The criminal justice system in Arizona categorizes crimes into various classes, with different penalties according to severity. If the police arrest you for wrongdoing, the prosecutor can charge you with a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the details of your case. Misdemeanors are further categorized into three classes according to severity. Class 3 misdemeanors are the least severe crimes under the law. They are punishable by a month in jail and $500 in court fines. The judge can sentence you to one-year probation instead of jail. It means that you will serve your sentence out of incarceration.
But a Class 3 misdemeanor still subjects you to a criminal history that will impact your life in many ways. It is crucial to understand what your charges entail, what to expect after a conviction, and how to fight your charges if you face a Class 3 misdemeanor charge in Phoenix today. Our skilled attorneys at Phoenix Criminal Attorney provide legal services to you or your loved one for these purposes. Let us streamline your complex legal process, explain your options, and help with your defense.
How Arizona Law Categorizes Crimes
When the police arrest you for wrongdoing in Arizona, the prosecutor files criminal charges against you in court, depending on the nature and seriousness of your crime. Some crimes are petty offenses, others are misdemeanors (more serious than petty offenses), and others are felonies (more serious crimes than petty offenses and misdemeanors).
Felonies are the most severe crimes. The law has six classes of felonies. Their penalties are more severe and could include a minimum year in prison and heftier court fines. Felony convictions also have devastating consequences for the convicted, including a damaging criminal record. Misdemeanors are also pretty serious, though not as severe as felonies. Their penalties include a maximum of six months in jail or probation for three years. They are also punishable by court fines and could have collateral consequences for the convicted. Petty offenses do not carry any incarceration but could be punished by a court fine.
Similarly, all misdemeanors are not the same. The law categorizes misdemeanors into various classes, from the most serious to the least serious. These classes include:
Class 1 contains the most serious misdemeanors. A conviction for a Class 1 misdemeanor is punishable by a six-month jail term and a maximum court fine of $2,500. Other consequences apply, depending on your offense's seriousness and criminal history. For example, you could be sentenced to probation and ordered to participate in community service or pay restitution to the victim of your crime.
Examples of Class 1 misdemeanor offenses are DUI, driving on a suspended or revoked driver’s license, shoplifting, theft of property worth not more than $100, criminal trespassing, and disorderly conduct.
Class 2 misdemeanors are punishable by a maximum of four months in jail and $750 in court fines. The judge can sentence you to probation, whereby you will face other consequences, including paying restitution and participating in community service. Examples of Class 2 misdemeanor offenses include reckless driving, public nuisance, assault, fleeing the scene after an accident, and contempt of court order.
Class 3 misdemeanors are less severe than Class 1 and Class 2, but more serious than petty offenses. It means they do not carry harsh sentences, but a conviction will still appear on your criminal record and could impact various aspects of your life.
Examples of Class 3 Misdemeanors
Several offenses are listed under Class 3 misdemeanors. The common ones include the following:
Loitering, Under ARS 13-2905
You commit a loitering offense when you intentionally remain in a public place in an offensive way and do not respond to a request to move to a different location. A person who remains in a public space and publicly solicits another person to engage in a sexual act in a likely-to-disturb manner is also guilty of loitering. The public place could be a transportation facility, business premises, or public park. Suppose you remain in someone’s business even after being reasonably asked to move, and you engage in or solicit business, commercial transactions, or trade. In that case, you can be arrested for loitering.
Criminal Nuisance, Under ARS 13- 2908
You commit criminal nuisance when you knowingly engage in an unlawful or lawful act but unreasonably and recklessly create or maintain a dangerous condition that puts the health and safety of others at risk. It is also a criminal nuisance to knowingly maintain or conduct a place or premise where others meet to engage in unlawful conduct.
