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Simple assault may sound like a relatively minor criminal charge to face, but it can be anything but inconsequential. In Arizona, simple assault is a serious violent crime that can result in hefty fines and serious jail time. If you have been charged with simple assault, you should hire an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible, even if you did nothing wrong. Working with knowledgeable attorneys from the beginning can go a long way towards reducing, or possibly even eliminating, a jail sentence.

Definition of Simple Assault

Arizona’s criminal law provides three definitions for simple assault. Specifically, assault occurs when a person:

  1. Intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causing any physical injury to another person;
  2. Intentionally placing another person in reasonable apprehension of imminent physical injury; or
  3. Knowingly touching another person with the intent to injure, insult or provoke such person.

These definitions differ from other states, which may separate assault and battery into two different charges. Under those jurisdictions, assault is committed if a person places someone in imminent apprehension of physical contact, while battery is the actual contact. Waving a fist in someone’s face could result in assault charges, while punching a person could result in battery charges.

Arizona, however, has both crimes written into the same statute, but penalizes the separate crimes with different misdemeanor charges.

Aggravated Assault

Aggravated assault happens when a person commits assault when a number of circumstances are present, including:

  • Serious bodily injury
  • The person uses a deadly weapon or dangerous instruments, such as a baseball bat, knife, or gun
  • The use of force involved in the assault caused temporary or permanent disfigurement or organ damage, such as a broken bone, a concussion, or scarring
  • The assault was committed against a law enforcement officer, firefighter, teacher, health care practitioner, public defender, prosecutor, or a minor under 15 years old.

Simple Assault Example

James and Kevin are neighbors who have a dispute regarding raking up leaves. One day, Kevin marches into James’ backyard and their dispute escalates to the point of James punching Kevin. James can be charged with simple assault.

If Kevin’s brother Lenny decides to take revenge by waving a baseball bat in James’ face, and then hits James in the knees, Lenny can be charged with aggravated assault. Lenny put James in reasonable apprehension of physical harm by threatening him with the bat. He also committed aggravated assault, because baseball bats are considered deadly instruments.

An important element of assault charges is the intention, or mens rea, behind the action. If there is no intention behind the action, then someone cannot be held responsible for committing the act. For example, if Nancy sneezes – an uncontrollable action – and during the course of her sneeze, she hits Oscar, she cannot be charged with assault because there was no mens rea.

Actions committed while sleepwalking or while having a seizure can also be considered involuntary, meaning that the person committing the action did not have the intention to commit any actions while in that state. That being said, certain actions may be considered reckless if you know that there is a possibility that you may fall asleep, have a seizure or commit another involuntary action and put yourself in a position where you may cause harm to another. An example of this is getting behind the wheel of a car while on medication that makes you fall asleep easily.

Aggravated Assault Example

Assault charges can be tacked on to other crimes, such as driving under the influence (DUI). If Bob enjoys too many beers while watching the game and decides to drive home while intoxicated his actions will be considered reckless at best because it is assumed that Bob intended to become inebriated.

If Bob gets in a car accident with Cindy, who gets whiplash and breaks her nose, he has caused bodily harm to her, which falls into the first category of assault.

Bob’s car is considered a deadly weapon. This raises the potential charges to aggravated assault, which can be added to any DUI charges the state decides to bring against Bob.

Aggravated assault charges are also frequently found in domestic violence, burglary, kidnapping, and murder cases.

Potential Penalties If You Are Convicted of Simple Assault

The potential criminal charges for simple assault can vary widely from a class 3 misdemeanor to a class 1 misdemeanor, with penalties ranging from 30 to 60 days in jail and fines up to $2,500.

However, if there are aggravating circumstances, the charge you face may increase to a felony, and the potential penalties you will face if you are convicted of an aggravated assault will increase dramatically. You may face jail time for up to 15 years.

In addition, having an assault charge on your criminal record can negatively affect your ability to find a job. If a potential employer does a background check, an assault conviction will appear, making it less likely that you will be offered the position.

If you are convicted of a felony charge, you may lose rights such as the right to bear a firearm, or the right to vote. You may also lose any professional licenses, such as a medical or law license.

Defending Against Simple Assault Charges

If you are charged with assault, there are a number of defenses you can raise, such as mistaken identity and self-defense.

Often, the majority of evidence in assault cases comes from eyewitness testimony. Witnesses are notoriously unreliable when it comes to providing crucial details that police rely upon when investigating crimes. Because of this, it is important to explore and question the credibility of witnesses to a crime. Criminal defense attorneys are pros at examining the story from every angle in order to get a more complete picture.

A example of an attorney successfully challenging eyewitness testimony can be seen in the film My Cousin Vinny, where the defense attorney methodically examines the evidence presented by the state’s witnesses. An old lady is shown to be extremely nearsighted, and a neighbor’s timing is shown to be flawed. Although all criminal defense attorneys are not as exciting as Joe Pesci, we do take special care in our cross testimony in order to properly challenge witness credibility.

Another common defense raised in assault cases is self-defense or defense of others. In order to claim self-defense, you will need to show that you had a reasonable fear of imminent physical harm and that you did not provoke the harm. Self-defense can be tricky to raise, because it centers around the reasonableness of the response compared to the size of the threat. Even if you did nothing wrong, working with an experienced criminal defense attorney is your best bet when it comes to protecting yourself from these serious charges.

This article is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. If you have been charged with simple assault, you should contact our team of experienced criminal defense attorneys as soon as possible in order to reduce the potential penalties as much as possible.