How Arizona Defines Simple Assault Under ARS 13-1203

assault, man squatting on the floor trying to protect himself and a person standing in front of him with hands in a fist

When people use the word “assault,” they usually mean a physical confrontation. However, the legal meaning of the term is broader. Read on to learn about how ARS § 13-1203 defines assault.

The Legal Definition of Assault

People are sometimes surprised to face assault charges after an argument, confrontation, or even a seemingly harmless interaction. The accused might believe there was no assault because no one suffered physical harm—there might not have been any physical contact at all.

Arizona Revised Statutes §13-1203 describes the crime of simple assault. It lists three actions that could be assault under the law.

Intentionally Causing Physical Harm

Any action that causes or could cause a physical injury to someone else is a potential assault. The injury need not be life-threatening—intentionally tripping someone and causing them to bruise their knee is an assault.

Fear of Imminent Physical Harm

Threatening someone with physical harm is an assault if you have the immediate means to carry out the threat. For example, if you threaten to shoot someone while you are on the phone with them from another state, you have not committed an assault. However, if you stand across the street from someone and point a finger gun, if the person reasonably believes you are armed and might shoot them, you have committed an assault.

Touching with Intent to Provoke or Insult

Physical contact does not need to be violent to be an assault. If the touch is uninvited and could be offensive in the context, it could be an assault.

For example, a light tap on someone’s buttocks could be an assault in many situations. Resting a hand on someone’s shoulder could be an assault in some circumstances, as could spitting or throwing something at someone.

Intention of the Accused

An accidental or incidental touch is not an assault. The accused must have knowingly made physical contact with, or physically threatened, the alleged victim.

When the contact or threat was intentional, the crime is a Class 1 misdemeanor. If the contact or threat was done recklessly, it is a Class 2 misdemeanor. Someone accused of inappropriate touching or physical insult faces Class 3 misdemeanor charges.

Prosecutors must prove the alleged assailant had the right mental state to get a conviction and they can use circumstantial evidence to prove a defendant’s intent. A skilled defense lawyer could counter that evidence and present defenses like mistake, accident, false accusation, or defense of self or others to defeat an assault charge.

Resolving Simple Assault Charges

When the prosecutor’s evidence is weak or the police did not respect a defendant’s Constitutional rights, it could be possible to get an assault charge dismissed. If dismissal is not possible, a criminal defense attorney could negotiate a plea to a violation that does not create a criminal record. The defendant might have to pay restitution, attend anger management classes, or perform community service.

Some courts offer alternative sentencing or pretrial diversion programs that could help resolve issues that contributed to the arrest. For example, someone facing an assault charge arising out of a bar fight might be eligible for a substance abuse education program rather than a criminal proceeding. Diversion programs are not available in every court and enrollment is at the prosecutor’s discretion, but they are often worth investigating.

Misdemeanor assault convictions carry potential jail sentences, extended periods of probation, hefty fines, community service requirements, and other conditions.

Call An Attorney When You Are Accused of Simple Assault

People sometimes do not take assault charges seriously because the incident that led to the charge seems minor. An assault is a criminal offense, and you will have a criminal record if you are convicted.

An experienced assault attorney knows how to handle these charges to minimize the impact the incident will have on your future. Reach out as soon as you are arrested to discuss your case with Grand Canyon Law Group.

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