Arizona Revised Statutes Section 13-1204 is a complicated statute setting out numerous forms of aggravated assault. Depending on the specific nature of the charges, conviction results in sentencing for either a class 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 felony. Punishment may include incarceration, probation, and fines. Finding the right Phoenix Criminal Defense Attorney may help your case on aggravated assault defenses. Understanding certain key points may assist you during this process.
Aggravated assault is a serious felony. For someone facing prosecution, or even just an investigation for aggravated assault, the criminal justice process can be extremely stressful and confusing. For example, a person being investigated might be asked to submit to an interview by law enforcement. If you or a loved one is under investigation, it is imperative that you get a Phoenix criminal defense attorney involved at the earliest time possible. Without an attorney, you are vulnerable to pressure from police and prosecutors and may give up important rights.
On the positive side, as with all criminal prosecutions, a defendant is presumed innocent and the State bears the burden of proof. There are also multiple defenses available to a prosecution for aggravated assault, some of which are discussed below. A trained criminal lawyer who is familiar with the process and the available defenses can help an accused understand the system and prepare the best defense possible.
Justification – Self-Defense
One of the most common defenses to aggravated assault is self-defense. You may use or threaten to use physical force against another person when and to the extent that a reasonable person in your position would believe that physical force is necessary for protection from the other person’s use or attempt to use unlawful physical force.
Often, when an accused asserts the defense of self-defense, the facts of the case are disputed and the jury must resolve the issue. The overriding question for the jury is whether a reasonable person in the defendant’s circumstances would have believed that physical force was immediately necessary for his or her protection.
Specific Statutory Limitations to the Use of Self-Defense
The self-defense statute puts limits on when the defense is available. You may not use physical force, or threaten to use physical force, in the following situations:
- In response to nothing more than words. In other words, no matter what someone says, those words alone will not justify the use or threat of physical force in response.
- To resist arrest if you know that the arrest is being made by law enforcement or someone acting at the officer’s direction and in the officer’s presence, unless the officer uses excessive physical force. This limitation applies, even if the arrest is unlawful.
- If you provoked the other person’s use or attempted use of unlawful physical force, unless:
- You withdraw from the situation or clearly communicate to the other person your intention to withdraw while reasonably believing you cannot do so safely; and
- The other person continues or attempts to use unlawful physical force against you.
Justification – Defense of a Third Person
You may use physical force or threaten to use force against another to protect a third person under appropriate circumstances. For example, you might act with physical force to protect a spouse, a child, a friend, or even a stranger. As with self-defense, defense of a third person is justified if a reasonable person would believe that physical force is immediately necessary to protect the third person.
The Use of “Deadly Physical Force” Is Sometimes Permitted In Self-Defense and Defense of a Third Person
“Deadly physical force” means force that is used with the purpose of causing death or serious physical injury, or in the manner of its use or intended use, is capable of creating a substantial risk of causing death or serious physical injury. You may use deadly physical force when a reasonable person in your situation would believe that deadly force is immediately necessary to protect oneself or a third person against another person’s use, or attempted use, of unlawful deadly physical force.
Justification – Use of Physical Force in Defense of Premises
If you are in lawful possession or control of premises, you may threaten to use physical force or deadly physical force, and you may use physical force against another when and to the extent that a reasonable person would believe it immediately necessary to prevent or terminate a criminal trespass or attempted criminal trespass. The term “premises” means any real property and any structure adapted for both human residence and lodging, whether occupied or not. “Premises” includes both permanent and temporary property, whether movable or immovable.
The law concerning the defense of premises contains an important distinction between physical force and deadly physical force. While the statute permits you to threaten deadly physical force, you are justified in using deadly physical force only for self-defense and defense of others.
Justification – Defense of Personal Property
You are also authorized to use physical force to prevent theft or damage to personal property under your possession or control. Deadly physical force may be used to protect yourself or someone else under circumstances where a reasonable person would believe such force is immediately necessary for protection.
Justification – Domestic Violence
The justification defenses discussed in this article require the jury to consider what a “reasonable person” would believe under the circumstances. If the person allegedly assaulted has committed past acts of domestic violence, Arizona law provides that the state of mind of a reasonable person is determined from the perspective of a reasonable person who has been a victim of those past acts of domestic violence. Thus, a jury might be more sympathetic to a defendant who previously suffered domestic violence at the hands of the person he or she allegedly assaulted.
Many other defenses might apply to an aggravated assault charge. For example, an accused may have an alibi witness or other evidence that proves that the accused could not have committed the crime at the time and place alleged by the State. In some prosecutions, the State’s case may be attacked for constitutional violations committed by the government, such as improper search and seizure or Miranda violations. A criminal defense attorney will examine the government’s actions and all the circumstances of the case to determine if any of these defenses are applicable.
If you would like to speak with an experienced Phoenix criminal defense attorney about aggravated assault or any other criminal matter, please call Howard A. Snader at 602-899-0590.