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Under ARS 13-1203, simple assault is classified as a misdemeanor, while aggravated assault is categorized as a felony under ARS 13-1204.


The distinction between the two is significant, as it can greatly impact the potential repercussions individuals may face if convicted. Simple assault typically results in lighter penalties, such as fines and possible jail time, while aggravated assault can lead to much harsher consequences, including a potential class 6 felony charge and several years in prison.

Here’s what this article will cover:

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what is simple assault

Simple Assault in Arizona: ARS 13-1203

Simple assault in Arizona, as defined under ARS 13-1203, is a criminal offense that can be categorized as a misdemeanor. This statute delineates simple assault based on several key criteria. 

  • Knowingly causing physical injury to another person.
  • Intentionally placing another person in reasonable apprehension of imminent physical injury. 
  • Knowingly touching another person with the intent to injure, insult, or provoke.

Case Examples and Precedents in Arizona Law

Precedents set by Arizona courts further clarify the law’s interpretation. For example, in State v. Garcia, the court held that

the presence of fear or apprehension is enough to constitute assault, even in the absence of physical contact.

Similarly, in cases where the intent to cause fear or harm is evident, the courts have consistently upheld assault charges.

what is aggravated assault

Aggravated Assault in Arizona: ARS 13-1204

Aggravated assault under ARS 13-1204 in Arizona is a serious criminal offense that elevates simple assault to a more severe level based on specific circumstances.

These circumstances include:

  1. Causing Serious Physical Injury: If the assault results in significant physical harm to another person, it is classified as aggravated assault. This could involve injuries requiring medical attention or leading to long-term health issues.
  2. Use of a Deadly Weapon or Dangerous Instrument: The involvement of weapons such as firearms, knives, or any object that could cause death or serious injury intensifies the assault charge to an aggravated level.
  3. Assault Resulting in Substantial Disfigurement or Loss/Impairment: If the assault causes temporary but substantial disfigurement, loss, or impairment of any body part, or fractures, it qualifies as aggravated assault.
  4. Assault on Restrained or Impaired Victim: Attacking a victim who is physically restrained or whose ability to resist is substantially impaired falls under this category.
  5. Assault after Entering a Private Home: Committing an assault after unlawfully entering someone’s home significantly escalates the severity of the charge.
  6. Assault on a Minor Under Fifteen by an Adult: An adult committing assault on a minor under fifteen is a serious aggravating factor.
  7. Assault in Violation of a Protection Order: If the assault occurs in violation of a protective order, it’s considered aggravated assault.
  8. Assault on Protected Classes of Individuals: This includes assaults on peace officers, constables, firefighters, EMTs, teachers, healthcare workers, prosecutors, code enforcement officers, park rangers, public defenders, judicial officers, and law enforcement agency employees.

Each of these scenarios involves unique legal complexities and carries severe penalties, often including lengthy prison sentences and substantial fines. The specific circumstances of the assault critically influence the legal strategy and potential defenses in such cases, making expert legal representation essential.

What Type of Assault is Most Common? 

 According to the 2023 Arizona Crime Statistics

the state reported 54,400 instances of simple assault and 15,813 cases of aggravated assault.

These figures indicate that simple assault is the more prevalent type of offense in Arizona. Simple assault, governed by ARS 13-1203, encompasses a range of actions from minor physical confrontations to verbal threats or any act that causes a person to fear imminent physical harm.

The higher frequency of simple assault cases can be attributed to its broader legal definition.

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Can Aggravated Assault Charges Be Dropped in Arizona? 

In Arizona, the possibility of aggravated assault charges being dropped is a complex issue. While challenging, there are instances where charges can be dismissed, depending on the evidence, legal arguments, and strategies employed by the defense.

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

Insufficient Evidence

    • If the evidence is lacking or insufficient to prove the defendant committed the crime beyond a reasonable doubt, charges may be dropped.

Self-Defense

    • Claiming self-defense is a common strategy, particularly if the defendant can demonstrate a reasonable belief of imminent harm.

