What is Arizona’s Aggravated Assault Law?
Aggravated assault is classified as a felony under Arizona Revised Statute (ARS) 13-1204. This means that the possible punishment and potential prison sentence for aggravated assault is harsher than it is for other forms of less serious assault crimes. An assault becomes “aggravated” in a variety of ways, although one of the most common is when there is an assault on a police officer. Depending on the facts, an aggravated assault maybe charged as anywhere from a class 2 felony to a class 6 felony. This means the potential prison sentence for a first time-offense ranges from 4 months to 12.5 years. Probation also may be available for a first-time offense. Punishment increases if this is not your first felony offense and maxes out at 35 years in the Department of Corrections (DOC) for just one count of aggravated assault.
A.R.S. § 13-1204 Defined
- If the assault causes “serious physical injury.”
- If “a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument” was used during the assault.
- If the assault causes temporary but substantial “disfigurement” or “loss or impairment of a bodily organ” or a if it causes a fracture.
- If the victim is bound, restrained, or their ability to resist is “substantially impaired.”
- If the assault occurs in the victim’s home.
- If an adult commits an assault on child under 15.
- If the defendant knows that the victim is a police officer.
- If the defendant knows the victims is a firefighter, health care practitioner, teacher prosecutor, public defender, or judge AND the victim is engaging in their public duties when the assault takes place.
- If the defendant takes or attempts to take a police officer’s weapon during the assault.
- If a prisoner assaults a guard.
- If the defendant uses a “simulated deadly weapon” during the assault.
Penalties for Aggravated Assault
In Arizona, aggravated assault can be charged as a class 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 felony. What type of felony it is charged as depends on the circumstances of the assault. A class 2 felony is one of the most serious types of felonies (besides for a crime like murder), whereas a class 6 felony is the least severe type of felony (but it still can carry a mandatory prison term if you have any prior felony convictions).
Some of the most common types of aggravated assault are those committed on a police officer. This often happens during the course of an arrest, and you will often see an aggravated assault charge paired with a charge of resisting arrest. Under these circumstances, the aggravated assault will be a class 5 felony if there is no physical injury. If there is any type of physical injury, the assault can be charged as class 4 felony. If the assault causes serious physical injury to the police officer, the case may be charged as a class 2 felony.
The different classes of felonies carry the following range of potential prison sentences for first time offenders:
- Class 2 felony: 3 to 12.5 years
- Class 3 felony: 2 to 8.75
- Class 4 felony: 1 to 3.75
- Class 5 felony: .5 to 2.5
- Class 6 felony: .33 to 2
If this is a second historic prior felony, the potential prison ranges are:
- Class 2 felony: 4.5 to 23 years
- Class 3 felony: 3.25 to 16.25
- Class 4 felony: 2.25 to 7.5
- Class 5 felony: 1 to 3.75
- Class 6 felony: .75 to 2.75
If this is a third historic prior felony, the potential ranges increase further:
- Class 2 felony: 10.5 to 35 years
- Class 3 felony: 7.5 to 25
- Class 4 felony: 6 to 15
- Class 5 felony: 3 to 7.5
- Class 6 felony: 2.25 to 5.75
What is Aggravated Assault on a Police Officer?
There are also enhanced penalties for assault on a police officer under certain circumstances. According to ARS 13-1204(C), if a person commits assault against a police officer and that causes serious physical injury or if a deadly weapon is used, then prison is mandatory. The sentence will be for no less than the presumptive term of imprisonment (either 5, 9.25, or 15.75 years depending on the number of prior convictions the defendant has), and the prison sentence cannot be suspended.
You may also be charged with aggravated assault against a police officer even if the officer is not engaging in his official duties at the time the assault took place. So as long as the defendant knows or should know that that the victim was a police officer, he may be charged with aggravated assault. This is different from an aggravated assault that can be occur against other types of victims, such as prosecutors or teachers, which require that the victim be engaged in their public duties when the assault occurs.
If you are convicted of an aggravated assault on a police officer and there is physical injury (but it does not count as serious physical injury) then you will be found guilty of a class 4 felony and be subject to the sentencing ranges discussed above.
