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Assaulting a police officer in Arizona is considered a more serious offense than a standard assault due to several key factors. Firstly, officers are responsible for maintaining public safety and order. An assault on an officer is viewed not just as a personal attack but also as an act that potentially undermines the rule of law and public trust.

For instance, if an individual physically attacks an officer during an arrest, this not only endangers the officer but also disrupts the legal process. This is why such an assault often leads to more severe charges like aggravated assault under Arizona law.

If you’re convicted of aggravated assault on a police officer, the criminal defense lawyers at the Law Office of Daniel Hutto can help with your case. We can assist in exploring possible defense strategies, such as self-defense or challenging the evidence, and work to ensure the best possible outcome.

Here’s what this article will cover:

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In 2021, there were 43,649 law enforcement officers assaulted while performing their duties in the United States. This data was released as part of the FBI’s Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted (LEOKA) program.

assaulting a police officer after getting pulled over

Understanding Assault Charges Against Law Enforcement in Arizona

In Arizona, the distinction between misdemeanor assault and aggravated assault becomes particularly significant when the victim works in law enforcement. Consider a scenario where an individual, during a routine traffic stop, reacts physically to a police’s instructions.

What might have begun as a simple misdemeanor assault, characterized under ARS §13-1203 as causing physical injury or placing another in apprehension of physical injury, can quickly escalate to aggravated assault under ARS §13-1204.

This escalation is largely due to the victim’s status as a police officer.

For example, if the individual in the traffic stop scenario pushes the officer or even attempts to strike them, this act is automatically elevated to aggravated assault because the officer is performing official duties.

Aggravated assault, as defined in ARS §13-1204, includes assaults against specific victim classes, including police officers.

The law in Arizona recognizes the role of law enforcement and thus treats any assault against an officer with increased severity. In such cases, what could have been a charge carrying lesser penalties as a misdemeanor can potentially lead to a felony charge, with more significant legal consequences such as years in prison, substantial fines, and a criminal record 

penalties for assaulting a police officer in Arizona

Sentencing and Penalties for Assaulting an Officer

In Arizona, the penalties for assaulting a police officer are outlined in ARS §13-1204 and vary  based on the severity of the charge, ranging from a Class 2 to a Class 5 felony.

  • Class 2 Felony Penalties: For the most severe cases, classified as Class 2 felonies, the penalties can be particularly stringent. This could include a prison sentence ranging from 7 to 21 years, substantial fines up to $150,000, and probation or parole terms upon release. An example is an assault involving a deadly weapon that results in serious physical injury to the officer.
  • Class 5 Felony Consequences: In cases deemed less severe and classified as Class 5 felonies, the penalties are less harsh but still significant. Convicted individuals could face prison terms ranging from 6 months to 2.5 years, fines up to $150,000, and probation. An instance of this could be a physical altercation with an officer resulting in minor injuries.
  • Additional Considerations: Additional penalties may include mandatory community service, anger management courses, and loss of certain civil rights. The specific penalties are often influenced by the individual’s criminal history, the circumstances of the assault, and the degree of injury inflicted on the officer.

It’s important to note that the actual sentence can vary based on the judge’s discretion and the specifics of each case. Arizona courts prioritize the safety and respect of law enforcement officers, which is reflected in these penalties.

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In Arizona, defending against charges of assaulting a police officer necessitates an informed and strategic approach from a criminal defense attorney.

Here are some successful defense strategies that have been used in Arizona:


    • Claiming self-defense requires demonstrating a reasonable belief that the force used was necessary to protect oneself from the officer’s unlawful force.
    • Successful instances include cases where the accused had evidence, such as video footage or witness testimony, supporting their claim of self-defense.

Disputing Intent

    • A critical defense is arguing that there was no intent to harm or threaten the officer.
    • This includes cases where the actions of the accused were misconstrued or where their conduct did not have the requisite criminal intent.

