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The Crimes of Assault and Aggravated Assault in Arizona

Of the thousands of cases filed by Arizona prosecutors each year, many involve allegations of assault. Depending on the circumstances of the allegations, an Arizona assault charge can be either a misdemeanor or a felony offense.

In Arizona, there are two types of assault that do not involve a sexual element: assault and aggravated assault. To prove either of these crimes, the prosecution must establish that the defendant, 1.) performed an act, 2.) while exhibiting the necessary mindset. In Latin, these terms are known as the “actus reus” and “mens rea.”

The actus reus is the physical action that constitutes an element of a crime. For example, in an assault case, the actus reus may be a punch, a stabbing motion, or the pulling of a gun’s trigger. However, to find a defendant guilty of a crime, the prosecution must establish that the defendant performed the act with the necessary “guilty mind.”

With very few exceptions, all Arizona crimes require the prosecution prove that the defendant acted with some level of knowledge, intent, or recklessness. For example, under the Arizona assault statute, a person can be found guilty of an assault charge if they “intentionally, knowingly or recklessly” cause another to suffer physical injury.

Thus, a defendant who inadvertently bumps into another person would not likely be found guilty of assault because although the person may have suffered an injury due to the defendant’s actions, the defendant was not acting intentionally, knowingly or recklessly. As a general rule, Arizona criminal law does not punish negligent behavior, so even if the defendant in the above example admitted he was negligent in bumping into the other person, he still would not likely be found guilty of assault.

Aggravated Assault in Arizona

In Arizona, an aggravated assault is simply an assault with the additional proof of one or more specifically enumerate facts. For example, the following can elevate an assault charge to an aggravated assault charge:

  • If the complainant suffered serious physical injury;
  • If a deadly weapon was used;
  • If the person committed the alleged assault after entering another’s home with the intent to assault them;
  • If the defendant is 18 years old or older and the alleged assault is committed against someone who is less than 15 years old,
  • If the alleged assault was committed against a protected class member, such as police officers, firefighters, teachers, or prosecutors.

Have You Been Charged with an Arizona Assault Offense?

If you have recently been arrested and charged with an Arizona assault crime, contact the dedicated Arizona criminal defense attorney James E. Novak. Attorney Novak is a dedicated Tempe criminal defense attorney who has decades of experience handling Arizona criminal cases. He handles serious misdemeanor and felony cases from across the state, including in Chandler, Tempe, Phoenix, and throughout Maricopa County. To learn more, call 480-411499 to schedule a free consultation today.

Additional Resources:

Other Articles of Interest from The Law Office of James Novak’s Award Winning Blog:

Arizona Court Denies Defendant’s Challenge to Search Warrant, Arizona DUI and Criminal Defense Attorney Blog, September 7, 2018

Arizona Court Distinguishes Between Diminished Capacity and Justification Defenses, Arizona DUI and Criminal Defense Attorney Blog, September 19, 2018

Court Holds Arizona Medical Marijuana Statute Does Not Permit Possession of Hashish, Arizona DUI and Criminal Defense Attorney Blog, August 31, 2018


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