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Felony, Infractions, and Misdemeanors in Arizona

The Arizona Justice Commission broadly groups criminal offenses into three namely; felonies, misdemeanors, and infractions. Each classification is characterized by the severity of crime committed. In Arizona, first class murder is considered a felony while shop lifting may be considered a misdemeanor. Felonies tops the rank of all the criminal acts, which means that it is the most severe of all the three and as such, it attracts the most grievous penalties. Closely followed by a felony is a misdemeanor and then last on the list is an infraction which is a minor violation and may not be charged as a criminal offense. All these crimes are punishable by probation, fines, imprisonment, and so on as defined by the Arizona State Legislature, title 13 - Criminal Code. Summarily, Arizona crimes are tried in court on the basis of their classification.

What is a Felony in Arizona?

A felony in Arizona is the most severe of all criminal offenses and is punishable by a long term imprisonment, which could last for a minimum of two years and a maximum of life imprisonment depending on the type of felony committed. Worse still, a felony could result in a death penalty. However, according to the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation, and Reentry, a death penalty could only be imposed on offenders who are above the age of 18 when their crimes were committed. An offender that is convicted of a felony is referred to as a felon or convicted felon.

Felonies in Arizona vary in severity, this means that on a scale of severity, some felonies are considered more serious than others. The penalty for felony is determined by the type of felony committed. The Arizona State Legislature classifies felonies into six groups (Class 1–6) for the purpose of sentence. These classes are arranged in order of severity, they include;

  • Class 1 felony: 16 years to life imprisonment, and possibly a death penalty in cases of first degree murder.
  • Class 2 felony: 5 to 12.5 years imprisonment.
  • Class 3 felony: 3.5 years to 8 years and 9 months imprisonment
  • Class 4 felony: 2.5 years to 3 years and 9 months imprisonment
  • Class 5 felony: 3 years to 2.5 years imprisonment
  • Class 6 felony: 1 year to 2 years imprisonment

These penalties listed above may also include; such as therapy, fine, probation, or electronic monitoring if the judge imposes it. The judgment of the court may also be influenced by some factors such as;

  • The circumstances that surround the crime: A judge may sentence a defendant to the aggravated term, which is longer than the normal term, or a mitigated term which is shorter. This is dependent on if an accomplice was present, the age of the victim was over the age of 65, the age of the defendant when the crime was committed, and if the defendant’s participation in the crime was minor.
  • The existence of any mental condition, as proven by a certified medical practitioner: This implies that a defendant may be given a lesser sentence if their medical report verifies that they have a mental condition, although, this verdict may be accomplished with therapy and probation or electronic monitoring.

What are some examples of felonies in Arizona?

Felonies in Arizona are classified in six (Classes 1–6). This classification is done in order of severity. Examples of felonies in Arizona include:

  • Class 1 felony: First degree and second degree murder.
  • Class 2 felony: Possession of dangerous drugs for sale, child pornography, first-degree burglary with a firearm, and sexual assault of a child.
  • Class 3 felony: Aggravated assault, robbery, telecommunications fraud, production and distribution of marijuana.
  • Class 4 felony: Possession of heroin, forgery, assault misconduct with a deadly weapon, petty thefts and theft of property between $3,000 to $4,000 of worth.
  • Class 5 felony: Public sexual indecency in the presence of a minor, pimping, prostitution, and pandering.
  • Class 6 felony: Aggravated DUI, resisting arrest, possession of marijuana, and shoplifting.

Can I get a Felony Removed from a Court Record in Arizona?

There are no laws that indicate that a felony can be totally removed from court records in Arizona. However, in very rare cases, a convict that is proven to be of good standing can have his/her crime records removed. This process is called the “setting aside of a conviction”. According to the Arizona statute, A. R. S. § 13–907, when conviction is set aside, the law does not require it to be removed from the criminal record. Rather, the record will only show that the conviction was set aside, the verdict was waived, and that the court has dismissed the charges against such person.

