Facing criminal charges of any kind is distressing, but the additional consequences and penalties of a felony compared to a misdemeanor can be particularly hard on you as a defendant. The distinction between misdemeanor and felony in Arizona is something that could significantly impact your future. Understanding the difference between these two categories of crime can help you decide when you need to contact an attorney.
What Happens if You Are Charged With a Misdemeanor in Arizona?
A misdemeanor is a less serious charge than a felony, but more serious than an infraction. In general, an infraction is the least serious type of criminal charge. An infraction may lead to a light sentence and no permanent record. A misdemeanor is more serious, often with permanent consequences to the defendant’s criminal record. A felony crime comes with the most severe punishments. Crimes that could lead to misdemeanor charges in Arizona include:
- Drunk driving
- Domestic violence
- Assault and battery
- Immigration crimes
- Violent crimes
- Sex crimes
If a prosecutor charges you with a misdemeanor in Arizona, you could face fines, jail time or temporary punishments such as probation upon conviction. A misdemeanor can end up on your permanent record as well, interfering with your ability to find a job or housing. In Arizona, Revised Statutes section 13-707 outlines the penalty system for a misdemeanor crime. A class 1 misdemeanor can come with up to 6 months in jail, class 2 up to 4 months and class 3 up to 30 days.
What Is a Felony in Arizona?
A felony is a more serious type of criminal charge to face as a defendant than a misdemeanor. It is the most serious type of criminal charge possible in Arizona. A prosecutor might elevate the classification of a crime from misdemeanor to felony due to exacerbating factors such as the use of a deadly weapon or serious bodily injuries to the victim. Some crimes, such as murder and rape, are automatically felonies due to the seriousness of their nature. Felonies come in six different classes under Arizona Revised Statute 13-702.
- Class 1. Maximum of life in prison or the penalty of death.
- Class 2. Minimum of 4 years, maximum of 10 years imprisonment.
- Class 3. Minimum 2.5 years, maximum 7 years.
- Class 4. Minimum 1.5 years, maximum 3 years.
- Class 5. Minimum 9 months, maximum 2 years.
- Class 6. Minimum 6 months, maximum 1.5 years.
These are the terms for a standard first felony offense. The courts may reduce or increase these sentences based on mitigating or aggravating circumstances. Arizona permits capital punishment: death by lethal injection (or gas inhalation if convicted of a crime before 1992) for the most serious crimes. Other consequences can be the loss of civil rights such as the right to vote or bear arms as a convicted felon in the U.S. The seriousness of a felony charge makes it important to strictly protect the defendant’s rights during the criminal procedure.
Do You Need an Attorney?
Both types of crimes can have a major impact on your life and future. You could face jail time, expensive fines, the loss of your job and significant mental stress. Work with a criminal defense attorney in Glendale if prosecutors have charged you with any type of misdemeanor or felony crime in Arizona. A lawyer may be able to convince the prosecution to reduce the charges to the next level down, such as turning a misdemeanor into an infraction, if this is your first offense.
A lawyer could also help you defend yourself against charges using proven defense techniques. Your attorney may be able to get the courts to dismiss the case entirely based on the evidence at hand or lack thereof, for example. Most importantly, an attorney can give you the peace of mind of knowing a legal professional is working hard to minimize the criminal consequences you might face. Protect your rights by speaking to a criminal defense lawyer immediately upon learning of a criminal charge against you, contact us for a free initial case review.