What Classifies As a Misdemeanor Offense (As Opposed to a Felony)?
In Arizona, all crimes are either given the classification of a felony or misdemeanor. Misdemeanors are less serious offenses than felonies, which are reserved for the most serious offenses like DUI, murder and similarly harmful actions.
Within the broad categorization of misdemeanors and felonies, each type of offense also utilizes a number-based system to classify the severity of the misdemeanor or felony alleged. In Arizona, the lower the number, the more severe the offense.
For example, a Class 1 felony can lead to life in prison, whereas a Class 6 felony can lead to only a year of prison time by comparison. To understand what offenses are classified as misdemeanors, it helps to look toward Arizona statutes.
What Offenses Are Misdemeanors in Arizona?
It is no exaggeration to state that there are hundreds of misdemeanors in Arizona.
However, each class of misdemeanor offenses have offenses that are most commonly applicable to the majority of Arizona misdemeanor defendants.
Arizona has three misdemeanor classifications, with Class 1 misdemeanors being the most serious and Class 3 being the least serious misdemeanor offenses.
Common Class 1 offenses include:
Some DUI offenses
Assault resulting in bodily injury
Possession of a Controlled Substance
Unlawful Possession of a Weapon
Common Class 2 offenses include:
Providing a false police report
Theft of property valued between $50 and $500
Frequent Class 3 misdemeanor offenses include:
Theft of items valued under $50
These offenses are punished according to their class level in Arizona.
Punishments for Misdemeanor Offenses in Arizona
A.R.S. Section 13-707 outlines the legal consequences of a misdemeanor conviction in Arizona. For a first offense, a misdemeanor can lead to the following terms of imprisonment:
Six months for a Class 1 conviction
Four months for a Class 2 conviction
Thirty days for a Class 3 conviction
If a defendant has received a previous misdemeanor or other criminal conviction, the legal consequences will be greater. However, these distinctions do not shed light on the razor thin line that can exist between a Class 1 misdemeanor and a Class 6 or greater felony.
How the Court Determines Whether an Offense Is a Felony or Misdemeanor
In many criminal cases, it is the court itself that will ultimately determine whether the offense in question classifies as a felony or a misdemeanor. The court will look to several factors when making their determination, including (but not limited to):
Existing Arizona laws
The nature of the offense committed
The judge's own discretion
The evidence presented, argued and brought forth in the case
This last point in particular is especially salient since most other factors are outside the defendant's control. How evidence is presented, however, strongly hinges on finding effective legal representation from a Phoenix criminal defense lawyer who will effectively defend your legal rights.
The need for effective legal representation is especially applicable for defendants whose offense straddles the line between misdemeanor and felony. While all criminal convictions are serious, a felony conviction has far greater consequences both in terms of prison time as well as the restriction of rights such as voting and owning firearms.
Tyler Allen Law Firm, PLLC is a Phoenix law firm that protects your right to a strong legal defense, regardless of whether you have been charged with a felony or misdemeanor offense.
Contact us online for a legal consultation to discuss your case with an Arizona criminal defense lawyer today.