Furthermore, a felony conviction that is set aside releases the defendant from all restrictions and disabilities may have stemmed from the conviction and some of the civil rights of the person may be restored. The defendant is nonetheless not completely free, as he/she may still be mandated by the court to reveal some details of prior conviction to a potential employer or any other authorised person. Not all felonies can be set aside, only eligible defendants that meet up with the court’s requirements may have their felonies set aside. The court may consider how long ago the crime was committed, the type of felony committed, the character of the defendant and his/her contributions to the community since conviction was completed.

Felonies that may not be set aside include; a crime in which the victim is under 15 years of age, certain driving offenses, sex related crimes, and so on. If a crime is convicted by the federal court, a state court does not have the right to set aside the record.

Is expungement the same as sealing court records in Arizona?

Unlike other states, Arizona laws do not have provision for the expungement or sealing of records, therefore, there is nothing like expungement or sealing of records in Arizona. The only form of removal that is permitted in a few cases, is the setting aside of a conviction. This implies that the court releases and dismisses the charges laid against the defendant. Despite the setting aside of a conviction, the former convict may still be required to reveal his/her criminal records to a potential employer.

For example, a potential employer may request to see the criminal records of an employee during the process of recruitment, if the crime has been set aside, the employer will still see it, only that it will be indicated that the crime has been set aside by the court.

How Long Does a Felony Stay on Your Record in Arizona?

In Arizona a felony may remain on a defendant’s record until he/she turns 99. This is because the law does not permit a request for records to be set aside by the court. Even if the record is set aside by the court in very rare cases, the crime will still be visible to anyone that runs a full background check on the defendant. However, the records will appear with a side note that the conviction has been set aside.

What are Misdemeanors in Arizona?

Misdemeanors in Arizona are crimes that are punishable by up to six months in local jail or county and a maximum base $2,500 fine. They are less serious than felonies. The jail term of a misdemeanor is far lesser than a felony and for some cases a prison term does not apply. There are also some criminal acts that are similar in nature to felonies such as assault and theft. Misdemeanors in that category are identified based on the extent of damage or loss suffered by the victim. Misdemeanors are enforced by the local and state police and are processed in the district court.

The severity of the punishment that will be dispensed for a misdemeanor offense is determined by the type of misdemeanor that is committed. Arizona classifies misdemeanors into three major groups. In order of severity, they include;

  • Class 1 Misdemeanors: Up to 6 months in jail, 3 years of probation (5 years maximum probation for DUI offenses), and up to a $2,500 fine.
  • Class 2 Misdemeanors: Up to 4 months in jail, a $750 fine, and 2 years of probation.
  • Class 3 Misdemeanors: Up to 30 days in jail, 1 year of probation and a $500 fine.
  • Petty Offense: Up to a $300 fine with no jail.

The court procedure for convicting a misdemeanor typically takes about through 3 to 6 months to conclude. However, every case is unique and as such it may take a longer or shorter period depending on the crime in question. Most cases follow this procedure;

  • Arraignment: This is the first appearance in court before the judge together with an attorney where he/she enters a Not Guilty plea with the court in order to later earn discovery from the prosecutor and commence negotiations. It may also involve the judge deciding on a defendant’s release conditions.
  • Pre-Trial Conference: This is one of the main opportunities for the attorney to negotiate with the prosecutor on a case, however, most of the negotiations may transpire behind the scenes. The judge also monitors the case to ensure that it is in progress.
  • Trial Readiness Conference: This is to determine whether a case is ready to go on trial or if there is any feasible resolution to the case before trial. A trial date is set by the judge during this step.
  • Evidentiary Hearings: Here, the attorney attempts to uncover evidentiary issues that may lead to suppression of evidence and possibly a dismissal of the case.
  • Trial: If all evidentiary hearings and negotiations do not result in a resolution to the case, a trial will take place. Trial may either take place in front of a judge or a jury of your counterparts.

What are Examples of Misdemeanors in Arizona?

Misdemeanors in Arizona are classified into three major groups which include; Class 1 misdemeanors, Class 2 misdemeanors, Class 3 misdemeanors, and Petty offenses.

