Like many other states, the Arizona Criminal Code separates crimes into two categories: misdemeanors and felonies. A misdemeanor is a less serious crime, which generally does not require punishment of more than 6 months. A felony is a more serious crime, usually requiring punishment of more than one year in prison. Misdemeanors and felonies are further divided up into classes. There are 3 class of misdemeanors and 6 types of felonies, which separates into dangerous felonies and non-dangerous felonies eventually making it a total of 12 felonies. The purpose is to organize the type of crime into a class for assigning punishment. Classes of offenses start at 1 and go through 6. As an offense decreases in class number, the potential punishment for the offense also decreases.

Being charged with a felony is a very serious matter that can result in extended time in prison and substantial fines owed to the state. Arizona Lawyers has over 38 years of experience fighting on behalf of those facing felony charges. Our criminal defense attorneys have the experience necessary to assess your case and provide you with honest feedback regarding potential outcomes. Then, using their experience as both prosecutors and defense counsel, our attorneys formulate a strategy to reach the best outcome for your case. We work for you and provide honest, straightforward advice through all aspects of your case.

What Happens If I Am Charged With A Felony?

Charging Documents

A prosecutor may pursue criminal charges based on either a direct complaint or upon obtaining a grand jury indictment. A direct complaint lays out all the evidence against a defendant and is reviewed by the judge to determine if the evidence supports the charges presented. A grand jury indictment is a charging document issued by a group of citizens after reviewing all the evidence against a defendant at a grand jury hearing. Upon signing a direct complaint or entry of a grand jury indictment, a judge will set a preliminary hearing and may issue an arrest warrant for the defendant.

Initial Appearance

If a defendant is arrested, he or she must be taken before a judge within 24 hours of being registered in the criminal justice system. At the initial appearance, the defendant is informed of the charges, advised of the right to an attorney, bail or other conditions for release may or may not be set, and a date is set for a preliminary hearing.

Preliminary Hearing

At the preliminary hearing, the prosecution lays out all the evidence against the defendant before the judge. The judge may either dismiss the charges upon finding insufficient evidence or order the matter to proceed to trial upon finding probable cause to support the charges.


An arraignment must be held within 10 days of formal charges. At the arraignment, the defendant is informed of the exact charges filed; advised of the right to an attorney; enters a plea of guilty or not guilty, and dates for further hearings are set.

Classifications of Punishments For A Felony

After the arraignment, you will know exactly what charges are filed against you, either a misdemeanor or a felony. Felonies fall into one of six classes. The punishment for each class of felony varies depending on whether it is a first offense and the existence of aggravating or mitigating factors.

  1. There are only two Class 1 felonies in Arizona: first and second-degree murder. First-degree murder is punishable by life in prison or the death penalty. The presumptive minimum punishment for second-degree murder is 16 years in prison.
  2. Class 2 felonies include serious crimes such as sexual assault, armed robbery, and terrorism. The presumptive sentence for a first time offender of a Class 2 felony is 10 years in prison.
  3. Class 3 felonies include assault with a deadly weapon and aggravated robbery. The presumptive sentence for a first time offender of a Class 3 felony is 7 years in prison.
  4. Class 4 felonies include arson and theft of property valued between $3,000 and $4,000. The presumptive sentence for a first time offender of a Class 4 felony is 3 years in prison.
  5. Class 5 felonies include taking photographs or videos of a private nature without consent and torturing or killing a domestic animal. The presumptive sentence for a first time offender of a Class 5 felony is 2 years in prison.
  6. Class 6 felonies include negligent abuse of an adult and theft of property valued between $1,000 and $2,000. The presumptive sentence for a first-time offender of a Class 6 felony is 1.5 years in prison. If the court finds it would be too harsh to sentence a defendant to a felony under the circumstances, the court may issue sentencing based on a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Any offense designated as a felony but without a specific class of felony is considered a Class 5 felony.

In addition to prison time, a court order payment of a fine in a set amount, which may not exceed $150,000.

Mitigating and Aggravating Factors For A Felony

At sentencing, the criminal court may consider various factors that apply to the level of punishment imposed. Mitigating factors result in a lesser sentence and may include a defendant’s age and capacity or any other factor deemed relevant by the court such as a defendant’s status in the community or the absence of prior criminal behavior.

Aggravating factors result in increased sentencing. Examples of aggravating factors include prior criminal convictions, the defendant’s role in the crime, and other facts and circumstances the court deems relevant.

Contact Our Phoenix Felony Defense Attorney Today

A felony conviction is a serious matter that stays on your record for life. In addition to long-term prison sentences, courts may also impose hefty fines. If you are being charged with a felony, your best defense is to have experienced representation on your side. At Arizona Lawyers, our attorneys have experience as both prosecutors and defense attorneys and can make sure you receive fair treatment throughout your case. Whether you are seeking reduced charges or an acquittal, our attorneys will be on your side, keeping you informed every step of the way.