In Arizona, Class 1 felonies are the most severe type of criminal offense in the state. There are only 2 crimes that are Class 1 felonies, and both are homicides: First-degree murder and second-degree murder. Convictions for Class 1 felonies carry sentencing of between 10 years and life in prison. The death penalty is also possible for first-degree murder.
1. What is a Class 1 felony in Arizona?
Class 1 felonies are a crime classification in Arizona.
The state categorizes each criminal offense into 3 types based on severity:
- misdemeanor, and
- petty offense.
Felonies are the most severe. Petty offenses are the least severe.
Arizona criminal law then classifies the crimes in each of these categories based on severity. For felonies, there are:
- 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. Class 6 felonies are the least severe. However, even Class 6 felonies are more serious than a misdemeanor, and all misdemeanors are more serious than a petty offense.
2. What crimes are Class 1 felony crimes?
There are only 2 crimes that are categorized as Class 1 felonies in Arizona. They are:
Both of these are crimes of homicide. Homicide is the deliberate killing of another human being.
These are the most severe type of criminal offense that someone can be accused of committing in Arizona. Defendants accused of a Class 1 felony should strongly consider calling a law firm and hiring a criminal defense attorney to represent them in court.
Unlike other classes of felonies, the penalties of a Class 1 felony conviction depend on the specific offense committed.
3. What are the penalties for first-degree murder?
Convictions for first-degree murder are punishable with fines and either a lifetime in jail or the death penalty.
Judges can require defendants to pay court costs and additional fines up to $150,000 for a Class 1 felony, including first-degree murder.
The prison sentence for first-degree murder can be either:
- imprisonment for life,
- imprisonment for natural life, or
- the death penalty.
Natural life sentences are harsher than life sentences because the inmate is not eligible for:
Defendants who are sentenced to life in prison are eligible for one of these forms of release only after they have completed:
- 25 years of their sentence, if the victim was 15 years old or older, or
- 35 years, if the victim was under 15.
In deciding whether to sentence a defendant to life or to natural life in jail, the court is to consider up to 27 statutory aggravating factors and 6 mitigating factors. These include:
- the presence of an accomplice,
- if there was theft of property during the offense, the value of the property,
- the defendant’s prior conviction of a felony, such as sexual assault or aggravated assault, in the past 10 years,
- the death of an unborn child during the offense,
- the victim had a disability,
- the defendant was impersonating a police officer,
- the use of a deadly weapon, and
- the defendant’s character or background.
Prosecutors pursuing first-degree murder charges can also seek the death penalty. They have to file a notice of intent to seek the death penalty, and then prove that there was an aggravating circumstance that made the offense worse. The aggravating factors relevant for the death penalty include:
- a prior conviction for a serious offense or a crime that carried life imprisonment,
- the murder was paid for,
- the offense was especially cruel,
- the defendant was on probation or release from prison at the time of the offense,
- the defendant was also convicted for another homicide committed at the same time,
- the victim was either under 15 or over 70 years old and the defendant was tried as an adult,
- the victim was an on-duty police officer and the defendant knew it,
- the offense was gang-related, and
- the homicide was committed to prevent or retaliate against the victim’s cooperation with an official investigation.
Prosecutors have to prove an aggravated factor beyond a reasonable doubt during the aggravation phase of sentencing.
The defendant’s criminal defense lawyer can counter these arguments by showing that there are mitigating circumstances that show a death sentence would be too harsh. These mitigating factors include:
- the defendant could not appreciate the wrongfulness of his or her actions,
- unusual and substantial duress,
- the defendant was an accomplice to the homicide but acted in a minor role,
- the risk of death could not reasonably have been foreseen, and
- the defendant’s age.
Defendants who were under the age of 18 when the offense was committed cannot be sentenced to death.
4. What is the sentencing range for second-degree murder?
Second-degree murder charges carry the following possible jail sentences for first-time offenders:
- 25-year aggravated sentence,
- 16-year presumptive sentence, or a
- 10-year mitigated sentence.
If the defendant has a previous conviction for second-degree murder or dangerous offense that is either a Class 2 or a Class 3 felony, then the potential prison time increase to a:
- 29-year aggravated term,
- 20-year presumptive term, or a
- 15-year mitigated sentence.
Whether the sentence will be aggravated or mitigated will depend on the presence of any of the 27 aggravating factors or 6 mitigating elements relevant for first-degree murder sentences.
Judges can also impose a fine of up to $150,000.
5. How is an Arizona felony different from a misdemeanor?
Felony charges are more serious than misdemeanor charges.
All felonies carry the potential for at least a year of custody in state prison. Misdemeanor convictions do not. The longer prison sentences for felonies reflect the fact that they are generally considered to be more serious crimes. Felonies frequently involve:
- death, or
- non-consensual sex.
6. What is the Arizona criminal statute of limitations for Class 1 felonies?
Under Arizona law, there is no statute of limitations for Class 1 felonies. This means that prosecutors can file felony charges for first- or second-degree murder at any time after the offense was committed.
This makes Class 1 felonies different from any other class of felony. Other felonies generally require prosecutors to file charges within 7 years of the offense.
 ARS 13-601(A).
 ARS 13-1105.
 ARS 13-1104.
 ARS 13-801.
 ARS 13-751.
 ARS 13-751(A).
 ARS 13-751(A)(2) and (3).
 ARS 13-752 and 13-701(D) and (E).
 ARS 13-751(F).
 ARS 13-751(B).
 ARS 13-751(G).
 ARS 13-751(A)(2).
 ARS 13-710.
 ARS 13-710 and 13-701(D) and (E).
 ARS 13-801.