The penalties of being charged with any class of misdemeanor assault in Arizona can be tough, which is why it is important to seek legal advice from a Phoenix assault attorney at Stewart Law Group during the process. A criminal defense attorney in Phoenix will help you reach your legal goals.
Thousands of assault arrests occur every year in Arizona. A person commits assault when they “intentionally, knowingly or recklessly cause any physical injury to another person,” or place a person in harm’s way. Assault charges do not involve weapons, as the addition of a weapon upgrades the charge to aggravated assault.
Phoenix Assault Lawyer Quick Links
- What Are The Types of Assault in Phoenix?
- What Are Some Possible Legal Defenses to Assault?
- Contact Our Phoenix Assault Attorneys
What Are The Types of Assault in Phoenix?
Three Classes of Misdemeanor Assault
Misdemeanors are classified between class 1 and class 3 with varying levels of punishment. Arizona law does not require a visible injury to make an assault arrest; one does not even have to touch another person to be arrested for assault.
Class 3 Misdemeanor Assault: A class 3 misdemeanor simply means that a person was proven to have touched another with the intent to injure, insult, or provoke them. The State needs no evidence that an injury occurred; it is the intention that counts. A conviction can result in probation, community service, classes, and a fine. A person convicted of a class 3 misdemeanor assault can also face up to 30 days in prison.
Class 2 Misdemeanor Assault: A class 2 misdemeanor requires a little more of the State; instead of intent to harm, the State must prove that the other person felt “reasonable apprehension of imminent physical injury.” Again, this conviction does not require physical contact between the two parties. Leading a person into oncoming traffic fits the criteria for a class 2 misdemeanor assault, since the State needs to prove the victim’s state of mind (fear) rather than physical injury. A class 2 conviction can result in up to 4 months of imprisonment, as well as anger management classes, community service, probation, and fines.
Class 1 Misdemeanor Assault: Only a class 1 misdemeanor assault charge requires the State to prove that injury actually occurred. This is the most severe misdemeanor assault charge, and can result in 6 months of jail time. The severity of the injury is unimportant; the injury can be a slight redness where the victim was touched or a light bruise. It could also be a broken leg or a bloody wound. The presence of a discernible injury – proof of contact between the perpetrator and victim – is enough to raise the class of misdemeanor. This type of conviction can result in any of the aforementioned consequences, with up to 6 months of jail time.
What Are Some Possible Legal Defenses to Assault?
When you hire the right criminal defense team, there are legal arguments that can be made to fight back against your criminal charges. Each case is different, but some of the most common legal defenses used by Phoenix assault lawyers include the following:
Self-Defense/Defense of Others: One common legal defense is to argue that you were defending yourself or others at the time of the incident. To be successful with this defense, your attorney must provide evidence that you used reasonable force to protect yourself or someone else because you believed it was immediately necessary to protect against another person’s unlawful force, based on the reasonable person standard. The force must also be proportionate with the threat you’re facing. If someone was threatening to punch you or your partner in the face and you responded by shooting them, self-defense will not get you off the hook. No reasonable person would believe that shooting someone is an appropriate response to the threat of being punched in the face; there are other actions that you could have taken to protect yourself and your partner.
That doesn’t mean you have to just stand there if someone is about to punch you. If you punched them back, or punched them as they were punching your partner, self-defense or defense of others might be a successful defense.
However, if you’re on the ground and someone is hitting you with a baseball bat continuously, refusing to let up, it might be reasonable to respond using a firearm; a reasonable person in that situation might believe that serious physical injury or death is imminent, and the only way to stop it is to use a gun. It is always going to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, as the reasonable person standard is quite subjective.
The rules for defense of others are the same; the force you use to protect the other person must be proportionate, and the person you are defending would have been legally justified to use that force themselves if they could.
Keep in mind that there are other nuances to this defense. We are highly experienced in defending assault cases and can determine if this is the right defense, and if so, we can walk you through it so you understand everything.
Alibi: In some cases, fights break out between people who don’t know each other. If the police arrive and don’t arrest anyone at the scene of the incident, it’s their job to talk to the victim and witnesses to determine who, if anyone, should be arrested. In some cases, the victim will misidentify someone, believing that they were involved. If you’re identified as a suspect and you have evidence that you were somewhere else when the crime took place – you have an alibi – this can get you off the hook. We can speak with alibi witnesses on your behalf and obtain video footage or other evidence proving that you were somewhere else at the time.
