Class 1 Felony in Arizona
When a person commits a criminal offense, that offense will be categorized as either a felony or a misdemeanor crime. (Petty offenses may also be assigned to low-level crimes.) Felony charges are much more serious than misdemeanor charges, as a felony conviction can result in a lengthy prison sentence rather than less than a year of jail time and often carries much larger fines and personal repercussions.
Within the classifications of misdemeanors and felonies are different classes that signify the extent of the crime. The more serious crimes are designated by the lowest numbers, while the less serious crimes are the higher numbers.
Felony classes are divided into Class 6, Class 5, Class 4, Class 3, Class 2, and Class 1 felonies. In this post, our Phoenix criminal defense attorneys at Belén Law Firm will cover Class 1 felonies, what they are, and the penalties that one may face if convicted.
What is Considered a Class 1 Felony in AZ?
A Class 1 felony offense is the most serious crime a person can commit under Arizona law. There are only two offenses that are categorized as Class 1 felonies: first-degree murder and second-degree murder. Defendants convicted of a Class 1 felony face the harshest penalties, including the potential for life imprisonment or even the death penalty.
Unlike most other crimes, Class 1 felonies do not have a statute of limitations in Arizona. This means defendants can be charged with this crime at any point in their life, no matter how much time has surpassed since the alleged murder.
First-Degree Murder Charges
The classification of first-degree murder can be found in Arizona Criminal Statute § 13-1105. The text provided in the statute is as follows:
A person commits first-degree murder if:
- Intending or knowing that the person’s conduct will cause death, the person causes the death of another person, including an unborn child, with premeditation or, as a result of causing the death of another person with premeditation, causes the death of an unborn child.
- Acting either alone or with one or more other persons the person commits or attempts to commit sexual conduct with a minor, sexual assault, molestation of a child, terrorism, marijuana offenses, dangerous drug offenses, narcotics offenses that equal or exceed the statutory threshold amount for each offense or combination of offenses, involving or using minors in drug offenses, drive-by shooting, kidnapping, burglary, arson, robbery, escape, child abuse, or unlawful flight from a pursuing law enforcement vehicle and, in the course of and in furtherance of the offense or immediate flight from the offense, the person or another person causes the death of any person.
- Intending or knowing that the person’s conduct will cause death to a law enforcement officer, the person causes the death of a law enforcement officer who is in the line of duty.
Second-Degree Murder Charges
The classification of second-degree murder can be found in Arizona Criminal Statute § 13-1104. It states:
A person commits second-degree murder without premeditation if:
- The person intentionally causes the death of another person, including an unborn child or, as a result of intentionally causing the death of another person, causes the death of an unborn child; or
- Knowing that the person’s conduct will cause death or serious physical injury, the person causes the death of another person, including an unborn child or, as a result of knowingly causing the death of another person, causes the death of an unborn child; or
- Under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to human life, the person recklessly engages in conduct that creates a grave risk of death and thereby causes the death of another person, including an unborn child or, as a result of recklessly causing the death of another person, causes the death of an unborn child.
How Does Felony Sentencing Work?
As we previously mentioned, convictions for felony crimes are much harsher than those for misdemeanor convictions. Aside from Class 1 felonies, jail sentences for other felonies can be found in Arizona’s felony sentencing chart. Of course, under Arizona criminal law, the sentencing range depends on several factors, such as the particular class of the felony, whether it is a dangerous crime, whether there are aggravating factors or mitigating factors, whether the defendant has a previous conviction, and more. As you can see in the sentence range chart, each class has a presumptive sentence, minimum sentence, maximum sentence, and sentences with mitigating circumstances and aggravating circumstances.
Other Degrees of Felonies in Arizona
Below, we’ll briefly cover the several different classes of felonies in Arizona as well as their potential prison sentences. Keep in mind, however, that the categorization of certain crimes depends on many different factors, such as whether the defendant has a prior conviction and whether or not they committed dangerous offenses.
Class 2 Felonies in Arizona
Examples of a Class 2 felony in Arizona include the production or creation of child pornography, sexual assault of a child, sex trafficking, and manslaughter in Arizona. The presumptive term for a Class 2 felony is five years in prison, while the aggravated sentence is 12.5 years.
Class 3 Felonies in Arizona
A few examples of Class 3 felonies in Arizona include second-degree burglary, sexual abuse of a child under the age of 15, certain aggravated assault crimes, and certain dangerous crimes against children. The presumptive term for Class 3 felonies is three years and six months prison time. Aggravating factors may increase the penalty to eight years and nine months in prison.
Class 4 Felonies in Arizona
Perjury, kidnapping, robbery, misconduct using a deadly weapon, and third-degree burglary are just a few examples of Class 4 felony offenses in Arizona. Class 4 felonies carry a presumptive sentence of two years and six months in prison, while the aggravated sentence for a Class 4 felony is three years and nine months.
Class 5 Felonies in Arizona
A Class 5 felony in Arizona can entail anything from aggravated assault on a police officer to credit card theft to public sexual indecency before a minor. A Class 5 felony has a presumptive sentence of two years and an aggravated sentence of two years and six months.
Class 6 Felonies in Arizona
A Class 6 felony is the least serious felony one can be charged with in Arizona. These crimes may include aggravated domestic violence, shoplifting of a value between $1,000 to $2,000, certain drug crimes, an aggravated DUI, and more. The presumptive prison sentence for a Class 6 felony in Arizona is one year in prison, while the aggravated prison sentence is two years.
What are the Penalties for Class 1 Felonies in Arizona?
A person convicted of a Class 1 felony in Arizona faces anywhere from 10 years in state prison to the death sentence depending on the facts of the case. More specifically, first-degree murder is punishable by life imprisonment, natural life imprisonment, or the death penalty. Meanwhile, a second-degree murder conviction depends on whether or not they have prior felony convictions for second-degree murder or any other dangerous Class 2 or 3 felony. For a first offense, second-degree murder is punishable by a presumptive term of 16 years, a maximum of 25 years, and a minimum of 10 years.
How Many Years is a Life Sentence in Prison?
Though it can be misleading, a person subject to a life sentence may not actually spend the rest of their life behind bars. A life sentence may allow the defendant to be eligible for release after 25 years if the victim was at or above the age of 15 and 35 years if the victim was below the age of 15.
What is Natural Life in Prison?
Natural life in prison is what most people expect a life sentence to be. Instead of being eligible for early release, a person facing natural life MUST spend the remainder of their life in prison.
If You’ve Been Charged With a Class 1 Felony in Arizona, You NEED the Help of an Experienced Phoenix Criminal Defense Attorney From Belén Law Firm
When you face felony charges, there is a lot on the line. This is especially the case when you are charged with a Class 1 felony of first or second-degree murder. With the potential for life imprisonment or the death penalty hanging in the balance, your entire future is at stake. That’s why, if you’ve been charged with a Class 1 felony, you NEED an experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side.
At Belén Law Firm, we are a team of experienced trial attorneys who know what it takes to build a solid defense and create reasonable doubt in the prosecution’s case. Every piece of evidence the prosecution intends to utilize will be carefully examined, and we’ll take every necessary measure to poke holes in their case against you. We fully equip ourselves with all available facts and work to resolve the matter in the most favorable manner with every case we take on.
No matter what criminal offense you have been accused of, you are still a human being and you deserve someone to fight for you in your corner. That’s what Attorney Belén Olmedo Guerra intends to do for you. To speak with a skilled Phoenix criminal defense attorney about the criminal charges you face, call (602) 715-0908 or complete our online intake form for a free consultation today.