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Are You Facing an Assault Charge in Phoenix?

Second to DUI, the most common offense that I see in the criminal courts is assault and assault-related crimes.  Even though aggravated assault has decreased in recent years nationally, I see it on a regular basis.  If you have been charged with an assault related crime, I am certain that you are terrified about what is going to happen with your case and with your future.  Rest assure that you are in the right place.  As an assault lawyer I have successfully represented hundreds of clients in assault related offenses, and I can help.
Assault charges come in many different shapes and sizes.  The cases can range from misdemeanors that result in community service to dangerous felonies that mandate prison upon a conviction at trial.  As an overview, assaults tend to fall into the following categories.
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Assault Categories:

  • Misdemeanor Assault
    • Causing physical injury
    • Causing apprehension of physical injury
    • Touching a person with intent to injure, insult or provoke
  • Felony Assault
    • Causing serious physical injury
    • Using a weapon to commit a misdemeanor assault
    • Fracturing a bone or causing disfigurement
    • Committing a misdemeanor assault on a child
    • Committing a misdemeanor assault on law enforcement
    • Committing a misdemeanor assault on medical professionals
  • Threatening and Intimidating
    • Using words or conduct to threaten physical injury or serious property damage
    • Using words or conduct to cause serious public inconvenience (i.e. evacuation of building)
    • Using words or conduct to threaten physical injury in promotion of a street gang
  • Endangerment
    • Putting another in substantial risk of immediate death or physical injury

Classification of Assault

Assault related offenses vary greatly in their criminal classification.  An assault can be as low as a class three misdemeanor or as high as a class two, dangerous felony.  The class three misdemeanor is the lowest level of criminal conduct.  Anything lower than a class three misdemeanor would be considered a civil offense or a local ordinance violation.  The class two felony, on the other hand, is extremely serious.  This type of criminal charge will require a term in the Arizona Department of Corrections if one was convicted at trial.

Before an individual has been charged by the city or state, it is very difficult to determine what the potential charges might be and what the associated consequences are.  I can help.  Having been a former prosecutor, I have the ability to review a fact pattern and predict how the city or state prosecutor is likely going to charge a case.

Defense of Assault

Assaults are unique in the sense that they often carry defenses that can be successfully applied in a trial setting.  The most obvious defense to assault is self defense.  Equally, a standard defense to an assault related charge is defense of a third party.  Below is a list of typical defenses associated with assault related offenses.

  • Self-Defense
  • This is a legal justification for otherwise illegal conduct.
  • The use of force must be immediately necessary to protect one’s self from an imminent attack.
  • Self-defense does not require actual danger, only the reasonable perception of danger.
  • There is no requirement to retreat prior to using self-defense.
  • Defense of a Third Person
  • This is a legal justification for otherwise illegal conduct.
  • The use of force must be immediately necessary to protect the other person from an imminent attack.
  • This defense does not require actual danger, only the reasonable perception of danger.
  • There is no requirement to retreat prior to using this defense.
  • Defense of Premises
  • You are allowed to defend yourself from another when you are in lawful possession of a premise.
  • Premises are permanent or temporary residences or lodgings whether occupied or not.
  • This is based upon what a reasonable person would do in a similar situation.
  • Defense of Property
  • You are allowed to defend yourself from another when you are in lawful possession of property.
  • This is based upon what a reasonable person would do in a similar situation.
  • Use of Force in Crime Prevention
  • This is similar to self-defense.
  • You are allowed to threaten or use physical force to prevent the following crimes:
  • Arson of an occupied structure
  • Burglary in the first or second degree
  • Kidnapping
  • Manslaughter
  • First or second degree murder
  • Sexual conduct with a minor
  • Sexual assault
  • Child Molestation
  • Armed Robbery
  • Aggravated Assault (limited)

While these defenses can be used successfully, there are limits to their success.  First, any use of force or threat of force cannot be done in response to verbal provocation.  Second, these defenses are based upon what a reasonable person would do in a similar situation.  Third, an escalation of force will require a more stringent analysis making the justification more difficult to prove.  Finally, defense must be in response to immediate use of force or threatened use of force.

Sticks and Stones…

Remember when your mother told you, “Sticks and stones may break your bones but words will never hurt you?”  Well, your mother was giving you excellent legal advice.  Justifying an assault related offense based upon verbal provocation will never work.  It does not matter how insulting the language is.  If you assault somebody based upon their vulgar language, you will get in trouble.  With that said, sticks and stones can cause serious physical injury so a person is within his/her right to appropriately defense himself from an assault or the immediate threat of an assault.

Who is Reasonable?

This is the toughest question associated with any form of defense.  The important thing to understand is that “you” are not the reasonable person.  Your actions might have been reasonable, but the reasonable person is the subjective person that the jury creates.

Confused?  You should be.  Basically, a jury is supposed to take all of the facts surrounding the assault and determine what the reasonable response would be.  The good thing is that the jury gets to based this off of everything that the accused was aware of.  For example, if you were aware that the person chasing you was a gang member that has killed multiple people before, your aggressive response will likely be considered reasonable.

Don’t Bring a Knife to a Fist Fight

Usually, the saying goes, “Don’t bring a knife to a gun fight.”  This is still good advice.  However, the importance of this section is to understand that the escalation of force will look very unfavorable.  If you are in a fist fight with an individual and you decide to end the fight by stabbing the opponent, your actions will likely be considered unreasonable in the given situation.

However, if you are being assaulted by multiple individuals to the point where your believe that they are going to fatally attack beat you up, the use of a knife or gun might be appropriate.  No matter what, escalating the level of force with a weapon will always lead to problems.

People try to justify an assault by saying that they are preventing something that might happen in the future.  For example, if a guy confronts me and tells me that he is going to find me and beat me up the next time he sees me, I am not allowed to beat him up first to prevent the promised beat down.  This should make sense.

The only time you can use the defense justifications is when there is an immediate use of force against you or the threat of force against you.

Initial Law Consultation is Free

If you are facing any type of assault charge, call our law office today for a free, confidential consultation at 602-540-7887.

Are You Facing an Assault Charge in Phoenix?
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