Third-Degree Degree Criminal Trespassing, Under ARS 13-502
You are guilty of criminal trespass in the third degree if you do the following:
- You knowingly and unlawfully enter and remain on a real-estate property and do not yield to a request to move by the property owner, law enforcement, or any other person with legal control over the property
- You knowingly and unlawfully enter and remain in a real estate property with a clear and reasonable notice prohibiting entry unless by authorized personnel
- You knowingly enter and illegally stay on the track’s right of way, switching or storage yards, or a railroad company’s rolling stock
Excessive Speed, Under ARS
You are guilty of excessive speed if you do the following:
- When you drive at more than 35 miles per hour when approaching a school crossing
- When you exceed a posted speed limit in a residential or business district by more than twenty miles per hour
- When you exceed forty-five miles per hour in areas with no posted speed limit
- When you exceed a posted speed limit by more than twenty miles per hour in all other locations
Other offenses classified under Class 3 misdemeanors include:
- An assaultive touch or willfully touching another person intending to insult, provoke, or injure them
- Some domestic violence crimes
- Fleeing the scene after engaging in an accident with a parked vehicle
- False information, mainly providing a false report to the police
- An attempt to commit any Class 2 misdemeanor
Even though Class 3 misdemeanors do not seem serious and are not severely punished, they still carry severe consequences after a conviction. You should engage a skilled criminal attorney immediately after your arrest for advice and guidance and to plan a solid defense against your charges. An attorney will also protect your rights and ensure a fair outcome for your case.
Possible Penalties for Class 3 Misdemeanors
An arrest for a Class 3 misdemeanor will likely result in a trial. You will only not undergo a trial if you face charges for a petty offense (in which case you will only pay a court fine) or if the prosecutor dismisses your charges or agrees to a plea bargain. If you go through a jury trial, the prosecutor must prove all the elements of your crime for the court to give a guilty verdict. A guilty verdict means that the jury has found you culpable, so the court will sentence you to the penalties provided under the law for your offense.
A conviction for a Class 3 misdemeanor will likely result in the following penalties:
- Jail time
- Court fines
- Other penalties according to the nature of the crime and your criminal history
- Collateral impact of a criminal conviction
As a first-time offender, you will be penalized according to Class 3 misdemeanor laws. But if you are a repeat offender with the same or similar conviction within two years, the judge will sentence you according to Class 2 misdemeanor laws. A conviction, according to Class 3 misdemeanor laws, will include the following:
- A month in jail, or one-year probation and a court fine of $ 500 for first-time offenders
- Four months in jail, or two years on probation and a maximum of $ 750 if you have a prior conviction for a similar or the same crime within two years
If the judge gives you a jail sentence, you will serve your time in a county jail, not a state prison. But in most cases, judges give probation instead of jail sentences. If that happens to you, you will serve your entire sentence out of incarceration.
Note that if the law says your maximum court fine is $500, the amount can increase significantly due to other charges like surcharges and court assessments. Court assessments are usually fees to fund some aspects of the justice system. All defendants are charged a particular amount. The fees include the following charges:
- Probation assessment of an additional $20
- Additional assessment of up to $13
- Penalty assessment for victims’ rights of up to $9
- Enforcement assessments for victims’ rights for up to $2
It means you can pay up to $44 on top of the court fine if the court finds you guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor.
On the other hand, surcharges are extra payments you make depending on the court fine for the underlying offense. They include additional payments like:
- Enhancement fund for Criminal Justice, which is usually 42% of the court fine
- Enhancement fund for Medical Services, which is generally 13% of the court fine
- 10% of the court fine for the Clean Elections fund
- 7% for the fill-the-gap fund
- 6% for the Forensics Fund
The surcharges increase your court fine by up to 78%. If the judge penalizes you $500 in court fines, you will pay an extra $390 in surcharges. Initially, you would pay a court fine increment of up to 83%, but the percentage was reduced in 2019.
These additional payments (surcharges and court assessments) apply to every criminal conviction. Serious offenses related to controlled substances have an extra fine to the maximum court fine, which increases significantly once you add the surcharges and assessment fees.
