Can An Aggravated Assault Charge Be Reduced To A Misdemeanor?
Yes, an aggravated assault can be reduced to a misdemeanor if it is in a unique circumstance where it is a class VI undesignated offense. It can be designated a misdemeanor typically upon successful completion of probation, or if the judge just feels that it did not arise to the seriousness, or level that a felony should, and just designated a misdemeanor immediately upon conviction. Most aggravated assaults are going to be of a classification that typically cannot be reduced to a misdemeanor. You could get a plea offer that reduces it to a misdemeanor if, for example, the state felt they are going to have issues proving that a weapon was used, or that serious injury occurred. They might realize that all the rest of it was a misdemeanor assault.
They may plea bargain knowing that they are likely to lose those allegations. Typically, if they feel that poorly about their case, they will not even charge it as an aggravated assault, they would charge it as a regular assault, because the standard for prosecutors, when charging a case, is do we have a reasonable likelihood of convicting the person of the charge as it is charged. Prosecutors are not supposed to overcharge, hoping to plea it down; they are supposed to charge with what they believe they can prove based on the evidence. Typically, an aggravated assault charge is going to be hard to reduce.
Why Is It Important To Hire An Experienced Attorney To Handle An Assault Charge?
I have dealt with a client recently about how she thought about hiring an attorney, and looking guilty. I told her as I told many of my clients, I said it’s fine if you feel as if you are guilty, or if you feel that this may make you look guilty, but what the people in the criminal justice system understand is that hiring an attorney is an intelligent move to protect your rights. You may be guilty, you may decide to plead guilty, and resolve your case, and in some way through a plea offer at some point, and that is fine. Accepting responsibility is obviously considered strongly when determining what type of sentence to impose by a judge, but at the same time, you want someone that is going to make sure that the state investigated, arrested, and prosecuted his or her case within the law.
You are entitled to those rights just as a victim is entitled to the rights that they have under the law when someone commits a crime. Therefore, I tell people all the time that the most important thing that you can do is hire an attorney, and make sure that everything is looked into, but the offer that is made, or the resolution that is finally agreed upon is fair, and for what you did. The perfect example is an aggravated assault. If I point the gun at someone, and if I actually shoot someone, I will be charged with the same crime. Now, I am exposed to the same sentences as the person who actually hurts someone, even if I am the one that just pointed a weapon.
Although the prosecutor could say, “I look at them as one and the same, and you both deserve harsh sentences”. It is up to a good defense attorney to make sure that people who are in different situations are not treated the same. It is the defense attorney’s job is to make sure that a prosecutor understands the difference between types of charges that can be charged the same way. It is not common sense. Many times, prosecutors really need to push to get through a more appropriate resolution, and all kinds of ways to do that exist, whether it is capping the prison exposure, or doing probation with jail versus prison. There are options especially when it comes to aggravated assault.
As a prosecutor, I prosecuted many crimes for almost four out of my five plus years. I have defended them, and obviously gone to trial as I did this year numerous times. The most important thing is my clients benefit from those situations, the extensive research, and knowledge that I have when it comes to justification, and self-defense. The legal options we have to argue in a trial, or during negotiations with a prosecutor, because telling a prosecutor, “Hey, he didn’t mean this”, or, “She didn’t mean that when they were doing whatever they were accused of doing”, that is great, but you apply it to the specific justification, and self-defense statutes that Arizona has.
They are different from other states. There is obviously a lot of news over the last several years about different justification statutes in states. The laws defending your home, and they are not as cut and dry as many people think they are. When you are in a state where there are many nuances to those laws, you want an attorney that absolutely understands what those are, and how your case may, or may not benefit from those types of defenses.
Do You Recommend Pre-Trial Counseling For Your Clients In An Assault Case?
I have seen pre-trial counseling work both ways. Many of my domestic violence clients want to know if it is good to start counseling and things like that. If it is going to be a term, or if it is going to be an option to get diversion by doing something like that, but I often tell them to hold off, because whatever the court is going to order about that, is going to be through some court agency that is approved. Many times, people wind up wasting their money, and time on a program that does not qualify for credit, or does not really satisfy the court.
There are also cases where it could be helpful to show a court, maybe if we know it is going to be a tough sentencing, or something to that effect, where you want to let the court know. For example, in the case of someone with an aggravated assault charge, if the court is concerned about violence, anger management, or a bad temper, then prior to sentencing, I may have them start taking some classes or attending counseling. They may say, “Hey, what I’m saying here is I have a problem, I already acknowledged that and even though the court hasn’t instructed me to, I have taken upon myself to try to do something better for me and the community or the people that I’ve affected”. That can be a powerful thing when people really do take initiative, but it is a case-by-case kind of determination.
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