People often underestimate the power of misdemeanor convictions and let small arrests slide without taking the time to fight the offense in court. It is important to keep in mind that misdemeanor offenses in Arizona carry stiff penalties much like felonies do, and several misdemeanors can, in turn, lead to a felony conviction. If you have recently been arrested for a misdemeanor offense and are arrested for the same offense only 2 weeks later, you may be facing felony charges depending on the crime. It is therefore important to contact an experienced Phoenix misdemeanor lawyer rather than attempt to represent yourself in order to ensure you do not receive a criminal conviction for charges that could easily be taken off your record.
Misdemeanor Crimes in Arizona
Misdemeanor crimes include a wide range of offenses throughout the state of Arizona. Arizona classifies misdemeanors into “classes.” A Class 1 misdemeanor is the most severe, while Class 3 is the least severe. Misdemeanor charges are typically brought in justice courts or municipal courts which are slightly different from courts where felony charges are brought. Additionally, most misdemeanor cases are brought to a judge alone rather than heard in front of a jury.
Misdemeanor offenses in Arizona include the following:
- Assault (certain types): “Assault” describes the physical threat of harm or death against another individual. Despite the word’s implication, assault does not apply to an aggressor actually making physical contact. If a person makes a threat it would constitute assault, while following through with the threat and actually making physical contact would constitute assault and battery.
- Indecent exposure: This violation describes a person willingly exposing his or her genitals in public. Depending on the location of the offense and who was present to witness the exposure, the offender may face escalated charges. Public urination, public exposure, sexual conduct in a public place, or exposing oneself through an open window or doorway inside of a home may all lead to indecent exposure charges. This type of charge may also require an offender to register as a sex offender, which can entail a host of difficulties in terms of finding a job, finding housing, or applying for loans or financial assistance.
- Theft: Theft is the unlawful taking of another person’s property. Depending on the dollar value of the items stolen and if they hire a theft crimes lawyer to contest the accusations, the perpetrator may face misdemeanor or felony charges. Like other offenses in Arizona, a history of prior theft convictions could escalate a current misdemeanor charge to a felony charge with increased penalties.
- Forgery & Fraud: Forgery describes the faking of another person’s signature on official documents. Fraud describes intentionally deceiving another person or entity for personal gain. Depending on the damages sustained by the victim, these offenses may lead to misdemeanor or felony charges. If a private individual or company suffered economic losses as a result of forgery or fraud, the offender may face civil actions from victims as well as criminal prosecution from the state.
- Disorderly Conduct: This is a general term that applies to disruptive or unseemly behavior in public that others may perceive as threatening. It may also apply to reckless or dangerous conduct that puts both the perpetrator and those around him or her at serious risk. Disorderly conduct can also apply to disturb the peace, noise violations, refusing to obey lawful orders, or refusing to follow directions in the event of an emergency.
- DUI: Driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or other drugs is incredibly dangerous and illegal. Most criminal Phoenix DUI lawyers advise to not engage in discussion or try to justify yourself to the police if you are pulled over for a DUI. Police officers use chemical tests like breathalyzers to analyze a person’s blood-alcohol concentration (BAC). The nationwide legal limit for BAC behind the wheel is .08%. Anything over this amount, even .081%, will result in a DUI charge. DUI charges can result in fines, driver’s license suspension, and possibly jail time depending on the nature of the offense and the offender’s prior convictions.
- Weapons Charges: Due to the nature of most weapons, weapons charges in Arizona will generally lead to felony charges. However, some lesser weapons charges may only constitute misdemeanor charges.
- Drug crimes: An offender in a drug crime case will face increasingly harsh penalties depending on the type of substance he or she possessed and the intention of the substance. While Arizona has legalized medical marijuana, anyone found in possession of marijuana without a valid medical card will face felony charges, as Arizona recognizes marijuana’s federal Schedule I controlled substance classification. Drug offenses with large amounts of illegal drugs, drugs divided into individual portions for sale, or an offender caught with scales, baggies, or other paraphernalia that indicates intent to sell or traffic drugs will lead to felony charges in most cases.
Many people mistakenly assume that a misdemeanor charge is a minor thing, but the reality is that they can lead to severe legal penalties up to, and including, significant jail time. Additionally, a record of a misdemeanor charge can lead to increased penalties for future charges. It’s vital to find reliable legal representation to fight any type of misdemeanor charge, no matter how small, to prevent them from going on your criminal record and potentially coming back to haunt you in a future case.
This list is not inclusive, and misdemeanor crimes occur in a number of circumstances and involve a number of different fact patterns. Misdemeanor offenses can often occur in situations in which you are not aware that a crime was committed. An experienced Phoenix misdemeanor lawyer can assist you in tackling the language of the Arizona statute and formulating a defense strategy that will work for your unique case.
The punishment ranges for misdemeanors include the following:
|Type of Misdeameanor||Punishment||Fines|
|Class 1 Misdemeanor||Up to 6 months in jail||Up to $2,500|
|Class 2 Misdemeanor||Up to 4 months in jail||Up to $750|
|Class 3 Misdemeanor||Up to 30 days in jail||Up to $500|
The difference between a Class 2 and Class 1 misdemeanor involves quite a heightened fine as well as an extended jail stay. In addition to each fine amount, keep in mind that you will also have to pay court costs and attorney’s fees. In the end, it can be quite pricey to bring a misdemeanor charge to court, but it is still drastically less severe than the cost of defending a felony arrest in court.
Orent Law Offices | Phoenix, Arizona Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have been arrested for a misdemeanor offense in Arizona, do not wait until the last minute to contact a Phoenix misdemeanor lawyer. Misdemeanor charges may seem like relatively small offenses, but can lead to debilitating criminal charges which will remain on your record for the rest of your life. Phoenix criminal defense attorney Craig Orent of the Orent Law Offices has over 25 years of experience in handling misdemeanor claims. He understands that most people who commit misdemeanor offenses may be frightened about their future and will work hard to ensure their criminal record is not damaged.