ARS § 13-1203 is the Arizona statute that defines the crime of assault. You commit this offense if you
- intentionally or recklessly cause physical injury to someone,
- intentionally place another person in fear of physical injury, or
- knowingly touch someone with the intent to injure or provoke them.
An assault conviction is a misdemeanor that is punishable by up to six months in jail.
The language of ARS 13-1203 states that: “A person commits assault by:
- Intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causing any physical injury to another person; or
- Intentionally placing another person in reasonable apprehension of imminent physical injury; or
- Knowingly touching another person with the intent to injure, insult or provoke such person.”
- angrily throwing a beer bottle at another person at a bar.
- throwing rocks at a neighbor while she is gardening.
- poking someone on the chest while threatening to punch him.
Criminal defense lawyers draw upon several legal strategies to contest assault charges. Some of these include showing that the defendant:
- did not act with criminal intent,
- did not cause physical injury or fear of injury, and/or
- acted in self-defense.
A violation of ARS 13-1203 is a misdemeanor offense (as opposed to a felony) punishable by up to six months in jail time.
Depending on the facts of the case, this misdemeanor can be a:
In this article, our criminal defense attorneys will discuss what the law is under this statute, defenses available if charged, the penalties for a conviction, and related crimes.
1. How does Arizona law define “assault”?
People in Arizona are guilty of assault if they:
- intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly cause a physical injury or physical condition to someone else,
- intentionally put someone else in reasonable apprehension of physical injury, or
- knowingly touch someone with the intent to injure, insult, or provoke them.[i]
Assault is sometimes referred to as “simple assault,” or “misdemeanor assault.”
Under this statute, defendants act “recklessly” when they are aware of, but consciously disregard, a substantial risk that an act will cause some harm. The risk must be of such a nature that the disregard of it constitutes a gross deviation from the conduct of a reasonable person.[ii]
“Intentionally” means that a defendant intended the act which he/she performed.[iii]
Further, the determination of whether or not an accused puts another person in “reasonable apprehension of physical injury” is based upon all the facts of a case.[iv]
2. What are the best defenses to ARS 13-1203?
Defendants have the right to challenge assault charges with a legal defense. A successful defense will cast reasonable doubt on any charges filed.
Some common defenses to ARS 13-1203 allegations are that the accused:
- did not act with a criminal intent.
- did not cause an injury or fear of an injury.
- acted in self-defense.
2.1 No criminal intent
People are only guilty under this statute if they act with some specified intent, like “intentionally,” “knowingly,” or “recklessly.” An accused, then, can contest a charge by showing that he/she did not act with any of these purposes.
2.2 No injury/fear of injury
Most assault cases result in injury or a fear of injury to the alleged victim. This means that it is always a defense for a defendant to show that he/she did not cause these results.
Defendants can assert that they assaulted a person because they were acting in self-defense. The defense is appropriate so long as:
- the accused reasonably believed that he/she was in imminent danger of physical harm, and
- force was necessary to stop the danger.
3. What are the penalties for assault?
Assault committed intentionally or knowingly, and with physical injury to another, is a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail.[v]
Assault committed recklessly with an injury to someone or assault that puts another person in fear is a Class 2 misdemeanor, punishable by up to four months in jail.[vi]
Assault committed by touching another person is a Class 3 misdemeanor, punishable by up to one month in jail.[vii]
Note that a judge can suspend a jail sentence and impose probation instead. A few common probation conditions include:
- community service, and
- anger management courses.
4. Are there related offenses?
There are three crimes related to assault. These are:
- aggravated assault – ARS 13-1204,
- domestic violence – ARS 13-3601, and
- threatening or intimidating – ARS 13-1202.
4.1 Aggravated assault – ARS 13-1204
ARS 13-1204 is the Arizona statute that says a person commits the crime of aggravated assault if he/she assaults another and does so by means of certain aggravating factors.
Some of these factors include:
- the accused used a deadly weapon,
- the assault resulted in the “victim” suffering some type of disfigurement,
- the assault occurred in the “victim’s” private home, and
- the assault was committed against a firefighter or a police officer.[viii]
Unlike charges under ARS 13-1203, aggravated assault charges must include one of these aggravating factors in order to hold a defendant guilty of the crime.
4.2 Domestic violence – ARS 13-3601
ARS 13-3601 is the Arizona statute on the crime of domestic violence. According to this statute, a person commits domestic violence if:
- he/she commits one of the crimes specifically mentioned in the statute, and
- the defendant is in a certain relationship with the “victim” (for example, married to the victim or in a romantic or sexual relationship with the victim).
Assault is one of the crimes specifically mentioned in this statute. If a defendant commits it against someone that he is in a certain relationship with, such person can be charged with both:
- assault, and
- domestic violence.
4.3 Threatening or intimidating – ARS 13-1202
Per ARS 13-1202, someone commits this crime if he threatens someone (with words or conduct) and either:
- physically injures that person,
- causes a public inconvenience, or
- causes another person to participate in a criminal street gang, a criminal syndicate, or a racketeering enterprise.[ix]
Unlike assault, threatening and intimidating could lead to a felony charge.
[v] A.R.S. 13-1203B.
[vi] See same.
[vii] See same.
[viii] ARS 13-1204.
[ix] ARS 13-1202.