ARS § 13-1204 is the Arizona statute that defines the crime of aggravated assault. You commit this offense if you assault another person and do so by means of certain aggravating factors (such as assault with a deadly weapon or assaulting someone and causing serious physical injury). The offense is generally charged as a Class 2 felony punishable by a state prison term of up to five years.
- assaulting someone by means of force that causes substantial disfigurement to the alleged victim.
- assaulting a police officer.
- assaulting a teacher or school employee.
Persons facing aggravated assault charges can challenge them with a legal defense. A few common defenses include the accused showing that:
- he/she acted in self-defense,
- there was no serious injury or deadly weapon, and/or
- the “victim” was not one specified in this statute.
While a Class 2 felony is punishable by prison time of up to five years, a Class 6 felony is punishable by a prison sentence of up to one year.
In this article, our attorneys will discuss what the law is under this statute, defenses if charged, the penalties for a conviction, and related crimes.
1. How does Arizona law define “aggravated assault”?
A defendant is guilty of aggravated assault under this statute when:
- he/she commits an assault on someone, and
- the assault is committed by means of certain aggravating factors.
The most common factors include when the assault is committed and:
- it results in serious physical injury to another,[i]
- the accused uses a deadly weapon or a dangerous instrument,[ii]
- the accused uses force that results in substantial disfigurement to the victim or the substantial loss or impairment of a body part,[iii]
- it is committed after entering a person’s private home, and
- it is committed against a person under 15 years of age.[iv]
Aggravated assault cases also take place when the assault is committed against a:
- peace officer or law enforcement official,[v]
- teacher or school employee,
- prosecutor or public defender while engaged in the execution of any official duties,[vi]
- health care provider or a health care practitioner, and
- park ranger.[vii]
2. What are the best defenses to ARS 13-1204?
Criminal defense lawyers draw upon several legal strategies to challenge criminal charges under this statute. Some of these include the attorney showing that:
- the accused acted in self-defense.
- there was no serious injury or deadly weapon.
- the victim was not covered within the statute.
An accused can always try to avoid guilt by showing that he/she acted in self-defense. This is a valid defense provided that:
- the defendant reasonably believed that he/she was in imminent danger of physical harm, and
- the force used was necessary to stop the danger.
2.2 No Serious injury or deadly weapon
Two common aggravated assault cases involve:
- the infliction of serious injury, and
- the use of a deadly weapon.
An accused can challenge felony charges in these cases by showing that neither one took place.
2.3 Victim not in the statute
Aggravated assault charges are brought when a victim is specifically listed within the language of ARS 13-1204 (for example, a park ranger). Therefore, an accused can challenge a charge by showing that the victim was not specified within the statute.
3. What are the penalties?
Arizona law treats aggravated assault as a dangerous felony. The specific penalties will depend on the facts of the case.
The most severe forms of aggravated assault will result in a Class 2 felony charge. Minus aggravating factors, Class 2 felonies are punishable by up to five years in state prison.
The least severe forms of this crime will result in a Class 6 felony charge. Minus aggravating factors, the maximum sentence for a Class 6 felony is custody in state prison for one year.
4. Are there related crimes?
There are three crimes in Arizona related to aggravated assault. These are:
4.1 Assault – ARS 13-1203
ARS 13-1203 is the Arizona statute that says a person commits the crime of assault if he/she either:
- physically injures another person,
- places a person in reasonable fear of physical injury, or
- touches a person with the intent to injure him/her.[viii]
Unlike with aggravated assault under ARS 13-204, a person is guilty under this statute even in the absence of any aggravating circumstances.
Assault under this statute is sometimes referred to as “misdemeanor assault,” or “simple assault.”
4.2 Sexual assault -ARS 13-1406
ARS 13-1406 is the Arizona statute making it a crime for a person to:
- intentionally engage in sexual intercourse or oral sexual contact with a person, and
- do so without that person’s consent.[ix]
Unlike with assault or aggravated assault, a person has to commit a sexual act to be guilty under this statute.
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.[x]
Arizona law treats threatening or intimidating as a less serious crime than aggravated assault and some cases can result in misdemeanor charges.
[vii] See ARS 13-1204.
[viii] ARS 13-1203
[ix] ARS 13-1406.
[x] ARS 13-1202.