A class 1 felony crime is the most serious type of crime in Arizona. Only two crimes in are class 1 felonies: first-degree murder and second-degree murder. First-degree murder is punishable by death or life imprisonment. Second-degree murder is punishable by 10 years to 29 years.

What is a Class 1 Felony in Arizona?

A class 1 felony is a particular class of crime in Arizona.

Arizona’s legal system divides crimes into two broad categories: felonies and misdemeanors.

Misdemeanors are less serious crimes and are punishable by 6 months’ jail at most. People convicted of felonies face prison time. How much prison time depends on the class of felony and the number of prior felony convictions. Convicted felons also lose their right to vote and right to bear arms.

Felony crimes are divided into six specific classes:

Each category has its own range of potential punishments, with class 6 felonies being the least severe and class 1 felonies the harshest. A class 1 felony is the most harshly punished type of crime.

Types of Class 1 Felonies

Class 1 felonies are unique in Arizona criminal law. While most felony categories have multiple crimes that fall within its purview, there are only two class 1 felonies:

  • First-degree murder; and
  • Second-degree murder.

Punishments for Class 2 Felonies

Unlike other felonies, the punishment for class 1 felonies does not fall within the sentencing ranges on Arizona’s felony sentencing chart. The punishments for first- and second- degree murder are unique and are not shared with other types of crimes.

Punishment for First-Degree Murder

First-degree murder is punishable by any of the following:

  • Life imprisonment;
  • Natural life imprisonment; or
  • The death penalty.

If a person is sentenced to “life imprisonment” they may actually not serve their entire life sentence. A life sentence carries with it the possibility for release after 25 years imprisonment (if the victim was 15 years or older); or 35 years (if the victim was under 15).

In contrast, a “natural life” sentence does not carry the possibility of any form of early release. The defendant will in fact be imprisonment for his life. The only possibility of release comes from a pardon by the governor.

Punishment for Second-Degree Murder

The sentencing range for second-degree murder depends on the defendant’s prior felony record.

If the defendant is a first-time offender, he faces the following range:

10 years16 years25 years

A defendant with a prior second-degree murder conviction or a conviction for a class 2 or class 3 dangerous felony faces the following sentencing range:

15 years20 years29 years

Statute of Limitations for Class 1 Felonies

Almost all crimes have a “statute of limitations.” This means that the prosecutor must bring criminal charges within a certain period of time, otherwise prosecutor for the crime cannot occur.

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 crime any time after the crime occurred. This is vastly different from all other felonies, where the normal statute of limitations is 7 years.