What is the Difference between Simple Assault and Aggravated Assault?
The difference between simple assault and aggravated assault generally involves either (a) the effect of the assault on the alleged victim, (b) the manner in which the assault is committed, or (c) the status or condition of the alleged victim. In fact, there are close to a dozen different variations of aggravated assault, all of which are felony charges. They all include an assault, plus at least one of the following conditions:
- Serious physical injury. This term is defined in A.R.S. 13-105(39) as an injury that carries with it a reasonable risk of death, that causes permanent disfigurement, seriously impaired health, or protracted loss or impairment of the use of an organ or limb.
- Use of a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument. Included among the categories of aggravated assault is an assault using a deadly weapon (a firearm or other weapon designed for deadly use) or a dangerous instrument (anything which, under the existing circumstances, is capable of causing death, or capable of causing serious physical injury).
- Use of force. If the force causes a fracture, temporary disfigurement, or temporary loss of the use or function of an organ, the offense may be charged as aggravated assault.
- Victim restrained. This is an assault committed while the victim is restrained, or while the victim is incapable of resisting.
- Entry into a private home. An assault committed in the private home of another, where entry was made with intent to commit the assault, constitutes aggravated assault.
- Assault on minors. If the victim of the assault is under the age of 15, and the suspect is at least 18 years old, it may be charged as aggravated assault.
- Violation of Domestic Violence Order. An assault committed in violation of a domestic violence order of protection (or emergency order of protection), may constitute aggravated assault. In order to be charged as aggravated assault, the assault itself must involve a physical injury or a touching. Merely placing another person in apprehension will not support an aggravated assault charge under the domestic violence subheading.
- Assault on a police officer. Assaults committed on police officers, constables, firefighters, teachers, health care practitioners, prosecutors, public defenders, and other specified officials, may be charged as aggravated assault.
- Police weapons. Aggravated assault also includes an assault coupled with the exercise (or attempted exercise) of control of a firearm or other weapon, provided you know or have reason to know the other person is a police officer engaged in his official duties.
- If the defendant is a prisoner, an assault on an employee of the institution, with knowledge that the victim is acting in an official capacity, may be charged as aggravated assault.
- Impeding breathing. In the context of a domestic relationship, intentionally or knowingly impeding the breathing function of the other party may be classified as aggravated assault.
All the aggravated assault charges are felonies. The particular level of the charge will depend upon the nature of the assault, and in some cases factors such as the age or status of the victim. An experienced criminal lawyer may be able, depending upon the circumstances, to have an aggravated assault charge reduced to simple assault, thereby decreasing substantially the potential consequences in the event of a conviction.
Other Assault-Related Crimes
There are other crimes grouped under the general heading of assault in the Arizona Criminal Code. While perhaps not within the traditional definition of assault, they nevertheless set forth certain acts that are illegal, and that are classified as misdemeanors or felonies. The following are two of the more commonly charged related offenses:
- Threatening or intimidating. This can include threatening (by words or action) physical injury or property damage, threats to cause evacuation of a building or serious public inconvenience, or threats related to street gang or racketeering activity. Most of these are class 1 misdemeanors, although if you are a member of a street gang, or the act relates to racketeering or street gang activities, or is in retaliation for certain specified acts, it can be charged as a felony.
- If you recklessly endanger another person, exposing that person to a significant risk of physical injury or death, you may be charged with endangerment. This is a class 1 misdemeanor, unless the risk is of imminent death, in which case it is a class 6 felony. Endangerment is treated separately (see A.R.S. 13-3623) in the case of children who are abused or neglected.
The assault statutes also cover a number of other acts, including drive-by shootings, discharge of firearms, use of an attack dog, and others.
Defending an Assault Case in Phoenix
The difference between assault and aggravated assault, and the differences among the various charges (for example, threatening vs. simple assault), are not always easy to spot or to understand. You may, for example, be charged with a felony in a case where the appropriate charge is a misdemeanor, or another (less serious) charge altogether.
Whatever assault charge you may be facing, you owe it to yourself to hire the best criminal defense lawyer you can, one who understands and has experience defending assault and assault-related cases. At Feldman & Royle, we understand the law, we understand the criminal justice system, and we specialize in defending clients charged with various criminal offenses, including assault and aggravated assault. Contact us concerning your pending charge. Our attorneys will discuss the case with you, and provide you with a sound strategy for defending your case. During the course of his representation, we will make sure that all available avenues are explored and developed, thereby providing you with the best chance for a successful result.
Call Feldman & Royle today at 602-899-8000 for a free, confidential consultation.