How Prior Convictions Affect Sentencing Ranges

One of the first things a smart and experienced defense attorney will need to determine in order to advise you in your case is how much custody time you are facing. Do not take this to mean that they are preparing for you to go to jail. The reason this matters so much is that it is often the first thing a prosecutor looks at to determine the starting point for negotiations.

Grand Canyon Law Group is founded and run by former prosecutors. We know how they are trained to view a case. We need to know their starting point. From there, we will attack the case on two fronts: (1) We will work to expose the weaknesses in the legal side of their case; (2) We will work to show them who you are as a person when you are our client. We use the legal and human sides of the case to fight for the best outcome in the case.


Arizona follows mandatory sentencing ranges. If you are convicted at trial or by plea, a judge in Arizona must sentence you according to wherever you fall in a specific sentencing range set out in the Criminal Code Sentencing Provisions (“Sentencing Provisions”). The judge can give you the low or high end of that range based on “mitigating” or “aggravating factors.” However, they have no power to go outside those sentencing guidelines.

A person with no prior felony convictions would face ranges that are shown in this chart:

Class/ level Lowest (Mitigated) Next low Presumptive Next highest Highest (Aggravated)
2 3 4 5 10 12.5
3 2 2.5 3.5 7 8.75
4 1 1.5 2.5 3 3.75
5 .5 .75 1.5 2 2.5
6 .33 .5 1 1.5 2


The good news is that in cases where the accused has no prior felony convictions, they are eligible for probation unless an exception applies.


Prior convictions change our position in a case in a few different ways. An accused person’s prior conviction is not just an “aggravating factor” that can be used to increase sentencing within the range above—it changes the entire range. Even worse, while the judge has the option to “suspend” the prison sentence and give you probation if you have no prior felony convictions, if you are convicted with a prior felony, the judge has no choice but to put you in prison somewhere in that range.

Under Arizona Revised Statutes Section 13-701(D)(11), a felony conviction within the past ten years is an aggravating factor that can increase sentencing. Prior convictions can significantly increase the sentencing range that a judge must follow, so it is best to speak to an experienced attorney at the Grand Canyon Law Group to discuss your case.


Repeat offenders are more likely to receive longer sentences than first-time offenders charged with the same crime. If you have a prior conviction, hiring a skilled and qualified defense lawyer is crucial.

At the Grand Canyon Law Group, our relentless criminal defense attorneys can present your mitigating factors in court and fight against harsh sentencing. We understand how prior convictions affect sentencing ranges and will do everything we can to minimize the penalties against you. Call us today to speak with our dedicated criminal defense lawyers and get the representation you deserve.