On top of incarceration and high court fines, the judge can impose additional penalties depending on the details of your case. For example, they can order the following:
- For you to attend mandatory rehabilitation or education classes
- To participate in community service
- Work release, whereby you continue your employment while still in detention
- To undergo home detention
- An order to pay restitution to your victim
- To undergo therapy
- To undergo alcohol and/or drug treatment and counseling
- To surrender your driver’s license for suspension, especially in cases involving motor vehicles
Collateral Consequences for Class 3 Misdemeanor Convictions
A criminal conviction always results in collateral consequences that affect various aspects of your life. For example, a conviction will leave you with a criminal record. All criminal records are serious because they affect how people view and treat you. Private enterprises and some government agencies will treat you differently when you have a criminal past. They conduct background checks on individuals of interest and will determine how to treat you depending on their findings. Here are some examples of collateral consequences you could face after a Class 3 misdemeanor conviction:
- Infringement on your right to possess or own a firearm
- Losing child custody rights in a divorce proceeding
- Work-related consequences, including losing a job or challenges in finding suitable employment because you have a criminal record
- Difficulties in obtaining a mortgage or any other form of credit
- Increased auto insurance premiums, especially if the crime involves a driving violation like speeding
- Serious immigration consequences, like deportation if you are an immigrant
- Professional certification and licensing consequences
The collateral impact of a criminal conviction can last for years, affecting your general health. They are difficult to navigate since you cannot predict what will happen after your sentence. An experienced criminal attorney can explain some of these consequences to prepare you for what will likely occur if the judge sentences you to a Class 3 misdemeanor. They will also help you develop a solid defense against your charges to avoid a conviction and all its consequences.
Is There a Criminal Statute of Limitations for Class 3 Misdemeanors?
The statute of limitations for criminal offenses is the time frame the law provides for district attorneys to bring charges against a suspected offender. In Arizona, the time frame for Class 3 misdemeanors is one year. But it all depends on the nature of the offense. For example, the prosecutor has up to four years to file charges if the crime involves an auto accident in which a person or people lost their lives or suffered severe injuries.
Prosecutors are usually very keen on these timeframes and other court deadlines. That is why they quickly gather information and evidence to build up a case and file it in court within the deadline. If the deadline passes before the prosecutor files your case in court, your skilled attorney can use that to compel the judge to dismiss your charges. If they succeed in raising the missed deadline as a strong defense, the court will not hear and determine your case.
Strategies to Use in Fighting a Class 3 Misdemeanor Charge
The good thing about a jury trial is that it must be fair. Before delivering the final verdict, the judge must allow you to defend yourself against your charges. The prosecutor’s evidence and statements do not determine your case's outcome. The judge must also consider your evidence and argument to give the final ruling.
What you must do after an arrest is find yourself an experienced criminal attorney. An attorney who has handled the same or similar charges before is preferable. Experienced attorneys know the right defense strategies to employ to obtain a favorable outcome in specific cases. They are also familiar with court processes and can use those to your advantage.
Your attorney can fight some of the evidence presented by the prosecution team to weaken the prosecutor’s case and compel the judge to dismiss your charges. They can achieve that by refuting some of the evidence the prosecutor uses to demonstrate the elements of the crime. Your attorney can also bring fresh evidence to change the jury’s outlook on the case and influence its decision. For example, your attorney can cite police misconduct during arrest to gain the jury’s sympathy and cause it to rule in your favor.
Also, your attorney can use fresh evidence or fight the prosecutor’s evidence to compel the judge to reduce your charges. If the judge reduces your Class 3 misdemeanor to a petty offense, you will not face a jail sentence but only pay a court fine.
Find a Competent Criminal Attorney Near Me
Though they are less severe offenses than felonies and Class 1 and Class 2 misdemeanors, Class 3 are still serious crimes with severe consequences for those convicted. They could result in a jail sentence, a hefty court fine, and other life-changing or collateral consequences that impact your life for years. Thus, you must put up a solid defense against your charges if you face a Class 3 misdemeanor charge in Phoenix.
Our team of experienced criminal attorneys at Phoenix Criminal Attorney has the skills and experience you need to obtain a favorable outcome for your case. We use the best legal defense strategies to compel the judge to dismiss or reduce our client’s cases. We will also protect your rights, streamline the legal process, and walk the challenging legal journey with you. Call us at 602-551-8092 to learn about your options and our services.