Arizona, like all states, divides offenses into felonies and misdemeanors. Felonies are the more serious crimes and carry potential sentences of a year or more in state prison. Misdemeanors, on the other hand, are generally punishable by up to six months in local or county jail.
This article will review Arizona's felony sentences, including the various classes and punishments allowed by law.
Arizona has somewhat unique felony sentencing laws. The state uses six felony classes—Class 1 being the most serious and Class 6 the least serious. But instead of setting one maximum sentence, each class includes the following five sentences: a mitigating, minimum, presumptive, maximum, and aggravating sentence. Here's briefly how it works.
Standard sentence. The minimum, presumptive, and maximum sentences represent the "standard" sentencing range. In typical cases, the judge will usually impose the presumptive sentence (which falls somewhere in between the minimum and maximum). Special circumstances may justify the judge ordering down to the minimum sentence or up to the maximum sentence.
Mitigated or aggravated sentence. Outside the standard range, a judge can impose a mitigated or aggravated sentence—but only if it finds that two or more such circumstances existed. Examples of mitigating circumstances include the defendant's young age or minimal participation in the crime. Aggravating circumstances might involve targeting a vulnerable victim, committing the crime in an especially cruel manner, or having an accomplice.
Enhanced sentence. If an offender has a record of prior convictions, a different sentencing range applies than the one described above. These enhanced penalties are described below in the section on "Felony Sentencing Enhancements in Arizona."
Below, we'll review the standard felony sentences that include the:
Keep in mind that the law may allow the judge to impose a different sentence depending on the circumstances of the offense.
First- and second-degree murder are the only Class 1 felonies in Arizona.
First-degree murder is punishable by life in prison or death. Second-degree murder is generally punishable by 10 to 25 years in prison, with a presumptive sentence of 16 years. The sentence range is 15 to 29 years when the defendant has had certain types of previous convictions.
(Ariz. Rev. Stat. §§ 13-710, 13-1104, 13-1105 (2022).)
The standard sentence range for a Class 2 felony is 4 to 10 years in prison, with a presumptive sentence of 5 years.
Class 2 felonies in Arizona include manslaughter, sex trafficking, armed robbery, and manufacturing methamphetamine. Sexual assault is also a Class 2 felony, but it has its own specific sentencing range for first-time and repeat offenders.
(Ariz. Rev. Stat. §§ 13-702, 13-1103, 13-1307, 13-1406, 13-1904, 13-3407 (2022).)
The standard sentence range for a Class 3 felony is 2 ½ to 7 years, with a presumptive sentence of 3 ½ years.
(Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 13-702, 13-1204, 13-1507, 13-1814 (2022).)
In Arizona, Class 4 felonies are generally punishable by 1 ½ to 3 years in prison, with a presumptive sentence of 2 ½ years.
Class 4 felonies include theft of property worth between $3,000 and $4,000, possession of a device for scanning credit cards (in order to defraud the cardholder or merchant), and aggravated assault involving strangulation.
(Ariz. Rev. Stat. §§ 13-702, 13-1204, 13-1802, 13-2110 (2022).)
A person convicted of a Class 5 felony in Arizona faces a presumptive term of 1 ½ years, with a minimum term of 9 months and a maximum of 2 years.
Class 5 felonies include aggravated domestic violence, credit card theft, and stalking that causes emotional distress or fear of injury or property damage.
(Ariz. Rev. Stat. §§ 13-702, 13-2102, 13-2923, 13-3601 (2022).)
The standard sentence for a Class 6 felony is 6 to 18 months, with a presumptive sentence of 1 year. Examples of Class 6 felonies in Arizona include firearm theft, witness tampering, and possession of drug paraphernalia.
If you've been convicted of a Class 6 felony that didn't involve a dangerous weapon or serious injury, and the judge believes that a felony sentence would be unduly harsh under the circumstances, the judge may instead enter a judgment for a Class 1 misdemeanor conviction or put you on probation and hold off on designating the crime as a felony or misdemeanor until you've completed probation. For these crimes that may be punished as either a felony or misdemeanor (sometimes called "wobblers"), the prosecutor may choose to charge the crime as a misdemeanor.
(Ariz. Rev. Stat. §§ 13-604, 13-702, 13-1802, 13-2804, 13-3415 (2022).)
Arizona law spells out longer sentence ranges within each class of felony when:
To see the details on the sentence ranges under these circumstances, you can search for the following statutes in the Arizona Criminal Code, sections 13-703, 13-704, 13-705, and 13-706.
In addition, several individual felonies step up in class (and therefore come with longer sentences) if you had one or more previous convictions for the same crime.
When you've been convicted of a felony in Arizona, the judge may order you to pay a fine of up to $150,000 in addition to serving time in prison—or instead of prison for a Class 5 or 6 felony. Judges may also impose additional fines for drug crimes.
Arizona also imposes various surcharges on criminal fines, which together increase the fine by a total of 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.
Finally, any defendants convicted of crimes face extra charges known as "assessments" in Arizona. These assessments are relatively small when they apply to all crimes (ranging from $2 to $20), but the ones that apply to specific crimes range from $50 for crimes like stalking to $500 for sexual assault or dangerous crimes against children.
(Ariz. Rev. Stat. §§ 12-114.01; 12-116.01 to .10; 13-603; 13-801; 13-821; 13-825; 16-954 (2022).)
Unless a law makes you ineligible for probation (usually because of previous convictions or the nature of the crime), the judge may suspend the prison sentence for a felony and put you on probation. However, if you've been convicted of personal possession of an illegal drug (other than methamphetamine) or drug paraphernalia, the judge must suspend your sentence and place you on probation unless you've also been convicted of a violent crime, have three previous drug convictions, or have refused treatment or probation.
While you're on probation, the judge may require you to spend certain periods of time in county jail. In Arizona, the probation conditions must include payment of a monthly fee.
(Ariz. Rev. Stat. §§ 13-603, 13-901, 13-901.01 (2022).)
A felony conviction can have serious, long-term consequences. Aside from the actual prison sentence, having a felony on your record could make it difficult to get a job or housing, will make it illegal to possess a gun, and will subject you to stiffer penalties if you commit another felony. If you're facing felony charges, you should speak with an Arizona criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. An experienced attorney can help you navigate the criminal justice system, negotiate a favorable plea bargain if that's appropriate, and obtain the best possible outcome in your case.