Different Types Of Crimes And The Way The Law Treats Them
Crimes are not treated equally in Arizona unless they are identical. They fall into different classes. Some crimes will never be a misdemeanor while others will never be a felony. In general, the law evaluates the factual situation and its surrounding circumstances in order to make a determination of how to classify a criminal action.
The Four Categories Of Crimes
There are hundreds of individual crimes, but each of them fall under a single category. Those categories contain the crimes and variables of those crimes. Circumstantial factors (and sometimes the criminal history of the individual being charged) exponentially expand their meanings and interpretations. While many factors are at play, it’s safe to assume that most crimes will be charged as the worst possible.
Inchoate crimes are crimes in which a person never actually followed through and completed a crime. The word inchoate means “incomplete”. Sometimes, merely discussing or making a concerted effort to complete a crime is a crime in and of itself.
Inchoate crimes include conspiracy (to commit almost anything), solicitation (trying to hire someone else to commit a crime for or with you or asking for something to be done), and attempt (like with violent crimes or robberies that don’t complete). An attempted murder where the victim survives the attack would be an inchoate crime, as would legitimately conspiring with others to kill that person, even if the person was never harmed.
All state crimes in Arizona are statutory crimes. Statutory crimes are violations of statutes. There are federal statutes, but statutory crimes can sometimes be state specific violations. Almost all alcohol-related crimes (including DUI) are statutory crimes. Many crimes involving circumventing an age restriction of some sort (selling something or providing something to someone below the legal age to purchase restricted items like alcohol or tobacco) are statutory crimes.
Property crimes are crimes that affect people, but their target object is something generally inanimate which belongs to someone else. Not all property crimes involve violence or the intent to do harm to others. Many of them are financial in nature, as they revolve around theft of or damage to something belonging to the victim.
Theft, forgery, embezzlement, stolen goods crimes, arson (where no living thing was hurt), robbery, burglary, and false pretenses are considered property crimes.
Personal crimes are crimes that are committed directly on or against people. These crimes involve physical harm, mental harm, or both. Restricting someone’s personal freedom or agency by way of kidnapping or false imprisonment is considered a personal crime, for example.
Assault is a personal crime. Homicide is a personal crime, and homicide encompasses many crimes. The definition includes murder and involuntary manslaughter/negligent homicide. In essence, it’s any crime in which one person is responsible for the death of another person outside of genuine accidents or self defense.
All sex crimes are personal crimes. Rape, sexual assault, and statutory rape fall under the category of personal crimes.
How These Crimes Are Treated
Criminal offenses in Arizona carry one of two levels of severity. They’re either misdemeanors or felonies. Felony crimes are the most serious. Some crimes, such as murder, will always be felonies. Minor crimes, particularly those where no one was hurt and the offender has never been arrested before, will usually be treated as misdemeanors.
Some of the most common misdemeanors are low-level assaults, disorderly conduct, DUI, indecent exposure (usually from urinating in public), small thefts or shoplifting, trespassing, violating traffic laws, or some kind of criminal mischief. Graffitti and vandalism/criminal damage are generally misdemeanors. Possessing a small amount of marijuana for personal use is also usually charged as a misdemeanor.
Some misdemeanors don’t require the person found guilty to serve jail time, especially for first offenses. They usually involve fines, probation, or mandatory classes. Some people can take part in a diversion program that prevents the misdemeanor from having a significant impact on their criminal history, as they’re never officially convicted of the crime if they complete what the court requests.
Felonies are any crimes where a large amount of damage was done or is possible, either to a person or property. High-level thefts are felonies. Any crime that causes substantial injury to a person up to and including murder will be treated as a felony. Felony DUI does not necessarily require damage to anyone or anything – this crime is charged as a felony based on the risk it imposes on society. Sometimes, repeat misdemeanor offenders can and will be charged with a felony.
Felonies come with a minimum of four months in prison. A felony conviction can also mean large fines and the revocation of civil rights. There is a lot less wiggle room with felony charges, and very few options are made available to lessen their severity. In many cases, felons are subject to mandatory minimum sentencing. Felons must serve their sentence, complete all that the court orders, and wait to have their rights reinstated before they’re allowed to fully rejoin society.
When Do I Need Legal Representation?
You need legal representation when you’ve been charged with any crime. It does not matter the type of crime or whether it’s being treated as a misdemeanor or felony. All crimes have the potential to leave a lasting mark on a person’s background. For some crimes, a lawyer may be able to help get charges reduced or create an alternative sentencing arrangement. Things are easier for first-time offenders facing misdemeanor charges, as long as they have competent and aggressive defense attorneys.
If you’re being charged with any crime, decline to speak. Say as little as you possibly can and request an attorney right away. You have the right to remain silent and await legal representation before you answer any questions pertaining to the situation. You are not obligated to incriminate yourself.
At The Law Office of Doug Taylor, we defend people in Tucson against all types of crimes at all levels of severity. Contact us now for your free consultation. As soon as we’ve spoken with you, we can begin preparing the best possible defense for your circumstances and situation. Before you speak, call us.