In Arizona, misdemeanors are crimes that carry a potential punishment of up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. Felonies in Arizona are punishable by a year or more in state prison. Read on to learn how Arizona classifies and penalizes misdemeanor offenses.
For purposes of sentencing, Arizona groups misdemeanors into three classes, with Class 1 being the most serious and Class 3 the least serious. The law establishes a maximum punishment for each class of misdemeanor, including a maximum fine and jail sentence. Drug convictions can result in additional fines.
Class 1 misdemeanors carry a maximum sentence of up to six months in jail and a $2,500 fine. Examples of class 1 misdemeanors include petty theft (less than $1,000), simple assault, disorderly conduct, reckless burning, dropping objects from an overpass, and false reporting of an emergency ("swatting").
A person convicted of a class 2 misdemeanor faces up to four months in jail and a $750 fine. Examples of class 2 misdemeanors include second-degree criminal trespass, giving a false name to police, obstructing a highway, hazing, and failure to abate a public nuisance.
Class 3 misdemeanors are punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine. Examples of class 3 misdemeanors include custodial interference, highway littering, vehicle tampering, off-highway vehicle violation, and excessive speeding in a school zone.
Anyone convicted of the same misdemeanor twice in two years can be sentenced to the next higher class of crime. So, for example, a repeat conviction for the same class 2 misdemeanor can be bumped up to a class 1 misdemeanor, and a repeat class 1 misdemeanor can result in class 6 felony charges.
Certain misdemeanors impose felony sentences for repeat offenses regardless of how long ago they occurred. For instance, a third or subsequent conviction for indecent exposure increases from a class 1 misdemeanor to a class 6 felony. False reporting of an emergency carries a similar enhancement for a second or subsequent conviction.
Within the legal limits described above, it will be up to the judge to decide on a person's sentence. Sentencing options for misdemeanors include jail time, fines, probation, victim restitution, community restitution, education or treatment, or a combination of these.
Jail time is a possibility. However, judges have several options available in lieu of jail time.
Probation. If convicted of a misdemeanor, a judge may suspend the jail sentence and place a person on probation. A probationer must abide by all the terms of probation to remain in the community. Probation sentences can be significantly longer than the possible jail sentence. A judge can sentence a person to probation for three years for a class 1 misdemeanor, two years for a class 2 misdemeanor, and one year for a class 3 misdemeanor.
Specialty court. A defendant might also qualify for a specialty court program, such as drug or DUI court, veterans court, or early disposition court. Participation in a specialty court typically involves intensive supervision and oversight of a defendant by a team consisting of a judge, prosecutor, defense attorney, probation, and treatment provider. These courts aim to address issues that may be contributing to criminal behavior, such as substance addiction, mental health issues, or PTSD. These courts don't always completely avoid jail time, but they tend to have high success rates.
Diversion. A person facing first-time misdemeanor changes may qualify for a diversion (or deferred prosecution) program. Diversion programs are run by prosecutor offices and eligibility varies. To be in a diversion program, the defendant will usually need to agree to pay victim restitution, attend educational programming or treatment (such as drug addiction treatment or anger management classes), stay out of trouble, and pay fees. Successful completion can result in dismissal of the charges.
If a defendant cannot afford to pay fines or other monetary obligations imposed by the court, the judge may allow the defendant to perform community restitution in lieu of the fine. Defendants can also ask the court to reduce a fine if payment would result in a hardship to the defendant or their immediate family.
Any criminal conviction, even for a misdemeanor, can have negative consequences in your life. If you have to serve time in jail, you could wind up losing your job and housing. A criminal conviction could also subject you to stiffer penalties if you get in trouble with the law again. If you're charged with any crime, you should talk to an Arizona criminal defense lawyer. An attorney can tell you what to expect in court, explore your legal options, and help you get the best outcome under the circumstances.
(Ariz. Rev. Stat. §§ 11-362, 13-601, 13-602, 13-603, 13-702, 13-707, 13-802, 13-821, 13-824, 13-825, 13-901, 13-901.01, 13-902, 13-1203, 13-1216, 13-1302, 13-1503, 13-1702, 13-1802, 13-2412, 13-2904, 13-2906, 13-2907, 13-2917, 13-3422, 13-3720, 28-701.02, 28-1174, 28-1522, 28-7506 (2023).)