Arizona differentiates between misdemeanor assaults and aggravated assaults—the latter are more serious. Arizona law defines aggravated assault in multiple ways, described below.
To learn about misdemeanor assaults, see Misdemeanor Assault in Arizona.
Actions Elevating Misdemeanor Assault to Aggravated Assault
A person commits aggravated assault by committing misdemeanor assault plus one of the following:
- causing serious physical injury to another person
- using a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument in the commission of the offense
- committing the assault by any means of force that causes temporary but substantial disfigurement, temporary but substantial loss or impairment of any body part or organ, or a fracture of any body part
- committing an assault while the victim is bound or restrained, or while the victim’s capacity to resist is substantially impaired
- committing an assault after entering the private home of another person with the intent to commit the assault
- committing an assault on a person under 15 years of age by a person 18 years of age or older
- intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causing any physical injury to another person while violating an order of protection
- knowingly touching another person with the intent to injure, insult or provoke such person, while violating an order of protection
- taking, or attempting to exercise control over, certain officers’ firearms, weapons or implements, provided the defendant knows, or has reason to know, that the person is an officer, and provided that the officer is engaged in official duties
- committing an assault against an employee of the state department of corrections, the department of juvenile corrections, a law enforcement agency, or a county or city jail or detention facility (or any other agency or contractor that has responsibility for sentenced or unsentenced prisoners) while imprisoned or subject to their custody, provided the defendant knows, or has reason to know that the victim is acting in an official capacity as an employee
- committing an assault while knowing, or having reason to know, that the victim is any of the following:
- a peace officer, or a person summoned and directed by the officer, while engaged in the execution of official duties
- a constable, or a person summoned and directed by the constable, while engaged in the execution of official duties
- a firefighter, fire investigator, fire inspector, emergency medical technician or paramedic engaged in the execution of any official duties, or a person summoned and directed by such individual while engaged in the execution of any official duties
- a teacher or other person employed by any school and the teacher or other employee is on the grounds of a school or grounds adjacent to the school or is in any part of a building or vehicle used for school purposes, any teacher or school nurse visiting a private home in the course of the teacher's or nurse's professional duties or any teacher engaged in any authorized and organized classroom activity held on other than school grounds
- a certified or licensed health care practitioner or a person summoned and directed by the licensed health care practitioner while engaged in the person's professional duties. This subdivision does not apply if the person who commits the assault is seriously mentally ill under Arizona law, or is afflicted with Alzheimer's disease or related dementia
- a prosecutor or public defender
- a code enforcement officer as defined by Arizona law, or
- a state or municipal park ranger.
(Az. St. § 13-1204)
What Constitutes “Physical Injury” and “Serious Physical Injury?”
Physical injury means the impairment of physical condition. Serious physical injury includes 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.
Serious physical injury requires more than a temporary impairment, even if it is substantial. For example, the fracture of a body part that heals normally may not constitute serious physical injury.
What Is a “Deadly Weapon?”
A deadly weapon is anything designed for lethal use, including a firearm, even if it’s unloaded. The definition does not include a firearm that is permanently inoperable.
To learn more about this topic, see Assault with a Deadly Weapon in Arizona.
What Constitutes a “Dangerous Instrument?”
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. Often times, if an object is not inherently dangerous (unlike a gun or knife), a judge or jury must decide if the defendant used the object in a way that made it a dangerous instrument. For example, in one case the court determined that a defendant’s tennis shoe could be considered a dangerous instrument only if the prosecutor proved that the shoe caused greater or different injuries than would have been caused by a bare foot, or that the shoe had been wielded as a weapon.
Aggravated Assault Arising From Taking Items From Officers
A person commits aggravated assault against an officer who is engaged in his official duties, when the assailant knows or has reason to know that the victim is an officer, by knowingly taking, or attempting to exercise control over, any of the following:
- an officer’s firearm
- any weapon other than a firearm that an officer is using or attempting to use, or
- any implement that an officer is using or attempting to use. An implement is an object that is designed for or capable of restraining or injuring an individual, such as a taser. However, handcuffs are not an implement.
(Az. St. § 13-1204)
Aggravated Assault Committed by Prisoners
A person imprisoned by, or in the custody of one of the entities listed below, also commits aggravated assault by committing an assault upon a victim that the defendant knows, or has reason to know, is acting in an official capacity as an employee of any of the following:
- the State Department of Corrections
- the Department of Juvenile Corrections
- a law enforcement agency
- a county or city jail
- an adult or juvenile detention facility of a city or county, or
- any entity that is contracting with the State Department of Corrections, the Department of Juvenile Corrections, a law enforcement agency, another state, any private correctional facility, a county, a city, or the Federal Bureau of Prisons or other federal agency that has responsibility for sentenced or unsentenced prisoners.
(Az. St. § 13-1204)
Domestic Violence and Aggravated Assault
A person also commits aggravated assault if the person commits assault by either intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causing any physical injury to another person; intentionally placing another person in reasonable apprehension of imminent physical injury; or knowingly touching another person with the intent to injure the person. For a conviction, both of the following must occur:
- The person intentionally or knowingly impedes the normal breathing or circulation of blood of another person by applying pressure to the throat or neck or by obstructing the nose and mouth, either manually or through the use of an instrument, and
- The act constitutes domestic violence under Arizona law.
(Az. St. § 13-1204)
For more information about domestic violence in Arizona, see Domestic Violence Laws in Arizona.
Penalties for Aggravated Assault
Arizona classifies its various forms of aggravated assault as either class 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6 felonies. Each class of felony is subject to a different sentencing range. The penalty ranges increase for dangerous offenses and for repeat offenders. Someone convicted of aggravated assault can be subjected to any or all of the following penalties:
- Incarceration. Depending on the facts of a case, the term of imprisonment can vary tremendously. The law contains presumptive ranges, subject to adjustment for many different factors.
- Fines. The court can impose a fine up to $150,000.
- Probation. A person on probation regularly meets with a probation officer and fulfills other terms and conditions, such as maintaining employment and attending counseling.
- Community service. Courts often include as a part of probation the requirement that the defendant work for a specified number of hours with court-approved organizations, such as charities.
- Restitution. The court can order the defendant to repay the victim injured by the offense, and can order the defendant to repay an organization that provides counseling, medical, or shelter services to the victim or other person injured by the offense.
See a Lawyer
If you are facing a charge of aggravated assault, consider consulting with an experienced criminal defense attorney who regularly practices in your area. A lawyer understands complicated legal definitions. Additionally, numerous defenses apply to charges of aggravated assault. A lawyer can evaluate the strength of the prosecution’s case against you and help develop any defenses that might apply to your case.
A lawyer’s skillful negotiation with the prosecutor can sometimes result in a reduction of charges or a reduction in penalties, such as less prison time, no prison time, probation, and lower fines. A local criminal defense attorney, who knows how the prosecutors and judges involved in your case typically handle such cases, can assist with these negotiations. Additionally, attorneys understand Arizona’s complicated sentencing laws. Finally, if you decide to go to trial, having a good lawyer on your side will be essential.