is 12.5 years. The production or creation of child pornography is a class 2 felony.
For more information, see Sex Offense.
Class 3 Felonies in Arizona
The presumptive term for class 3 felonies is three years and six months’ prison time. The aggravated term is eight years and nine months.
Cultivation of four or more pounds of marijuana is a class 3 felony in Arizona.
Class 4 Felonies in Arizona
Class 4 felonies carry a presumptive term of two years and six months in prison. The aggravated term for a Class 4 felony is three years and nine months.
Theft of property between $3000 and $4000 is a class 4 felony.
For more information, see Theft Crimes.
Class 5 Felonies in Arizona
If lawmakers do not state a class for a felony, it is punishable as a Class 5 felony. A Class 5 felony has a presumptive sentence of two years, and an aggravated term of two years and six months.
Pimping and pandering, which is profiting from or facilitating the prostitution of others, are class 5 felonies.
Class 6 Felonies in Arizona
These are the least serious felonies in Arizona. The presumptive term for a Class 6 felony is one year in prison. The aggravated term is two years in prison.
In some cases, A.R.S. 13-604 allows a judge to designate a Class 6 felony conviction as a Class 1 misdemeanor. This would mean a less serious sentence.
Fines for Felonies
Prison time is not the only punishment judges can give in Arizona. A judge can impose fines of up to $150,000.
Arizona courts can impose additional fines against defendants convicted of drug crimes.
Prior Felony Convictions
Another circumstance that affects felony sentencing is a prior felony conviction. A person with two or more felony convictions or one prior conviction for a dangerous felony will receive a longer prison sentence than a first-time offender.
For example, if a court convicts someone of a Class 2 felony and that person has a prior dangerous felony conviction, the presumptive term doubles. Remember, the presumptive term for a Class 2 felony is five years. With a prior conviction, the presumptive term becomes ten years and six months.
Statute of Limitations
A statute of limitations is a time limit for prosecuting a crime. The state must begin prosecuting a crime within the statute of limitations. The state has seven years to begin prosecuting for most felonies in Arizona.
The most serious felonies, like murder, have no statute of limitations. This means the state can begin prosecution at any time, even many years later.
Why You Need An Attorney
A felony conviction will become part of your permanent record, and in turn, part of your legal identity. Arizona does not allow records to be expunged or sealed. You can lose your right to vote and your right to own a firearm. Multiple felony convictions will result in very long prison sentences.
You need an experienced trial attorney to guide you through the trial process. Attorneys have relationships with judges and prosecutors that they can leverage to get you a fair sentence. Attorneys can also help mitigate the damage to your reputation.
Contact The Belen Law Firm Today!
Belen Olmedo Guerra is a thorough and highly experienced criminal defense attorney. She’s one of the top felony defense lawyers in Phoenix and will handle your case with precision.