In Arizona, felonies are the most severe type of crime in the state. While there are 6 classes of felonies in Arizona, all convictions carry potential sentencing of over a year in prison. They also carry higher fines than misdemeanors or petty offenses. Felonies also have serious collateral consequences of a conviction.
1. What felony classifications are there in Arizona?
In order of severity, there are 6 Classes of felony offenses in Arizona:
- Class 1 felonies,
- Class 2 felonies,
- Class 3 felonies,
- Class 4 felonies,
- Class 5 felonies, and
- Class 6 felonies.
Class 1 felonies are the most severe. There are only 2 Class 1 felony offenses in Arizona:
Class 6 felonies are the least severe type of felony-level offense in the state. They are also known as “wobblers” because the prosecutor can choose to pursue misdemeanor charges, rather than felony charges. The judge can also choose to sentence a defendant for a Class 1 misdemeanor. Therefore, they can “wobble” between the two types of offenses.
There are some criminal offenses that a statute will describe as a felony without stating the penalty or the crime classification. These offenses are treated as a Class 5 felony.
Any crime that states the penalty for a violation but does not state the level or classification of the offense is classified according to the penalty.
2. What are the potential penalties for an Arizona felony?
The potential penalties for a felony conviction include fines and prison time.
Arizona law sets presumptive prison sentences for each class of felony. The baseline sentence can deviate up or down based on aggravating or mitigating factors. Aggravating factors can increase the length of the jail sentence. Mitigating circumstances can decrease it. They depend on the classification of the offense:
|Classification of felony||Mitigated jail term||Presumptive term||Aggravated term|
|Class 2||3 years||5 years||12 years and 6 months|
|Class 3||2 years||3 years and 6 months||8 years and 9 months|
|Class 4||1 year||2 years and 6 months||3 years and 9 months|
|Class 5||6 months||1 year and 6 months||2 years and 6 months|
|Class 6||4 months||1 year||2 years|
The penalties for a Class 1 felony will depend on the offense.
Convictions for first-degree murder can carry either:
- a life sentence in state prison, or
- the death penalty.
Convictions for second-degree murder carry the following potential prison sentences for first-time offenders:
- 10-year mitigated sentence,
- 16-year presumptive sentence, or
- 25-year aggravated sentence.
The possible outcome increases if the defendant has previously been convicted of certain serious offenses, in the past.
Arizona judges can impose a fine for a felony offense. These include court costs and additional fines. They can go as high as $150,000.
If the criminal statute does not classify the offense, but does state the penalty, then a violation is punishable according to the statute.
Probation is required for certain felony-level drug crimes, rather than jail time. These include:
- personal possession of a controlled substance, or
- possession of drug paraphernalia.
In these cases, judges will suspend the prison sentence and put the defendant on probation. Defendants are not eligible for probation if they have:
- been convicted for drug possession or possession of drug paraphernalia 3 times, previously,
- refused drug treatment as a term of probation,
- refused probation, or
- been convicted of an offense involving methamphetamine.
Felony convictions also have collateral consequences. These are setbacks and obstacles that do not come from the justice system. Instead, they come from having a criminal record. Even though these consequences come from private parties, they can be just as difficult to overcome as the fines and jail time that come with a conviction. Examples of collateral consequences of a felony conviction can include:
- losing your right to possess a firearm,
- losing your right to vote,
- getting kicked out of subsidized housing,
- being barred from certain professional licenses or certifications, and
- having to admit to a felony conviction on employment applications.
Together, these potential penalties make it essential for defendants to have a criminal defense lawyer.
3. How are felony offenses different from misdemeanors?
Felony offenses are more severe than misdemeanors.
This difference between felonies and misdemeanors is reflected in both the potential penalties of a conviction, as well as in the nature of the crime. Felonies are often dangerous crimes that involve:
- use of a deadly weapon,
- substantial amounts of property damage or theft, or
- non-consensual sex.
As a result, the state of Arizona imposes higher minimum sentences for dangerous offenses that amount to felony-level crimes than on misdemeanor convictions.
4. How long do prosecutors have to file a felony charge?
Prosecutors in Arizona have to abide by the criminal statute of limitations in Arizona when they file criminal charges. They generally have 7 years to file charges against a defendant involving Class 2 through Class 6 felonies. They can file charges for Class 1 felonies and other severe criminal offenses at any time.
Class 6 felonies have 7 years to be filed, even if they are being charged by prosecutors as a misdemeanor.
If the charges are not filed in this time frame, a criminal defense attorney can raise the statute of limitations as a defense. If successful, the judge will dismiss the criminal allegations.
5. What are some examples of felony crimes?
Examples of felonies in Arizona can include:
- attempted murder,
- negligent homicide,
- sexual assault,
- child molestation,
- driving under the influence (DUI),
- aggravated assault,
- burglary, and
 ARS 13-601(A).
 ARS 13-1105.
 ARS 13-1104.
 ARS 13-602(A).
 ARS 13-602(D)-(E).
 ARS 13-751.
 ARS 13-710.
 ARS 13-710.
 ARS 13-801.
 ARS 13-602(D)-(E).
 ARS 13-901.01.
 ARS 13-901.01(H).
 ARS 13-107(B)(1).
 ARS 13-107(A).