In Arizona, criminal offenses fall into three categories: felonies, misdemeanors, and petty offenses. Felonies carry the most severe punishments, including large fines or imprisonment, while misdemeanors are less serious crimes carrying lighter penalties. Petty offenses are infractions typically met with just a fine.
Arizona further differentiates felonies and misdemeanors into specific classes based on the severity of the crime. For instance, there are six separate classes of felonies with varying levels of penalties — Class 1 is considered the most severe, while Class 6 attracts correspondingly lighter sentences.
However, Arizona law also includes another category known as a “wobbler.” These aren’t specific types of crimes but depend on how they are viewed within the legal system — they can be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor.
When dealing with Class 6 felony cases in Arizona, judges possess flexibility towards sentencing defendants – they can sentence them as though they were facing Class 1 misdemeanor charges. This means lighter punishments compared to typical sentences given out for felonies.
Additionally, prosecutors in Arizona have autonomy when choosing how to file charges. For instance, offenses that generally fall under the Class 6 Felony umbrella can instead be filed as misdemeanors.
To be considered a wobbler, the alleged crime must concern a non-dangerous Class 6 Felony. This means that instances involving the use of dangerous instruments, deadly weapons, or the knowing infliction of serious physical injury will automatically disqualify it from being considered a wobbler.
The defendant’s prior record also plays into the consideration for eligibility. Having more than two prior felony convictions prohibits the current offense from being charged as a misdemeanor.
For class 6 felonies, which represent the least severe felonies but are nonetheless serious crimes, you could face a prison sentence of up to two years if found guilty (and longer if you have previous convictions).
When dealing with class 1 misdemeanors, the most severe within the misdemeanor category, punishment can be as high as six months in county jail alongside probation periods lasting for 3 years from the conviction date. You may also be fined up to $2,500.
Some common offenses that may meet the classification of a wobbler in Arizona include:
If the property stolen holds a value between $1,000 and $2,000, theft can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony.
Acts intended to interfere with an official witness’ testimony or cooperation in criminal cases may be charged as a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the circumstances.
This involves possession of items used in storing or consuming illegal drugs. In some cases, this will be a misdemeanor; in others, it can be charged as a felony.
Personal possession of less than 2 pounds of marijuana can be a wobbler offense.
Depending on specifics, DUIs can be charged as misdemeanors or felonies.
The difference in penalties between a misdemeanor and a felony can be significant, so working with an attorney who understands how wobblers work is critical.
In some cases, your lawyer may be able to negotiate a plea deal where you end up with a misdemeanor conviction even though you were charged with a felony. One common deal involves having you plead guilty to an undesignated felony.
The judge will sentence you, but rather than being immediately punished with imprisonment or whatever the sentence is, the court suspends your sentence and places you on probation.
During this period, they’ll require you to fulfill specific conditions, including paying fines or restitution payments, doing mandated community service hours, and abstaining from further legal trouble.
If all terms are completed by their respective due dates without any violations encountered along that way, you can formally request that your charge be reclassified to a class 1 misdemeanor.
If you do not successfully complete these conditions, the original sentence will be imposed, and a felony will appear on your record.
When you’re convicted of a felony offense, it can drastically change your life. Compared to the ramifications following a misdemeanor, those that result from felonies are more severe and long-lasting.
To start with, you may face restrictions on firearms possession. The law often prohibits individuals with such serious offenses from owning or carrying guns for protection or recreation.
Immigration status is another area where felons can find themselves seriously disadvantaged. A conviction may lead to deportation if you aren’t a citizen yet or loss of eligibility for permanent residency.
Next, there’s the possibility of being required to register as a sex offender. In this case, neighbors will be notified, and your employment and housing options could be severely limited.
Felony convictions may also put employment at risk and raise barriers to future opportunities. Employers often conduct background checks and have concerns about hiring individuals with serious criminal records, which could influence their hiring decisions.
If you’re involved in a sector that requires licenses or certifications (such as law, healthcare, or real estate), a felony conviction can lead to disciplinary proceedings by your professional board. They might suspend, revoke your license, or stop you from applying for one.
All types of charges should be taken seriously. Still, as you can see, the repercussions of a felony-level offense extend far beyond initial legal consequences like prison time or fines.
Ultimately, every case and charge is unique, with potential options available to lessen the impact on your future. If you’re facing a criminal charge in Arizona, contact Orent Law Offices to schedule a free consultation with a Phoenix criminal defense lawyer.