What is “Serious Physical Injury”?
An assault may be aggravated when it results in serious physical injury. This is defined by ARS 13-105 as physical injury that creates a reasonable risk of death, or that causes serious and permanent disfigurement, serious impairment of health, or loss or protracted impairment of the function of any bodily organ or limb. This can include a wide range of injuries. In State v. Pena, 209 Ariz. 503, 505 (Ariz. Ct. App. 2005), for example, the Arizona Court of Appeals found that a cut to the victim’s ear which left a permanent scar was a serious physical injury.
What is a “Deadly Weapon or Dangerous Instrument”?
A deadly weapon is also defined in ARS 13-105 to mean “anything designed for lethal use, including a firearm.” A “dangerous instrument” is anything that “under the circumstances in which it is used, attempted to be used or threatened to be used is readily capable of causing death or serious physical injury.” Any number of objects, even if they are not designed as weapons, can be considered “dangerous instruments” under the circumstances. To name only a few examples, a baseball bat, a golf club, a hammer, or a rock could all fit under this category. There is no single list of what could be included in this definition.
Defenses to Aggravated Assault Charges
Being charged with aggravated assault does not mean that you are guilty. Depending on the specific facts of your case, there are several defenses that we can bring to achieve an optimal outcome for your case. Such defenses to aggravate assault are:
- No Intent (Accident): The injury that occurred to create the underlying assault may have been an accident. If the state cannot prove that you acted with the required criminal intent, then no assault occurred. The state has the burden of showing beyond a reasonable doubt that you acted either intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly when the injury occurred. If they cannot do so, then you are not guilty of assault.
- Self-Defense: If you are acting to protect yourself when the assault occurred, this is called “self-defense.” A self-defense argument requires you to show that the you acted with a reasonable amount of force to protect yourself from harm.
- Defense of Others: You can also argue the force you used was necessary to protect another person. You must prove the same things to make a self-defense claim, but the difference is that you were defending another person rather than yourself.
- Denial of Right to Counsel: If your rights were violated, then this may be grounds for a dismissal of your case. The police have to give you the right to speak with an attorney when you request one, and failure to do so may be grounds to seek a motion to dismiss.
- Lack of knowledge of status: An aggravated assault can occur when an assault is made against members of certain professions. Most commonly you see aggravated assault cases where a simple assault occurred on a police officer to make the crime “aggravated.” However, this requires knowledge by the defendant charged with the crime that the victim was a police officer. If the officer is off duty or if there is no reason for somebody to believe that a person is a police officer, then there is a good argument to make that no aggravated assault occurred.
- No proof “beyond a reasonable doubt”: The state must prove its case against you beyond a reasonable doubt. A skilled defense attorney can look into the facts of your case to determine if there is enough evidence for the state to meet this high burden of proof. The state’s witnesses may be unreliable, there might not be enough physical or medical evidence to prove an injury, or there may be witnesses in your defense. Many factors go into assessing the state’s case. Stewart Salwin is a skilled assault attorney who has handled thousands of cases and knows the best arguments to make in front of a jury to fight for an acquittal or to make to the prosecutor to lower or dismiss the charges.
Can an Aggravated Assault be Dismissed or Reduced?
Yes. There are two sides to every story. Just because the police officer wrote something in a police report and arrested you for a crime does not mean that you will be convicted of that crime. With the right criminal defense strategy, it may be possible to get your charges reduced or dismissed. An effective criminal defense attorney will conduct his own investigation into the case, review the evidence, and seek exculpatory evidence in his client’s favor.
With an effective defense strategy is the charges against you may be reduced or dismissed prior to trial.
How Salwin Law Group Can Help You
If you are facing aggravated assault charges, you should seek the counsel of an experienced assault attorney right away. The charges against you are serious and could include prison time. If this is not your first felony, prison time will be mandatory if you are found guilty at trial.
But there is hope. Being charged with the crime is not the end of the story. If you hire Salwin Law Group, we will fight hard to get the best potential outcome for you. We will begin preparing your defense immediately, and you will be kept informed and have the process explained every step of the way.