Assault and related victim crimes carry the most severe penalties of all crimes in Arizona
Violent crimes continue to plague Tempe AZ, especially on, and near Arizona State University (ASU). Tempe Police reported #911 and other calls for help had increased by 97 percent in 2012 over 2011, and arrests in criminal incidents continue to rise in 2013.
Incident reports and service calls for criminal violations in and around ASU are taxing Tempe and ASU Police resources.
Police report that the type of crimes that have increased include violent crimes, assaults, binge drinking, underage drinking, disorderly conduct, and criminal property damage. At least two deaths this year were reportedly linked to violence between fraternity rivals, while many others were seriously injured. Many of these are crimes against victims and carry the harshest sentencing of any crimes in Arizona.
Tempe officials are proposing ordinance changes making it easier to crack down on off-campus parties, while local police agencies seek out and making arrests for underage drinking laws, assaults, and other violent crimes.
Assault Crimes may be charged as Misdemeanors under A.R.S. 13-1203 or Aggravated Felonies A.R.S. 13-1204, depending on circumstances and nature of the offenses.
A person may be found guilty of misdemeanor assault in Arizona if they do one of the following:
(1) Intentionally, knowingly or recklessly injure someone else’s body;
(2) Intentionally give someone else a reason to fear they will be harmed;
(3) Knowingly touch another person in order to provoke, injure or insult the person.
Misdemeanor assault may be punished with up to one year in prison and maximum fines of $2,500. You may also have to pay restitution to the victim.
A prosecutor may elevate a misdemeanor assault to an aggravated (felony) assault charge in eleven different circumstances. Felony aggravated assault carries significantly greater penalties than misdemeanor assault. For example, felony aggravated assault may be punished with 15 years of imprisonment, as well as the stigma of a felony conviction, loss of a professional license, ineligibility to own or possess a firearm and many other harsh consequences.
A few of the eleven circumstances in which a defendant who is 18 years old or older may be charged with aggravated assault include those where he: causes “serious bodily harm”, uses a weapon or dangerous instrument, enters a private home with the intent of committing the assault, assaults someone who is 15 years old or younger, or assaults people of certain professions while they are working (including teachers, nurses, prison officials, fire department members, and paramedics).
Felony aggravated assault may also be charged if someone commits one of the forms of simple assault described above and also intentionally or knowingly prevents “the normal breathing or circulation of blood of another person by applying pressure to the throat or neck or by obstructing the nose and mouth either manually or through the use of an instrument”, and a domestic relationship exists. In other words, this special type of aggravated assault can be charged against someone who attempts to strangle a domestic partner.
A few weeks ago, the Court of Appeals ruled on a case involving both simple assault and aggravated assault. In the case, a couple was arguing via text messages. When the male partner came home, he grabbed the woman, knocked her head, and squeezed her neck. Later he pressed his arm against her throat and told her to leave.
The male partner was charged with aggravated assault for strangling her, simple assault for knocking her head, and also for trying to stop her breathing a second time. The jury convicted him of the first and last charge. He was sentenced to eight years in state prison.
The defendant appealed on the grounds that the charge of aggravated assault related to strangulation was unconstitutionally vague (among other reasons). He claimed that nobody in Arizona could know what the statute meant by “normal” breathing or circulation and he referred to the state’s own expert who testified that it was difficult to say what “normal” breathing was, even in medicine.
The defendant also argued that his due process rights were violated because all three forms of simple assault were included within the aggravated assault charge. He further argued that the jury should have been instructed as to which type of assault he had committed.
The appellate court explained that even though “normal” is a relative term, it is not unconstitutionally vague. Plainly read, the statute prohibits stopping another person’s normal or typical breathing. The court also explained that this type of aggravated assault is a unique offense, not just another variation on the eleven circumstances that turn simple assault into felony aggravated assault. Ultimately the court affirmed the defendant’s sentence.
In many cases, these crimes have been serious and resulted in felony charges. Penalties are severe if convicted. Criminal penalties can include jail or long term prison sentencing; large fines, fees, assessments; restitution; counseling, probation, or community services, victim restitution, and other court ordered penalties. But the consequences are much broader than criminal penalties. A student may be suspended or expelled from school or athletic teams, lose scholarships, residency status as a US Citizen, termination from their job or lose opportunities for future employment, become ineligible for school loans, and have a criminal record, lose driving privileges, and lose other rights that they currently enjoy.
As you can see, assault is a serious offense in Arizona, particularly if it is charged as aggravated assault in Tempe AZ and other cities within Maricopa County. If you or a loved one is accused of assault, contact knowledgeable criminal defense attorney James Novak at (480) 413-1499.
• Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence
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