Arkansas divides assault into aggravated assault (the most serious), assault in the first degree, assault in the second degree, and assault in the third degree, depending on the accused’s intent, whether the accused used a firearm, and the seriousness of the risks created. Aggravated assault is a felony, while first, second and third degree assault are misdemeanors.
A person commits aggravated assault, classified as a Class D felony, if the person, under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life, purposely does any of the following:
- engages in conduct that creates a substantial danger of death or serious physical injury to another person
- displays a firearm in a way that creates a substantial danger of death or serious physical injury to another person, or
- impedes or prevents another person's breathing or blood circulation by applying pressure on the throat or neck, or by blocking the nose or mouth.
(Ark. Code Ann. § 5-13-204)
How Does A Person Act “Purposely?”
People act purposely when they consciously intend to engage in what they're doing or to cause a result. For example, if a defendant aims a gun at another person and threatens to shoot the other person, the defendant has purposefully displayed the firearm.
(Ark. Code Ann. § 5-2-202(1))
What Does the Term “Firearm” Include, and What if it is Not Loaded?
Firearm means any device designed, made, or adapted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive; or any device readily convertible to that use. Moreover, the definition includes these devices even if they are unloaded or missing a component, such as an ammunition clip.
(Ark. Code Ann. § 5-1-102(6)(A) & (B))
What Constitutes “Serious Physical Injury”?
Serious physical injury means either:
- physical injury that creates a substantial risk of death, or
- physical injury that causes protracted disfigurement, protracted impairment of health, or loss or protracted impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.
(Ark. Code Ann. § 5-1-102(21))
A judge or jury must often examine the specific facts of a case and determine whether an alleged victim has suffered serious physical injury or whether an accused has acted purposefully. For example, in one case a jury determined that a police officer suffered serious physical injury after the accused threw a rock that hit the officer, causing a bruised shoulder and a damaged nerve. In another case, spitting on a victim constituted purposeful behavior.
Penalties for Aggravated Assault
Someone convicted of aggravated assault can be subjected to any or all of the following penalties:
- Incarceration. Imprisonment is permitted for not more than six years. However, if the offense is committed in the presence of a child under sixteen years of age, the defendant may be subject to an enhanced term of imprisonment of not less than one year and not greater than ten years. Also, if the defendant used a firearm, the judge has discretion to add up to fifteen additional years to the sentence. The enhanced portion of the sentence is added to any other sentence, and the defendant is not eligible for early release on parole for the enhanced portion of the sentence. Finally, if a defendant is convicted of a second felony offense involving the use of a firearm, the defendant is subject to incarceration for a minimum term of ten years without the eligibility for parole.
- Fines. The court can impose a fine up to $10,000. If the defendant has derived a pecuniary gain from committing the offense, the fine may be increased to an amount not exceeding twice the amount of the pecuniary gain.
- 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 for necessary medical and related expenses and for lost income up to $50,000. If a victim dies, the Court can order the defendant to pay for necessary funeral and related services.
For more information on felony sentencing in Arkansas, see Arkansas Felony Crimes by Class and Sentences.
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 and 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 also 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. Finally, if you decide to go to trial, having a good lawyer to assist you will be essential.