Accident: Accidents happen, and in some cases, serious injuries occur. The simple fact that someone is injured doesn’t mean that the party who injured them should be charged with assault. The injury must have resulted from a knowing or reckless act; engaging in behavior that you know is likely to cause harm, even if harm isn’t your intention, would be considered reckless.
However, to assault someone knowingly doesn’t mean you had to intend to cause the specific harm they suffered. If you intentionally and knowingly poke someone but didn’t mean to cause a bruise or any real injury to them, you can still be found guilty of assault because they ended up injured by your conduct.
What is Threatening or Intimidation?
Under Chapter 12 of Arizona’s Criminal Code, threatening or intimidating someone is listed as a part of the same code as assault and its related charges. A charge of threatening or intimidation can be a misdemeanor or a felony charge depending on the circumstances. Threats of domestic violence and threats of gang violence are common cases of threatening or intimidation charges in Phoenix. Threat and intimidation charges can include:
- Threatening to cause physical injury
- Threatening to cause damage to property
- Causing a serious inconvenience to the public, such as the evacuation of a building
- Threatening to cause physical injury or serious property damage while representing the interests of a gang or organized crime
A conviction of threatening or intimidation brings penalties of up to 6 months in jail and fines of up to $2,500 as well as probation, community service, and sometimes victim restitution.
What Constitutes Proof of Intent?
When police make an arrest for assault, they have to have probable cause which includes proof of intent. The prosecutor in an assault case bears the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the action was purposeful, with the willful intention to cause injury. Proving intent requires clear, objective evidence such as:
- Surveillance or cell phone videos
- Eyewitness testimony
- DNA evidence
- Material evidence
As in all criminal charges, the state must prove criminal intent for assault charges to show that the alleged perpetrator acted knowingly, intentionally, or recklessly (with disregard for the substantial, unjustifiable risk) to cause injury.
What is Aggravated Assault?
A charge of aggravated assault in Arizona means there was an additional factor that made the attack more deadly than a simple assault. Aggravated assault boosts the charge from a misdemeanor crime to a felony and increases the penalties for a conviction. According to Arizona’s Revised Statutes Section 13-1204, an aggravated assault is one which includes any of the following:
- A deadly weapon or instrument
- Assault on a police officer or other first responder
- The assault includes tying or restraining the victim
- The alleged perpetrator enters the victim’s home and commits an assault
- The assault occurs against a minor under the age of 15
- The assault causes severe injury with a risk of death or disfigurement
According to the above, anything you might have used during the alleged assault your intent, where the incident occurred, and the age of the victim all play a role in whether or not you are charged with a simple assault or an aggravated assault with stiffer penalties depending on the classification. For example:
- A class 6 conviction: prison sentence from 18 months up to 3 years with a presumptive term (expected under normal circumstances) of 27 months
- A class 5 conviction: Prison sentence from 2 to 4 years with a 3-year presumptive term
- A class 4 conviction: Prison sentence from 4 to 8 years with a 6-year presumptive term
- A class 3 conviction: Prison sentence of up to 15 years with a 7.5-year presumptive term
- A class 2 conviction: Prison sentence from 7 to 21 years with a 10.5-year presumptive term
A conviction of aggravated assault also comes with fines of up to $150.000 and additional consequences such as probation, restitution, and community service as well as the loss of some civil rights such as the right to vote and the right to bear arms. Contact an aggravated assault attorney in Phoenix to help defend against this type of charge.
Hire an Assault Attorney in Phoenix That Can Help
In Arizona, an assault conviction can carry meaningful consequences, despite its classification as a misdemeanor. A conviction may result in jail time, classes, fines, and may prohibit you from being able to carry a gun.
Contact our attorneys as soon as possible when faced with an assault misdemeanor charge so we can begin preparing your defense strategy immediately. Our assault defense lawyer, Scott Stewart will appear at the criminal court hearing to defend your rights. Contact us today to set up a FREE case evaluation to assess your legal options and learn how our firm can help protect your rights and defend your future.