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Types of Assault Charges

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Arizona criminal law recognizes a variety of assault charges, ranging from minor misdemeanors to serious felonies which can carry long prison sentences.

If you are charged with an assault, even for a minor assault, there are several sentences that may be imposed. It is important to speak with an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible, in order to minimize the potential penalties you are facing.

Definition of Assault

ARS 13-1203 defines assault as follows:

A person commits assault by:

1. Intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causing any physical injury to another person; or

2. Intentionally placing another person in reasonable apprehension of imminent physical injury; or

3. Knowingly touching another person with the intent to injure, insult or provoke such person.

These actions are sometimes known as "simple assault." A variety of actions can fall into these categories, and the criminal charges for these different types of assault vary as well.

For example, if Sam hits Carl in a bar fight, he can be charged with simple assault because he intentionally caused bodily injury to another person. Under ARS 13-1203, if Sam acted intentionally or knowingly, Sam can be charged with a class 1 misdemeanor and receive up to 6 months in prison and/or a $2500 fine. If his actions were merely reckless, careless, or impulsive, he can be charged with a class 2 misdemeanor, and faces up to four months imprisonment and/or a $750 fine.

If Dan attempts to punch Sam in the same fight and Sam ducks, making Dan miss, Dan can also be charged with simple assault. Dan swung at Sam and, even though he did not make physical contact, he intentionally placed Sam in reasonable apprehension of bodily injury. Dean also faces a class 2 misdemeanor charge, up to four months imprisonment, and/or a $750 fine.

Finally, if Carl instigated the fight by shoving Sam's chest, or spitting on Dan's shoes, he can also be charged with simple assault because he provoked the fight. Carl will face a class 3 misdemeanor charge, which carries up to 30 days in jail and/or a fine of $500.

This definition of "assault" is different than other states, which may separate assault and battery into two separate crimes - "anticipated threat of physical contact" from "actual physical contact," respectively. Assault is also known as "attempted battery."

It is important to note that assault requires a specific mindset - intentional, knowing, or reckless conduct. If Annie has an epileptic seizure and strikes Bob during the seizure, she should not be charged with assault because her movements were involuntary. However, if she is aware that she has seizures and gets behind the wheel of a car, her actions may be considered reckless, because she may lose control while driving and injure someone else on the road.

Additionally, if you get drunk voluntarily, any resulting actions - including a bar fight - will also be considered voluntary and you may be charged with assault.

Aggravated Assault

Aggravated assault is considered to be a more serious crime. ARS 13-1204 lists a number of factors that elevate a simple assault to an aggravated assault. These include:

  • The occurrence of serious physical injury, including temporary disfigurement or temporary loss of a limb or organ;
  • Use of a deadly weapon or dangerous instruments, such as a gun, knife, or vehicle;
  • An assault by someone 18 years old or older against someone who is 15 years old or younger;
  • An assault against someone who is bound or physically restrained; and
  • An assault occurring after entering the private home of another, with the intent to injure another person.

Simple assault can also be raised to aggravated assault if the victim is:

  • A civil servant, including a police or peace officer, firefighter, teacher, or park ranger
  • A prosecutor or defense attorney
  • A health care provider, including doctors, nurses, or other hospital workers that are engaged in his or her professional duties.

It does not take much for a simple assault to be raised to an aggravated assault charge. In our bar fight scenario above, if Sam breaks Carl's nose or gives him a concussion from the punch, Sam can be charged with aggravated assault for temporarily disfiguring Carl, or for causing Carl serious physical injury. If anyone in the fight uses a broken beer bottle, this can be considered a dangerous weapon, also earning them an aggravated assault charge.

If you are convicted of an aggravated assault, you will face felony charges ranging from class 6 to class 2. First-time offenders face anywhere between one and 15 years in jail, depending on the severity of the crime.

Sexual Assault

Finally, under ARS 13-1406, sexual assault involves "intentionally or knowingly engaging in sexual intercourse or oral sexual contact with any person without consent of such person." If you are convicted of sexual assault, you are looking at a class 2 felony. First-time offenders face up to 14 years in jail, while offenders with two or more prior felonies can spend up to 28 years in jail for a sexual assault conviction.

If you are convicted of a felony, you may lose certain rights, including the right to vote or carry a firearm. You may also lose your professional licenses and face difficulty passing future employment background checks. If you have been charged with assault in Arizona, your best bet is to start working with a seasoned criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

This article is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. Contact our office for a free consultation to understand the assault charges brought against you and to get the help you need.

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