All kinds of things can happen in the heat of the moment. When emotions run high, tempers are flaring, and someone may do something they regret and find themselves saddled with a serious charge such as assault with a deadly weapon in the aftermath of it all.
You could be the person who ends up charged with that serious offense. Do not lose heart because you get charged, though. There are ways to prove your innocence and fight those charges.
In this article, we will go deeper into the topic of assault as it is defined by Arizona law. We will also highlight the potential defenses you and your lawyer can use as the case heads to trial.
Stay tuned and see how you can effectively combat the charges against you.
What Is Assault in the State of Arizona?
You probably have a general understanding of what constitutes the crime of assault already. Even so, it is worth taking the time to define it clearly. Doing that could help when it comes time for you to put forth your defense.
According to the state of Arizona, a person commits assault when specific conditions are met.
Assault by Intentionally, Knowingly, and Recklessly Injuring Someone
First off, the accused’s mindset must be accounted for when determining their guilt or innocence. The prosecutor must show that the defendant in the case knowingly harmed another person. The presence of that knowledge is crucial and could be a potential swing factor in the case.
On top of the defendant knowingly harming another person, the prosecution must also prove that there was clear intent behind what happened. The lack of intent could weaken the prosecution’s case significantly.
If the incident in question is an accident, then suddenly, it becomes difficult to describe it as an intentional act committed by the defendant. However, if the defendant was acting recklessly when they injured the other party, they can be charged with assault.
Assault by Threatening Someone
A person can also be found guilty of committing assault if they put another person in a position where they will be physically injured. Basically, if you are threatening someone and they have fair reason to believe you will hurt them, they can charge you with assault.
Assault by Insulting or Provoking Someone
The crime of assault is not limited to only physically hurting or threatening someone. If you touched another person with the intent of either insulting or provoking them, that can be considered a form of assault.
The Penalties for Committing Assault in Arizona
The types of assault described above are considered misdemeanor offenses in Arizona. The nature of the assault committed will determine what penalties will be assessed to the defendant.
If you injured someone, authorities could charge you with a class 1 misdemeanor. That charge carries a maximum six-month jail sentence, probation, community service, and fines.
Threatening another person is considered a class 2 misdemeanor. The penalties for class 1 and class 2 misdemeanors remain mostly similar, with the jail sentence maxing out at four months and lower fines being the most notable differences.
Lastly, assault stemming from insulting or provoking someone is a class 3 misdemeanor. Class 3 misdemeanors have a maximum jail sentence of thirty days, lower fines, as well as probation, and community service.
Defining Assault with a Deadly Weapon in Arizona
There are many forms of aggravated assault in the state of Arizona.
Aggravated assault takes place whenever one person seriously injures another. Injuring someone after entering their home is another example of aggravated assault. Officials may also charge you with aggravated assault if you are over eighteen years of age and the person you harmed is under fifteen years of age.
You also have cases involving the usage of a deadly weapon. The definition is broader than that as actions committed with a “deadly weapon” or a “dangerous instrument” can be considered examples of aggravated assault.
Actions such as intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly injuring someone, threatening someone, or insulting or provoking someone, become aggravated forms of assault once those are involved.
The Penalties for Assault with a Deadly Weapon in Arizona
The penalties you could potentially face if you are guilty of committing assault with a deadly weapon in Arizona can change depending on who was the victim in your case.
In cases where both parties are over eighteen years of age, assault with a deadly weapon is considered a class 3 felony. Class 3 felonies carry substantial fines and prison time for guilty parties.
The minimum sentence for a class 3 felony is two and a half years in prison, while the presumptive sentence sits at three and a half years. If you are handed the maximum sentence, you could be looking at spending the next seven years in prison.
It is also worth noting that your prison sentence could end up even longer if they find aggravating factors in your case. Those aggravating factors can cause the maximum prison sentence to end up at eight years and nine months.
Assault with a deadly weapon can be upgraded to a class 2 felony if the victim in your case is a prosecutor, a peace officer, or someone under fifteen years of age. As you have probably guessed, the penalties are even harsher for class 2 felonies.
You are looking at a minimum of four years in prison if you are guilty of a class 2 felony. The presumptive prison sentence also jumps up to five years, while the maximum sentence is ten years.
Aggravating factors can again increase the maximum prison sentence for a class 2 felony. The maximum prison sentence for that becomes twelve and a half years.
