Updated: February 18, 2021

What is Misdemeanor Assault in Arizona?

In Arizona, misdemeanor assault charges can be filed under three different charges. ARS 13-1203 (Arizona’s misdemeanor assault law) has three different sections, and each section represents a different type of assault.

The most common type is what most people normally think about when they think of “assault” or “battery” which involves physically harming another person. This can be by punching or kicking somebody and causing some physical injury.

However, most people don’t know that assault also takes other forms. You don’t have to be in a conventional fight to be charged with misdemeanor assault. Even if you are charged because of a fight, you might have been charged unfairly with assault. This often happens where two people engage in mutual fighting, but the police only charge the “winner” and the person who is most injured is labeled the “victim.” These types of charges often don’t take into account who was the initial aggressor in the fight, but these can be important legal questions that could raise a defense.

A.R.S. § 13-1203 Defined

ARS 13-1203 is the law that defines the different types of misdemeanor assault in Arizona. This statute states that “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.

Each category of assault is a separate crime. Category 1 is a class 1 misdemeanor; category 2 is a class 2 misdemeanor, and category 3 is a class 3 misdemeanor.

What are the Differences between the Levels of Simple Assault?

The differences in the levels of assault often come down to distinctions between legal terms. Even seemingly common phrases can have specific legal meanings. The following list sheds some light on what these words actually mean under Arizona’s assault statute.

  • Intentionally: In criminal law, something is intentional if you mean for it to happen.
  • Knowingly: To do something knowingly is slightly different from doing something intentionally. The difference is that you might intend for something to happen (i.e., you might not want it to happen) but you do it knowing that it will happen and just not caring whether it does or not.
  • Recklessly: This is a lesser standard of intent that doing something “intentionally” or “knowingly.” When you do something recklessly, you might not know whether something will happen or not, but you simply don’t care.

Example: If you decide to close your eyes and start swinging your fists around in a crowded room, you might not intend to hit anybody or know for certain that you will, but it’s likely that you will hit somebody and you don’t seem to be showing any concern for whether you will or not. This is recklessness.

  • Physical Injury: This is defined as any sort of injury to a person’s physical condition. It doesn’t have to be major. A bruise or scratch can qualify.
  • Apprehension of “Imminent” Physical Injury: This means that the physical contact does not need to have actually occurred. Rather, “apprehension” means that the victim only needed to reasonably think the injury was going to happen.

Example: A person quickly makes a fist and raises his hand like he’s going to punch somebody (usually resulting in the other person flinching) so that victim thinks they will be hit. This is an “apprehension” of physical injury. The “imminent” part means that the assault would be expected to happen immediately. If you raise you raise your fist and make the same gesture as in the above example, but this time you are 50 feet away from the other person, then the threat is not “imminent” because there is no way that you could immediately hit a person that far away unless you started sprinting towards them.

  • Touching: Touching does not require physical injury. But for it to qualify as an assault, it must be done with the intent to injure or provoke. Even pushing somebody without causing any injury can qualify as a low-level assault if it is done during an argument.

Penalties for Misdemeanor Assault

In Arizona, a class 1 misdemeanor is the most serious type of misdemeanor; whereas a class 3 misdemeanor is the lowest level of misdemeanor. All carry the potential for fines and jail time.

The different levels of assault carry the following potential punishments:

Class 1 misdemeanor assault:

ARS 13-1203(A)(1) (physical injuring somebody)

  • Up to 6 months in jail.
  • Up to $2500 in fines, plus a $2075 surcharge.
  • Up to 3 years of probation.
  • Anger management classes, community service, victim restitution.

Class 2 misdemeanor assault:

ARS 13-1203(A)(2) (reasonable apprehension of physical injury)

  • Up to 4 months in jail.
  • Up to $750 in fines, plus a $622 surcharge.
  • Up to 2 years of probation.
  • Anger management classes, community service, victim restitution.