Unreliable Witness Testimonies

    • If key witnesses are deemed unreliable or their accounts are inconsistent, this can weaken the prosecution’s case

Violation of Constitutional Rights

    • If it’s proven that the defendant’s rights were violated during the arrest or investigation, this could lead to dismissal of charges.

Mistaken Identity

    • Arguing that the defendant was wrongly identified as the perpetrator of the assault.

No Intent to Harm

    • Demonstrating that any injury caused was accidental or lacked the intention to harm can be a strong defense.

Victim’s Reluctance to Press Charges

    •  While not a direct influence, if a victim is unwilling to pursue charges, this might impact the prosecution’s decision to proceed.

Negotiation and Plea Bargaining

    • Sometimes, a reduction in charges can be negotiated, especially in cases where a complete exoneration seems unlikely but there is room for reducing the legal consequences.

These strategies require an understanding of the legal system and are most effectively employed by experienced legal professionals. Each case is unique, and the applicability of these strategies will depend on the specific circumstances of the case.

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

assault penalties in arizona

What Are the Penalties for Either Charge?

In Arizona, the penalties for assault, whether simple or aggravated, vary significantly based on the severity of the offense and the specific circumstances involved in each case.

Simple Assault Penalties (ARS 13-1203)

Simple assault in Arizona, as outlined in ARS 13-1203, is typically classified as a misdemeanor. The penalties for simple assault depend on how the assault is categorized:

  1. Class 1 Misdemeanor Assault: This is the most serious form of misdemeanor assault and involves intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causing physical injury to another person. Penalties can include up to six months in jail, a fine of up to $2,500, and up to three years of probation​​.
  2. Class 2 Misdemeanor Assault: This classification involves intentionally placing another person in reasonable apprehension of imminent physical injury. The penalties can include up to four months in jail, a fine of up to $750, and up to two years of probation​​.
  3. Class 3 Misdemeanor Assault: This is the least severe classification and involves knowingly touching another person with the intent to injure, insult, or provoke. Penalties can include up to 30 days in jail, a fine of up to $500, and up to one year of probation

Aggravated Assault Penalties (ARS 13-1204)

Aggravated assault in Arizona, as defined under ARS 13-1204, is typically classified as a felony. The classification of the felony depends on various factors such as the severity of the offense, the use of weapons, and the victim’s identity. The felony classes for aggravated assault in Arizona generally range from Class 2 to Class 6, with Class 2 being the most serious and Class 6 being the least severe among felony charges.

  1. Class 2 Felony: This is often the charge in cases involving serious physical injury or the use of a deadly weapon. The penalties can include a lengthy prison sentence, potentially several years long.
  2. Class 3 Felony: This classification may apply in cases of assault causing less serious physical injury or involving other aggravating factors.
  3. Class 4, 5, and 6 Felonies: These are generally for less severe cases of aggravated assault and may involve factors like less serious injuries, assaults without weapons, or assaults against certain protected individuals.

The specific penalties for each class of felony can vary widely, but they typically include prison time, fines, and potentially long probation periods. The exact penalty in a given case will depend on the details of the offense, the defendant’s criminal history, and other relevant factors.

How a Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help

Divorce Attorneys in Phoenix AZ

A criminal defense attorney plays an important role in assault cases, offering expert legal guidance, evaluating the case, and developing effective defense strategies. They possess the skills to negotiate with prosecutors, which can lead to reduced charges or even dismissal in some instances.

In the courtroom, they represent their client’s interests, presenting evidence and arguments to support their defense. Beyond legal representation, these attorneys ensure the protection of their client’s rights throughout the legal process and provide emotional support and practical advice. Their investigative work is key in gathering evidence and may involve using expert witnesses to strengthen the defense. 

For legal assistance in assault cases,  reach out to Law Offices of Daniel Hutto for a free consultation. They can be contacted at 602) 536-7878 for more information.

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