Challenging the Basis of Aggravated Assault Charges

    • This involves questioning whether the assault met the legal criteria for aggravated assault, such as disputing the extent of the officer’s injuries or the use of a weapon.
    • Successful examples include instances where the defense provided medical evidence contradicting the severity of the officer’s injuries

Mistaken Identity or False Accusation

    • Asserting that the accused was incorrectly identified or falsely accused.
    • This defense has won in cases where there was a lack of reliable eyewitness testimony or where surveillance footage disproved the prosecution’s claim.

Violation of Constitutional Rights

    • Arguing that the accused’s constitutional rights were violated during the investigation or arrest, such as illegal search and seizure or lack of Miranda warnings.
    • Cases have been dismissed or charges reduced when such violations were proven.

Mental Incapacity or Insanity

    • In some cases, asserting that the accused was mentally incapable of forming the intent to commit the crime or was legally insane at the time of the offense.
    • This defense requires substantial medical and psychological evidence.

Duress or Coercion

    • Claiming that the accused was under duress or coerced into committing the act.
    • Successful defenses have included situations where the accused acted under threat of immediate harm to themselves or others.

Given the severity of the resulting penalties, where assaulting an officer in Arizona is a serious charge and can lead to a felony conviction, legal representation is indispensable. 

Consult the Law Offices of Daniel Hutto for a free consultation at (602) 536-7878 to explore your legal options in detail.

police body cam footage in assault cases

The Impact of Video Evidence in Assault Cases

If you’re accused of assaulting a police officer in Arizona, you might wonder about the role of video evidence like bodycam and dashcam footage in your case. Will this footage be accessible to the public, or is it strictly for court use? 

When charged with aggravated assault against an officer, this video evidence often becomes a key aspect of your defense or the prosecution’s case, such footage can confirm or refute claims made by either side. 

For instance, if it’s alleged that you assaulted an officer or attempted to evade arrest, bodycam or dashcam footage can provide clear context. It can reveal the actions of both you and the officer, shedding light on the nature of the altercation.

Regarding public access to this footage, the release depends on several factors. Generally, bodycam and dashcam recordings are considered part of the investigation and are not immediately made public.

They are primarily used for judicial purposes, to clarify the case to the judge and jury.

However, there are situations where this footage can be released to the public. This usually happens post-investigation or trial, especially in high-profile cases or incidents with significant public interest. The decision to release footage often involves legal considerations, such as privacy laws and the potential impact on ongoing legal proceedings.

For someone accused of assaulting a police officer, understanding how and when this footage can be used is important. A criminal defense attorney can request access to this footage for your defense, analyze it for details, and argue its relevance in court. 

Frequently Asked Question: Police Officer Assault 

What constitutes an ‘assault on an officer’ in Arizona?

  • Assaulting an officer includes physically striking or attempting to harm a police officer, or any action that puts the officer in reasonable fear of imminent physical injury.

How does the law view assault of an off-duty officer?

  • Assault of an off-duty officer can still be treated seriously, especially if the officer’s status is known to the assailant.

If a police officer’s firearm is used during the assault, how does it affect the charge?

  • Using a police officer’s firearm in an assault typically elevates the charge to a higher-level felony due to the increased risk of serious harm.

Can I face aggravated assault charges for attempting to evade arrest?

  • Yes, if in the process of evading arrest, you assault an officer, it can be charged as aggravated assault.

Is there a difference in charges if I accidentally hit a police officer?

  • Accidental actions can be considered, but you may still face charges depending on the circumstances and perceived intent.

Can the charge vary if the police officer was using excessive force?

  • Yes, if it’s proven that the officer was using excessive force, it may affect the charges or be used as part of a defense strategy.

What impact does a police officer sustaining serious physical injuries have on my case?

  • If an officer sustains serious physical injuries, it can elevate the assault to a higher felony class, leading to more severe penalties.

How a Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help

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The Law Office of Daniel Hutto, based in Phoenix, Arizona, provides expert legal representation for those facing criminal charges, including aggravated assault on a police officer. The firm’s attorneys focus on developing strong defense strategies specific to each case, whether it involves presenting evidence of self-defense or reviewing the prosecution’s case.

 Recognizing the impact of a criminal charge on your life, they offer dedicated support throughout the legal process. The firm also provides a free initial consultation to discuss your case. You can contact them at 602) 536-7878 for assistance.

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