Felony crimes generally carry a prison sentence of one year or longer, with the sentence increasing as you progress in severity from class 6 to class 1 felonies. 

Fortunately, Arizona’s criminal code offers a break for first-time felony offenders that may significantly decrease prison time. In cases involving a class 6 felony, the judge may even be able to downgrade the offense to a class 1 misdemeanor, allowing the defendant to avoid prison altogether.

In this article, we’ll explain everything you need to know about first-time felony offenses in Arizona, including:

  • What qualifies as a first-time felony offense?
  • Penalties for first-time felony offenders
  • Possible defenses against felony charges
  • FAQs about first-time felony offenders
  • What to do if you’re facing felony charges

ARS 13-702 – First-Time Felony Offense in Arizona

The textbook definition of a first-time felony offense is pretty cut-and-dry: it’s your first felony conviction in the United States, period. 

That said, Arizona takes the matter a little further. If you’ve been convicted of a misdemeanor in another state and the crime would normally carry a felony charge in Arizona, then you’re not eligible for first-time felony offender sentencing in Arizona criminal court.  

Penalties for first-time felony offenders in Arizona

ARS 13-702 prescribes the following sentencing guidelines for first-time felony offenders in Arizona:

Felony ChargeMitigated SentenceMinimum SentencePresumptive SentenceMaximum SentenceAggravated Sentence
Class 6.33 years.5 years1 year1.5 years2 years
Class 5.5 years.75 years1.5 years2 years2.5 years
Class 41 year1.5 years2.5 years3 years3.75 years
Class 32 years2.5 years3.5 years7 years8.5 years
Class 23 years4 years5 years10 years12.5 years

In order to obtain the most favorable sentencing (a mitigated sentence), your attorney will argue that your case involves at least two mitigating factors listed in ARS 13-701. This may include:

  • Your age
  • Your capacity to appreciate the wrongfulness of your conduct was impaired
  • Your ability to conform to the requirements of the law was impaired
  • You were under unusual or substantial duress
  • Your participation in the crime was minor
  • You complied with all duties imposed under ARS 28-661, 28-662, and 28-663
  • A factor relevant to your character or background is mitigating
  • The nature or circumstances of the crime is mitigating

You’ll need to establish that at least two of these mitigating factors are applicable to be eligible for a mitigated prison sentence. Of course, the more that you can prove, the better your chances are at getting a mitigated sentence.

Possible Defenses Against Felony Charges

In some cases, the mitigating factors listed above may be enough to warrant downgrading the charges against you or dropping the charges altogether. For example, if you were forced to commit a felony under extreme duress and you’re willing to testify against the party that forced you to commit the crime, the prosecutor or judge should be willing to drop the charges against you.

If you’re unable to argue that significant mitigating factors are enough to downgrade or drop the charges, the most common defense in a criminal case is to argue that your constitutional rights were infringed during or after the arrest. For example, perhaps the arresting officer failed to read your Miranda rights, you were denied access to an attorney, or evidence against you was unlawfully obtained without a warrant.

FAQs about Arizona First-Time Felony Offender Statutes

Q: What is the minimum sentence for a felony in Arizona?

The minimum sentence for a class 6 felony in Arizona is 6 months in prison. Under certain circumstances, the judge may reduce that to a mitigated sentence of 4 months in prison or possibly a probation sentence.

Q: Can you get probation for a felony in Arizona?

Yes, first-time felony offenders may be eligible for probation in Arizona if they don’t have prior felony convictions in Arizona or another state where the conviction would be considered a felony in Arizona. That said, the sentence is up to the judge, so probation isn’t always guaranteed for first-time felony offenders.

As for the length of probation terms in Arizona, it depends on the class of your felony conviction. The maximum probation period ranges from 3-7 years, though your actual length may be less if the judge opts for the minimum or presumptive sentence.

Q: Do you always go to jail for a felony in Arizona?

While many felony convictions will result in jail or prison time, first-time felony offenders that meet certain criteria may be eligible for probation instead. To qualify, the crime cannot be a drug offense, dangerous offense, or dangerous crime against children.

Q: What happens when you have a felony warrant in Arizona?

There are only three ways to resolve a warrant in Arizona: the defendant is arrested, the warrant is quashed, or the defendant’s attorney resolves the warrant. Note that “expiration” isn’t an option here — warrants don’t expire in Arizona, so you can’t just wait for it to go away on its own.

Assuming you don’t want to be arrested, the best way to resolve a warrant is through your attorney. The attorney can appear in court to have the warrant quashed, which usually requires your voluntary appearance in court soon after, or the attorney may resolve the underlying charges by working directly with the prosecuting attorney.

Facing Felony Charges in Arizona?

Whether you’re a first-time or repeat offender, you’ll need to work with an experienced criminal defense attorney to ensure a favorable outcome. Don’t expect the judge to just let you off with a warning because it’s your first brush with the law — if you want to minimize your prison sentence or avoid it entirely in the best-case scenario, you need the help of an attorney.

If you’ve already been arrested, do not provide any information to the authorities without your attorney present. Your attorney will meet with you in private to discuss your case, represent you through interrogations, and work directly with the prosecutor to lower or drop the charges if possible.

 

Call the JacksonWhite Criminal Law team at (480) 467-4370 to discuss your case today.

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