Understanding Arizona Laws Regarding Class 6 “Undesignated” Felonies

Cuffed man in CourtI’m often asked the question “what is an undesignated felony?” This topic comes up enough during consultations that I felt it warranted a blog post. These types of cases can cause a certain level of confusion for Arizona criminal defendants. While most cases are straightforward, and a defendant knows whether they will be convicted of a felony or misdemeanor, an undesignated offense can result in either type of conviction on one’s record. My goal with this article is to explain how these offenses work and to provide tips for success for those who have been convicted.

Undesignated felonies can result in a felony or misdemeanor conviction on the record of a Phoenix, Arizona resident

A class six felony is the lowest level felony offense in the state of Arizona. Like any felony prison time is possible, and those who have their probation revoked for a class six undesignated felony often do go to prison. It is important to remember that by law these cases are considered felonies until they are “designated” otherwise. That being said, these types of cases serve the purpose of encouraging defendants to do well on probation so that they may “earn” a lower level conviction. That means that while prison is a possibility, it is the exception to the rule. Offenses are made undesignated to give people an opportunity to have a misdemeanor on their record instead of being a convicted felon.

Most charges can be considered class six felonies, or negotiated to crimes considered class six felonies. Examples are charges involving drugs for personal use, felony DUI, and aggravated assault. Defendants will typically not be eligible for a plea agreement to an undesignated felony if they have a prior felony conviction, if the case involved serious harm or injury, or if the matter involved a deadly weapon. I discuss the idea of an undesignated felony further in this video:

It is important that Phoenix residents contact a criminal defense lawyer immediately. The strength of one’s possible defense can influence whether the prosecution will be willing to offer undesignated treatment of the case or if they will be requesting a felony conviction. Issues creating such influence include whether search & seizure issues are present, whether other defensible issues are involved, as well as the presence of any extenuating circumstances. My office assists those facing such charges. In addition to Phoenix, I service Maricopa County areas such as Mesa, Glendale, Scottsdale, Chandler, and Gilbert as well as Pima County residents in Tucson. Call today to speak with an attorney.

Succeeding on probation after pleading guilty to an undesignated felony

It is very important for one to understand that their case is not over simply because they have entered into a plea agreement. Completing probation will require staying in contact with one’s probation officer, possibly taking drug tests, not having any other troubles with the law, and following any other conditions imposed by the Court.

Many defendants make the mistake of entering into probation with terms they may struggle to complete. Having an attorney assist you, during plea negotiations, can make a significant difference in your case. Finally, it is important to know that successfully completing probation does not automatically mean an undesignated felony becomes a misdemeanor. Instead, a judge must sign an order officially designated the offense a misdemeanor, and too often that is overlooked or does not happen for any number of reasons. I represent many clients who thought their offense was designated a misdemeanor but it wasn’t. The good news is that, even years later, it can be designated a misdemeanor after a proper motion is filed with the Court.

Author: Bretton Barber

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  1. If my undesignated Class 6 felony was designated a misdemeanor upon successful completion of probation, does that automatically negate the loss of my gun rights, if I have no other felony convictions?

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    • Unfortunately, you are still considered a prohibited possessor under federal law because you were, technically, convicted of a felony even though it was later designated a misdemeanor. The way that you can restore your right to bear arms is by moving the Court to set aside the conviction. I encourage you to read about expungements and setting aside convictions on my site.

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  2. I was charged with class 6 undesignated felony in Arizona and later it was reduced to misdemeanor. Does this mean that my civil rights and right to own firearm has been restored? Also do i need to do a motion to “set a side judgement of guilt”

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    • Even though it was reduced to a misdemeanor, you are still considered a prohibited possessor under federal law. I would recommend you both move to set aside the judgment of guilt and restore your right to bear arms so that you can confidently possess firearms legally.

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  3. My undesignated felony for drug possession and paraphernalia was designated a misdemeanor however I am not passing any criminal background checks and all the care homes i applied to are rejecting me. I cant be a caregiver and or go into the nursing profession. My attorney told me to chose another profession! I live an exemplary life. I cant believe this.
    What should I do.

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    • Unfortunately that is common. What I suggest you do is make a motion to the court to designate the offense a misdemeanor. This is something our firm offers for a very small fee. Email us or call today!

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  4. Is it common for a judge to forget to check the box either designating it as a misdemeanor or leaving it as a felony? My probation officer called me to let me know the judge signed the early termination papers for probation but on the same form forgot to check the box one way or another. My probation officer requested on my behalf it be designated a misdemeanor and didn’t expect it to not be designated a misdemeanor at the time of early termination. Unfortunately I’m now off probation so although my probation officer said he’d ask the clerk about the “forgetting to check a box” I have a feeling I’m never going to hear back. Thoughts?

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