Examples of Class 1 Misdemeanors include;

  • Domestic violence
  • Drinking Under Influence (DUI)
  • Possession of marijuana
  • Shoplifting
  • Theft of property under $1,000,
  • Assault that causes injury

Examples of Class 2 Misdemeanors include;

  • Criminal damage of property less than $250
  • Reckless driving
  • Non-physical assault
  • Criminal trespass in the second degree
  • Assault, including the threat of injury

Examples of Class 2 Misdemeanors include;

  • Criminal trespass in the third degree
  • Simple assault
  • Loitering
  • Criminal nuisance
  • Adultery
  • Failure to appear

Examples of Petty offenses include;

  • Unlawful feeding of wildlife
  • Furnishing, scalping, or possession of tobacco to or by a minor.

Can I Get a Misdemeanor Removed from a Record in Arizona?

Yes, but in very unique cases. While there are no laws that make provision for the total removal of a misdemeanor, the state of Arizona may dismiss a crime from the record of an eligible convict that the state considers to be deserving of a setting aside of a conviction”. The statute, A. R. S. § 13–907, indicates that the fact that a crime is set aside, does not mean that it is removed from the defendant’s criminal record. Instead, the record will still disclose the crime committed except that there will be a note, showing that the crime was set aside and the court has dismissed the charges raised against the defendant.

The setting aside of a misdemeanor offense enables the defendant’s civil rights to be restored. The procedure entails that the court puts into consideration, the type of crime committed, how long ago the crime was committed, the attitude of the defendant since the conviction, and his/her contributions to the community since conviction was completed.

Can a DUI Record Be Expunged in Arizona?

In Arizona, a DUI offense may be expunged from criminal records if the offender is eligible to have his/her conviction set aside. Juveniles under the age of 18, and any person that is confirmed to be of good standing ever since their DUI conviction is eligible to have their DUI conviction set aside. The process of having a DUI conviction expunged or sealed in Arizona is called ‘setting aside a conviction’. The difference between the expungement or sealing in Arizona and the expungement in other states is that the DUI record will still be visible by authorised persons when a deep search is done.

What is an Infraction in Arizona?

Infractions are primarily very minor offenses that stem from violation of some basic laws. Infractions are mostly paired together with misdemeanors in Arizona, there is only a thin line between the two offenses. They both pass through the similar arrest and court procedures. However, there are some misdemeanors that do not even come close to being an infraction because of the severity of the crime involved. For instance, class 1 misdemeanors are very far from being called infractions as they carry more weight than other misdemeanors. A petty offense on the other hand, may be classified as an infraction.

Just like other states, law enforcement officers tasked with the responsibility of identifying when violation has occurred and arresting the offender, who will in turn be convicted in court. A law enforcement officer should be able to distinguish between an infraction and a misdemeanor and react to both cases accordingly. Infractions do not attract jail terms except in unique cases. The penalty for infractions in Arizona is the payment of a specified fine that is determined by the court depending on the type violation committed.

What constitutes an Infraction in Arizona

Infractions are mostly referred to as petty offenses or law violations that are trivial compared to misdemeanors or felonies. For this reason, a person that commits an infraction does not receive severe penalties like incarceration or probation. Infractions only attract penalties like fines or community service. After an offender has been arrested by a law enforcement officer, he/she will be charged to court where hearings will take place at either the municipal court or a state district court depending on the location where the accused violation transpired. Infractions are mostly written as such, it is possible to be found responsible even for unintentional violations. They do not require long court processes during conviction. Common examples of infractions in Arizona are noise violations, speeding tickets, and failure to keep pet on a leash.

What are some examples of Infractions in Arizona?

Infractions are very similar to misdemeanors in Arizona. Common examples include:

  • Speeding beyond limits
  • Failure to wear a safety belt
  • Failure to keep pet on a leash
  • Violating a traffic control device
  • Failure to yield the right of way
  • Noise violations
  • Making an illegal U-turn
  • Violation of state land-use rules
  • Littering

Can Infractions be Expunged from an Arizona Criminal Court Record?

The Arizona state law does not permit the expunction of infractions except in some cases. Some infractions are actually not considered criminal offenses, they are mere violations of the law that can be dismissed and as such, they do not appear in the criminal records. Nonetheless, if it is a traffic offense, it may be recorded on the person’s driving record. Offenses like noise pollution, littering, and other petty violations may be dismissed. Otherwise, they remain in the criminal records till the offender reaches the age of 99. Dismissal of the case may be considered if the convict has paid all fines and has completed assigned community service.

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