Under Arizona law, an assault can be a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the seriousness of the offense. Felony assaults are called aggravated assaults in Arizona. Misdemeanor assaults are considered less serious than aggravated assaults, but some misdemeanors are more serious than others.
In Arizona, misdemeanor assault can be either a class 1, class 2, or class 3 misdemeanor, with class 1 being the most serious.
A person commits a class 1 misdemeanor assault by intentionally or knowingly causing physical injury to another person.
(Ariz. Rev. Stat. §§ 13-105, 13-1203 (2023).)
Physical injury is any "impairment" of someone's physical condition, even if temporary. Arizona courts have interpreted this definition to mean "any injury to another." Physical injury can include a bruise or even just a painful red mark resulting from hitting or kicking someone, for example.
(State v. George, 206 Ariz. 436 (2003).)
Intentionally causing a physical injury is just how it sounds—basically, the person intends to physically injure the other person.
But "knowingly" causing injury is a bit different, and doesn't require an intent that the victim be hurt. People do something "knowingly" when they deliberately do anything described as criminal by the assault statute. So, striking a person and causing physical harm (which is prohibited by the assault statute) is a crime because it's prohibited by the assault statute: So long as the person deliberately committed the physical act that caused the injury, they're considered to have acted knowingly, even if they didn't intend the resulting injury.
Importantly, a person can act knowingly without being aware that their actions are unlawful. This means that ignorance of the law is not a defense. For example, pushing someone can be a criminal assault even if the person didn't know it was a crime to push someone.
A person commits a class 2 misdemeanor assault in either of two ways:
People who act recklessly are aware of and consciously disregard a substantial and unjustifiable risk created by their actions. The behavior must constitute a gross (extreme) deviation from what a reasonable person would do. For example, throwing a beer bottle in a crowded bar might constitute reckless behavior, even if the person didn't intend that anyone would be hit with the bottle.
It's possible to commit an assault without actually touching the victim. For example, intentionally drawing one's fist back and threatening to punch someone can be an assault, if it makes the person fear being punched. Importantly, the prosecution must prove that the defendant's actions would create fear in a reasonable person in the victim's position. If the victim was afraid in circumstances where the average person wouldn't be, there wouldn't be an assault.
A person commits a class 3 misdemeanor assault by knowingly touching another person with the intent to injure, insult, or provoke the person. For example, shoving a person to start a fight would constitute touching intended to provoke the other person.
While touching certainly includes direct physical contact, touching can also include using objects to make contact with someone. So, pushing someone with a cane or stick, or throwing objects at someone can be an assault. And in one case a court determined that pouring urine on another person constituted touching. In another case, pouring a substance into another person's drink, which the other person then consumed, also constituted touching.
Someone convicted of misdemeanor assault can face any or all of the following penalties:
(Ariz. Rev. Stat. §§ 13-707, 13-802, 13-804.01 (2023).)
A person commits aggravated assault by committing misdemeanor assault plus one of the following:
Even if the victim is off-duty, the assault is aggravated if it's in response to the victim's on-duty actions. For example, waiting until a police officer is off-duty to punch him or her, in retaliation for a speeding ticket, would still be considered aggravated assault.
(Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 13-105, 13-1204 (2023).)
The definition of serious physical injury includes any physical injury that creates a reasonable risk of death, or 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 the injury is substantial. For example, a push that causes someone to fall and suffer a sprain probably wouldn't qualify as serious bodily injury if the sprain healed normally.
As noted above, assault with a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument is an aggravated assault in Arizona. A deadly weapon is anything designed for lethal use, including a firearm, even if it's unloaded. But the definition doesn't include a firearm that is permanently inoperable.
A dangerous instrument is anything that is used (or attempted or threatened to be used) in a way that makes it capable of causing death or serious physical injury. Oftentimes, if an object isn't 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 barefoot, or that the shoe had been wielded as a weapon.
Domestic violence assaults involving strangulation and suffocation are aggravated if the perpetrator
For more information about domestic violence in Arizona, see Arizona Domestic Violence Laws.
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:
(Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 13-701 (2023).)
If you're charged with assault or any other crime, you should contact an Arizona criminal defense attorney. An experienced attorney should be able to tell you how your case is likely to fare in court based on the facts of your case, and can help you mount the strongest possible defense. They should also have a good idea of whether dismissal, diversion, probation, or a plea deal is possible.