Does The Degree Of Injury Affect An Assault Charge?
Yes, the degree of an injury can affect an assault charge. I touched on this a little bit earlier, but essentially; any type of injury will suffice for simple assault. Once you start crossing into what we call serious physical injury, then you are talking about aggravated assault. A serious physical injury is going to be like stabbing, shooting, broken bones, something that causes a temporary, permanent disfigurement or someone who was cut or scarred. I had a colleague of mine stabbed outside of a bar, and it caused the loss of the use of his arm for the rest of his life. That would be considered a serious physical injury. So absolutely, the degree and severity from the injury can completely change the type of charge that filed against someone.
What Are The Potential Defense Strategies Used In Assault Cases?
The best defenses are going to be argued over intent, did my client intend for this result, did my client intend to touch, or contact this person with the end-result being that they would be injured. Would they be worried about being injured, and is self-defense acceptable. There is a trial I did in January it was a justification trial. My client did not use his weapon in terms of firing it, but he drew his weapon because he felt that he was in fear for his life from an individual that was attacking him. He felt that he was justified in displaying the weapon to deter further the attack. That case wound up going to trial, because ultimately the state felt that he was not justified that as a victim he had used for showing the amount of force that would allow him to display a weapon.
We had two very different versions of what happened, the victim’s version and my client’s. The jury feels like the truth lies somewhere in-between. Therefore, in that case, they found him not guilty of the aggravated assault charged. They did find him guilty of a lesser-included offense of disorderly conduct with the weapon, because while they did not feel that his intent was to place the victim in fear of life or limb essentially, they also did not feel that his use of a weapon was justified. They did not feel that he was in danger of being threatened with harm to life or limb. Therefore, it was a very predictable outcome, and a good outcome for the client, because aggravated assault here in Arizona, if you have been convicted even without actually firing his weapon, he was looking at five to fifteen years in prison. Being convicted of the lesser included the disorderly conduct with the weapon, the class VI dangerous offense as opposed to a class III, and this dropped him down to even a lower prison range, somewhere in the two to three year area.
What was even better is that in Arizona, after a verdict is read, whether you are guilty, or not of the offense, you will have an aggravation fee. The jury also has to determine beyond the reason doubt, if certain aggravating factors existed, and in this case, the allegation this was a dangerous offense, an offense that was committed with a dangerous instrument or deadly weapon has to be proven. They felt that it was not proven, so he was left with a non-dangerous class VI, and this meant that at the end of the day, he earned the misdemeanor. He did not do any jail or prison time. It is kind of a unique aspect of Arizona law in that he is convicted of an offense involving a weapon, but was not convicted of the aggravator that says that the offense involved the use of a weapon.
I think the jury took it very literally and stated that l he displayed the weapon, but he did not use the weapon, and so that is where trials are very interesting. Most juries, at the end of the day, are the determiners of fact, and how it applies to the law, as they understand it. Sometimes you get an amazing break like that, I think in most cases, he would have been found guilty of the aggravator as well, and would still have done some prison time, although much less than he was exposed to. Therefore, for aggravated assault self-defense, it creates possibilities, like verdicts, plea offers, and could be very unpredictable when a judge, or jury will view the facts and apply it to the law.
What Are The Potential Penalties For An Assault Conviction In Arizona?
For simple assault, you are looking at class II, III misdemeanors, and I. The maximum term in jail is six months’ probation with fines up to $2,500. There are all types of anger management classes, and sometimes substance abuse, or alcohol counseling if that is a factor. Other types of general counseling classes can be ordered as part of your probation. When it comes to aggravated assault, for the class VI or class the IV, the adult on minor assault, the assault that results in broken bone, without prior convictions, you can receive probation, probation with jail, or you can get prison on any of those offenses.
For what is classified as dangerous offenses in Arizona, this is any offense committed, or any offense where the allegation is that the subject used a deadly or a dangerous instrument, typically a cutter or a knife. You are looking at mandatory prison no matter what your past criminal history shows. No matter what your situation, the judge has to sentence you to prison within the range. Your most common one is going to be a class III dangerous aggravated assault, and that is presumptive term of seven and one half years, even for a first time offender. This can be reduced down to five, but no less than five, and can be aggravated all up to fifteen years.
It is a very hefty range, and the client that went to trial last year, he had no priors, who has no criminal history was actually a former serviceman, and had expensive training with weapons, and the appropriate way to use them, felt that he had right to defend himself. The state felt otherwise, and he was exposed to five to fifteen years if convicted. Therefore, Arizona is very tough on weapons crimes.
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