In Arizona, felonies are the most severe type of crime and carry stiff penalties. Felonies are broken down into six classes, with class 1 being the highest. Just two crimes fall under the category of class 1 felonies: first-degree murder and second-degree murder.
Regardless of specifics surrounding the crime, being charged with a felony is a serious matter. If convicted, you will likely face fines, prison time, and other penalties that could significantly alter your life and future.
If you or a loved one is facing a class 1 felony charge, it’s critical to have experienced legal representation on your side. Learn more about class 1 felonies in Arizona and how the professional law attorneys at JacksonWhite Law can help you with your case.
What Is a Class 1 Felony in Arizona?
A class 1 felony in Arizona is reserved for the most serious of crimes. First-degree murder and second-degree murder are the only crimes that fall under a class 1 felony.
To get convicted of first-degree murder in Arizona, the court must indicate that a defendant has met all of the elements of the crime. These include:
- The defendant’s actions were premeditated;
- The defendant’s actions were intentional, or he or she knew or should have known that his or her actions would result in another’s death; and
- The defendant’s actions caused the death of another person.
First-degree murder may also be charged if the defendant caused death while engaging in another crime, such as sexual assault, sexual conduct with a minor, terrorism, certain narcotics offenses, drive-by shooting, kidnapping, arson, burglary, child abuse, or certain other crimes.
To get convicted of second-degree murder in Arizona, it must be found that the defendant intentionally killed another person, but without premeditation. The elements of this charge include:
- The defendant knew or should have known that his or her actions would result in serious injury or death;
- The defendant’s actions intentionally caused the death; and
- The defendant’s actions were reckless.
It is important not to get first-degree murder and second-degree murder confused with manslaughter, which is a class 2 felony in Arizona.
Penalties for a Class 1 Felony
In Arizona, the penalties for a class 1 felony are among the most severe. A first-degree murder conviction is punishable by life imprisonment, natural life imprisonment, or the death penalty. The difference between a life sentence and a natural life sentence is that there is a possibility for parole with the former. With a natural life sentence, there is no possibility of early release. The only exception for release is a pardon by the governor.
Sentencing for a second-degree murder charge in Arizona can range depending on several factors, such as the details of the crime and the defendant’s prior felony record. First-time offenders could face a minimum of 10 years, a presumptive 16 years, or a maximum of 25 years. If a defendant has a prior second-degree murder conviction or a class 2 or 3 dangerous felony conviction, they could face a minimum of 15 years, a presumptive 20 years, or a maximum of 29 years.
Can a Class 1 Felony Be Reduced to a Misdemeanor?
There are some instances in which a felony could be reduced to a misdemeanor, such as if the defendant accepts a plea bargain to a lesser offense, completes felony probation or pretrial diversion program, or shows that factual circumstances supporting the felony charges are not present.
With the help of an experienced Arizona criminal defense attorney, it may be possible to negotiate a reduction to a misdemeanor if you have a low-level felony. However, it is much more difficult to have a class 1 felony reduced to a misdemeanor due to the nature of these crimes.
The prosecution must prove that you are guilty to receive a felony conviction. However, a skilled attorney could possibly help you develop a defense that shows you were not present at the scene of the crime using an alibi or irrefutable evidence that proves that any actions that resulted in your charges were unintentional.
Statute of Limitations for Class 1 Felonies in Arizona
Nearly all crimes in Arizona have a “statute of limitations.” A statute of limitations is a law that specifies the maximum amount of time that any party involved in a dispute has to begin legal proceedings following an event. The statute of limitations for a crime generally begins from the date of the incident. The prosecutor must bring criminal charges within this period of time or lose their chance of a conviction.
Statutes of limitations exist for both criminal and civil causes of action. The period of time that legal proceedings must be initiated after an incident can vary, depending on the nature of the crime, the severity of the crime, and the state in which the crime was committed. The normal statute of limitations in Arizona for most crimes is a period of seven years.
However, class 1 felonies are unique in that they have no statute of limitations. This means that a prosecutor can bring charges for a class 1 felony at any point after the crime was allegedly committed.
How JacksonWhite Can Help
Felonies are the most serious type of criminal offense in Arizona and can carry harsh penalties if convicted. If you are facing any type of felony conviction, it is critical that you speak with an experienced and reliable criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
The dedicated team of law professionals at JacksonWhite has decades of experience helping clients navigate the complex legal system and build credible defenses designed to reduce or drop charges.
Call the JacksonWhite Criminal Law team at (480) 467-4370 to discuss your case today.