Class 3 misdemeanor assault:

ARS 13-1203(A)(3) (touching with intent to injury/insult)

  • Up to 30 days in jail.
  • Up to $500 in fines, plus a $415 surcharge.
  • Up to 1 year probation.
  • Anger management classes, community service, victim restitution.

Is Diversion an Option for Misdemeanor Assault Charges?

If this is your first time that you’ve been charged with a crime, it may be possible to convince the state to offer what is known as a “diversion” program. This is an offer where the state agrees to drop the charges against you if you enroll in certain classes and successfully complete them.

It is not a guarantee that the prosecution will agree to offer this program, even if this is your first offense. Depending on the facts of the case, the prosecution may seek jail time, or insist that you plead guilty to a crime. However, having a skilled criminal defense attorney argue your case could improve your chances of receiving a diversion offer.

We have been successful in obtaining dismissals in many cases involving misdemeanor assault.

Defenses to Misdemeanor Assault

Just because the police charged you with assault does not mean that you are guilty. We can look into the specific facts of your case and determine if there are defenses to the charges that can help obtain a favorable resolution. Common defenses to assault include:

  • No Intent (Accident): The injury may have been an accident that was beyond your control. This would negate the “intent” element of the crime and would be a defense to prosecution. You may not have even been acting recklessly. Under ARS 13-105(10) recklessness requires that you are “aware of and consciously disregard a substantial and unjustifiable risk.” The state has the burden of proving that you acted recklessly beyond a reasonable doubt, and they might not have the facts to prove that.
  • No Assault: Sometimes there are no witnesses to an assault and the charges were fabricated by the alleged “victim.” This can be done for various reasons: revenge, child custody disputes, shifting blame, or general malevolence. If a case is a “he-said, she-said” that may not be enough to prove an assault beyond a reasonable doubt.
  • Self-Defense: If you are acting in self-defense, this is an affirmative defense to an assault charge. This means that, even if you technically committed an assault, you did it for justifiable reasons to protect yourself.
  • Defense of Others: The “self-defense” argument also works if you are acting in the defense of others. If somebody is assaulting your friend, you have the right to step in and use reasonable physical force in their defense (even though the original assault is not directed at you).
  • Denial of Right to Counsel: If the police have denied your right to an attorney within a reasonable time after an arrest, this may be grounds for a motion to dismiss your case. The same is true if there are other constitutional violations, such as a lack of reasonable suspicion, no warrant, or Miranda violations.
  • The “necessity” defense: This defense can be raised when you commit a criminal act during an emergency situation in order to prevent even greater harm from happening.
  • The victim provoked or intimidated you: If the victim was the initial aggressor, this raises issues of self-defense. Even if there is not strictly an issue of self-defense, it does make the victim look less credible in front of a jury if they seem to have been engaged in as much if not more wrongful acts, but they simply lost the fight.
  • No proof “beyond a reasonable doubt”: A variety of other factors can go into the prosecution having a weak case against you. The can include such things as: the victim or witnesses have a criminal history; the victims or witnesses make false or contradictory statements; the state doesn’t have physical evidence; or there are no witnesses. A lot of factors go into whether the state’s case is strong or weak. Stewart Salwin is a skilled criminal defense attorney who has handled thousands of cases and knows what weaknesses may affect the prosecution’s ability to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

How Salwin Law Group Can Help You

Salwin Law Group has been able to achieve favorable resolutions for clients in cases where they have been charged with assault. Stewart Salwin is a former prosecutor and has handled assault cases from both sides of the aisle. He knows how the prosecution thinks and what types of evidence is persuasive to the prosecutor to agree to get the charges lowered or dropped. If the case goes to trial, he also knows the best defenses to maximize your chances of a successful outcome.

If you’ve been arrested for a misdemeanor, there is hope! Call the Salwin Law Group today, and we will begin to work on preparing your defense immediately. You will be kept informed and have the process explained every step of the way. Together, we can help you get your life back.

Call Salwin Law Group PLLC today at (480) 702-1789, or contact us online to make your appointment.