Possible Defenses against Assault with a Deadly Weapon Charges
We now know that an aggravated assault conviction can land you in prison for a long time. Fighting against false or erroneous charges is always a must, but that becomes even more important when you can potentially lose more than a decade of your life.
You must work with only the best lawyers to put together a solid defense against those charges. Detailed below are some of the more common defenses used by those accused of committing assault with a deadly weapon.
You Were Acting under Duress
The concept of being under duress can work as an effective defense against assault charges. Arizona law describes the state of being under duress as one where another party has either threatened or already used physical force against you.
In that situation, you would be justified for thinking that you were in immediate danger. You can justify your instinct to respond with force in that situation can also.
You should also know that the under-duress defense works even if you were not necessarily protecting yourself. It can still be a defense if you were defending another person who was either being threatened or harmed.
Still, there are limits to the under-duress defense.
For instance, this defense will no longer apply if it is determined that you intentionally and knowingly put yourself in a position where you were likely to be put under duress. Your actions should also be proportionate to the type of threat you were facing. If you seriously injured or even killed the other party, this defense will no longer stand.
Your Use of Force Was Justified
There are situations where the use of physical force is no longer considered excessive. Instead, the law may regard your use of force to be justified.
A situation such as that may come up if you are working security at an event. The crowd may become unruly, and you may have reason to believe that things could get out of hand if you do not do something soon. In that situation, you could justify your use of physical force.
Arizona also gives citizens permission to use physical force if they believe that another party is about to commit suicide. You can use physical force to stop that individual in question from going through with their suicide attempt.
You Are a Victim of Domestic Violence
Domestic violence has long been a persistent plague upon society. It destroys relationships, families, and lives.
Anyone who has been the victim of domestic violence has likely experienced an unimaginable amount of trauma. Victims of domestic violence may eventually reach a breaking point. Upon reaching that point, they may use force against their abuser.
In cases where there is a history of domestic violence, the victim assaulting their abuser can be justified.
You Were Protecting Your Property
The use of physical force can also be justified if it is determined that you were acting to protect your property.
For instance, you may have spotted someone trying to break into your car. After seeing the assailant, you decide to act by physically restraining or perhaps hitting them. You can justify your actions in defense of your vehicle.
Store owners can also cite this defense if they spot burglars near their property. The use of the weapon can easily be justified, especially if you spotted multiple assailants.
Using a deadly weapon can also be justified if someone breaks into your home. Pointing a gun at the would-be burglar is not considered assault because they were unlawfully on your property with the intent of committing a crime.
You Were Stopping a Criminal
Police officers are the ones tasked with keeping communities safe. However, they cannot always be everywhere.
There could be a time when you witness a potential criminal act in progress. Do not let your fear of prosecution deter you from acting.
Private citizens can use physical force if necessary if they believe that someone is committing a crime. If you see someone trying to kidnap a child, sexually assault someone, or harm another person in any other way, you can use force to stop them.
You can also use physical force if you suspect that someone is about to set a home or building on fire.
You Were Not Using a Dangerous Instrument
Different items can be deadly weapons. Those items include firearms, bladed weapons, and blunt weapons. It is tough to make the case that you are not guilty of committing aggravated assault if it is proven that you used a weapon on another person.
Now, there is a grayer area if you are accused of wielding a dangerous instrument.
By definition, a dangerous instrument is any item that can cause serious physical injury or death under certain circumstances. That is vague, and it leaves a lot open to interpretation.
Many household items can pose serious injury to another person if used a certain way. It is possible that one of them can be a dangerous instrument.
You should argue then that the item in question was not a dangerous instrument while you were using it. Make the case that you were simply defending yourself and had no intention of inflicting any serious harm using the item.
Other Defenses That Can Be Used in Assault Cases
In addition to the potential defenses detailed above, you and your lawyer can also highlight other factors that could nullify the charges against you.
If you believe that your rights were violated during the investigation, you can point to that as a reason why the case should not proceed. You can also use a lack of solid evidence as a potential defense.
Negotiating with the Other Party
This is not necessarily a defense, but it is one way to avoid a possible aggravated assault charge. While negotiating with the other party, they may present you with a plea agreement.
In exchange for you admitting guilt in the case, they may agree to reduce the charge from a felony to a misdemeanor.
Consider your options carefully before deciding if accepting a plea agreement is the right move in your case. Consulting with an experienced lawyer is a must in that scenario.
Start working on your defense against an assault with a deadly weapon charge by partnering with us at the Schill Law Group. Contact us today, let us know about your case, and allow us to provide the legal assistance you need.