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Content is for informational purposes and should not be considered legal advice.
Felony Offenses in Arizona
In Arizona there are six different types of felonies. They range from Murder being the highest at a Class
1 felony down to a Class 6 being the lowest type of felony. In Arizona there are specific Sentencing
Guidelines that the court must go by when sentencing someone to any level of felony. Sentences can
range from Probation with no jail time for lower level offenses with no priors up to Life in the
Department of Corrections (i.e. Prison) or the Death Penalty for the worst offenses. A Probation sentence
can also include up to a year in the County Jail as punishment.
There are some facts that may make a sentence for an offense harsher. For instance, if the person has
prior felony offenses then they placed in a higher sentencing range. Or if in a drug offense there was an
amount of the drug above the listed “threshold”, then they are also placed in a higher sentencing range.
Certain offenses such as Drug Offenses and Crimes Against Children have their own sentencing
guidelines that are harsher than the traditional ones.
Additionally, Felony Offenses can be charged as either “Dangerous” or “Non-Dangerous”. An offense is
deemed to be Dangerous if a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument was used in the offense. This can
include a variety of things such as guns, knives, vehicles, or sometimes even every day items such as a
rock, letter opener, or hammer. If the Felony Offense is labeled as Dangerous then the Defendant faces a
higher sentencing range and is NOT eligible to get sentenced to Probation. In other words, if a person is
Found Guilty at trial or takes a plea to a Dangerous Offense then they must be sentenced to prison.
Once it is determined which sentencing range the offense falls under, then the Court starts with the
“Presumptive Sentence” and either increases it based on Aggravating factors or decreases it based on
Mitigating factors. These factors are presented to the Judge by Defense Counsel and the County
Attorney. The Judge decides the actual sentence if the person is Found Guilty after trial or Pleads Guilty
in a plea bargain.
There are several different types of Plea Bargains that can be reached. A Plea is a set agreement where
the Defendant pleads Guilty to the offense in exchange for getting a lesser sentence. Please can either be
open range, for example they may say 5-7 years, and the Judge decides where in that range they should
fall. Or a plea can be stipulated to, for example it may say 6 years, and in that case the Judge would
sentence the person to that amount of time.
With Class 6 felonies, there are a few different varieties. A Class 6 felony can be either Designated or
Undesignated (i.e. “Open”). If the Class 6 felony is Designated, then it will remain a Class 6 felony on
the person’s record. However, in cases where the person does not have any priors and it is a lesser
offense, it is possible for their attorney to negotiate an Undesignated or Open Class 6 Felony. That means
that after the person has finished their Probation and done everything they are supposed to, they can ask
the Court to Designate (turn in to) the Offense a Misdemeanor. Then they would no longer have a
Felony on their record. However, until such time as the Court Designates an offense to be a
Misdemeanor then it is treated as a Felony for all other purposes.