Arizona Misdemeanor Crimes by Class and Sentences

Learn how misdemeanor sentencing works in Arizona, how previous convictions can affect your sentence, and when you might get probation instead of jail.

In Arizona, misdemeanors are crimes that carry a potential punishment of up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500. Felonies in Arizona are punishable by a year or more in state prison. The least-serious offenses, known as petty offenses in Arizona, are punished only by a fine of up to $300. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. §§ 13-601, 13-602 (2020).)

How Misdemeanor Sentencing Works in Arizona

For purposes of sentencing, Arizona groups misdemeanors into three classes, with Class 1 as the most serious. The law establishes a maximum punishment for each class of misdemeanor, as follows:

  • Class 1 misdemeanor: six months in jail and/or a $2,500 fine.
  • Class 2 misdemeanor: four months in jail and/or a $750 fine.
  • Class 3 misdemeanor: 30 days in jail and/or a $500 fine.

Within those legal limits, it will be up to the judge to decide on your sentence. If you're convicted of a drug crime, the judge may impose an additional fine.

Generally, the law describing any misdemeanor designates the appropriate class; if it doesn't, the crime will be treated as a Class 2 misdemeanor. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. §§ 13-707, 13-802, 13-821 (2020).)

How Previous Convictions Affect Your Misdemeanor Sentence

If you're convicted of a misdemeanor and have a previous conviction for the same crime within the past two years, you will be sentenced for the next higher class of crime. That means that if you're convicted of a Class 1 misdemeanor and have a recent conviction for the same crime, you'll receive the sentence for a Class 6 felony: six to 18 months, but typically one year in jail. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. §§ 13-702, 13-707 (2020).)

Alternatives to Jail for Misdemeanors

If you've been convicted of a misdemeanor, the judge may suspend the sentence and place you on probation.

Arizona law places a limit on the probation term according to the class of misdemeanor. Unless the term is extended (for instance, because you didn't pay court-ordered restitution), the probation limits are as follows:

  • Class 1 misdemeanor: up to three years.
  • Class 2 misdemeanor: up to two years.
  • Class 3 misdemeanor: up to one year.

When placing you on probation, the judge may require you to pay a fine and/or to spend some intervals of time in jail. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. §§ 13-603, 13-901, 13-902 (2020).)

Examples of Misdemeanors in Arizona

Here are just a few examples of crimes that are treated as misdemeanors in Arizona, by class:

  • Class 1 misdemeanor: theft of property worth less than $1,000; simple assault that involves intentionally or knowingly injuring someone; disorderly conduct.
  • Class 2 misdemeanor: exposing yourself to the public when you have an infectious disease; failing to give your real name when detained by law enforcement; fraudulently obtaining cable, video, or wireless services.
  • Class 3 misdemeanor: assault that involves touching someone with the intent to injure, insult, or provoke; a school employee's failure to report drug use in a school zone; interfering with a parent's legal custody of a child.

(Ariz. Rev. Stat. §§ 13-1203, 13-1302, 13-1802, 13-2412, 13-2904, 13-3709, 13-3719, 13-3411(F), 36-631 (2020).)

Arizona Surcharges on Misdemeanor Fines

If you've been given a fine for a misdemeanor in Arizona, you will probably also have to pay a surcharge on the basic fine that's allowed for your crime. There are several different surcharges, which together increase the fine by 78%. However, a judge may reduce the amount of the fine and surcharges if you can show that paying the full amount would be a financial hardship for you or your immediate family. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. §§ 12-116.01, 12-116.02, 13-821, 13-825, 16-954 (2020).)

Getting Legal Help

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.

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