Assault, Felony Assault, and “Dangerous Offense” Laws and Sentencing

A person will face “Dangerous Offense” Aggravated Assault charges if a deadly weapon is displayed or used in a crime.

1329263_pistol.jpgAn assault charge may be brought as a Misdemeanor or Felony (Aggravated). A person may be guilty of misdemeanor assault if they put someone in fear of bodily harm, touch someone with the intent of physical injury, or cause any physical injury to someone.

An assault charge will be elevated to a felony assault, a more serious charge, if they commit simple assault and any of eleven enumerated circumstances are present. Among these circumstances include: a serious personal injury results, a deadly weapon is used, or the assault is made on a law enforcement officer.

Recently in Arizona, a man allegedly threatened to kill a couple during a home invasion. Fortunately, neither was hurt. It was reported in the news, that the man broke into the house wearing only blue jeans and a blonde wig and carrying a gun. At some point the husband was able to retrieve his own gun and he shot the man who broke in.

The suspect ran from the scene and hid in a woman’s house nearby before the authorities caught him. He will face two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument, two counts of kidnap-apprehension of injury and one count of burglary.

If the man in this case had come in without a gun, threatening to kill the husband and wife, he would be facing fewer potential penalties. In such a case, he might be charged with simple assault and burglary for placing the couple in fear for their life. In cases where a deadly weapon is involved, penalties can be very severe depending on the defendant’s prior record.

Many aggravated assaults are charged in spite of no actual injury to the victim. If convicted, a person guilty of committing an offense such as the this one described, will still be exposed to long term mandatory prison sentencing, despite the fact they were not injured. Even a first-time offender may face 5-15 years in prison. However, someone who had been convicted of a “dangerous offense” even once before could face 10-20 years in prison For a third conviction, a defendant could be penalized with a prison term of 15-25 years.

Arizona has followed a mandatory sentencing scheme for decades. It requires mandatory prison for people found guilty of a second felony or people who are guilty of “dangerous crimes”. A person may be guilty of a “Dangerous Offense” under A.R.S. 13-105 (13) if a deadly or dangerous weapon is used, or displayed as a threat in a criminal offense. This includes, of course, guns, but also knives and cars and anything else intended to be used as a dangerous weapon.

In addition to mandatory minimum sentences for crimes like aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, a court may consider aggravating or mitigating factors in meting out a sentence. Mitigating factors might include a lack of a criminal record, good character, or model background. For example, if the man described above was a straight A college student with no prior felony or misdemeanor arrests and a background of charitable work, an experienced criminal defense attorney could argue that he should receive the minimum sentence for aggravated assault available to him. Similarly, a defense attorney who was able to show a connection between a troubled childhood and the aggravated assault might also be able to argue for the lowest possible sentence.


Sentencing in Arizona can be quite complex, particularly in a case where multiple felony charges are involved. If you or a loved one is accused of assault, contact knowledgeable criminal defense attorney James Novak at (480) 413-1499.

Additional Resources

Arizona Revised Statutes section 13-1204

Arizona Judicial Branch – Rules of Criminal Procedure

Arizona Superior Court – Case Procedures
MORE BLOGS

Aggravated Assault: The High Cost of Harming a Police Officer, Arizona Criminal Defense Attorney Blog, August 3, 2012
Assault Convictions Require “Intent” and “Knowledge” or “Recklessness”, Arizona Criminal Defense Attorney Blog, June 1, 2012

Updated: