CULPABLE MENTAL STATES FOR ASSAULT
The Assault statute in Arizona encompasses three separate mental states that are required in order for the offense to have been committed. These are intentionally, knowingly, and recklessly. Let’s go into what each of these mental states actually mean. You can find the exact phrasing of the mental states under A.R.S. § 13-105(10).
- Intentionally: When an offense is committed intentionally, that means that it was the person’s objective or goal to cause that particular result or to engage in that conduct. An example of this would be for a person to punch somebody with the goal of hurting that person.
- Knowingly: When an offense is committed knowingly, that means that the person committing the offense acted deliberately under the assault statues. To act knowingly does not require the person to have actual knowledge that the act is unlawful (i.e., ignorance of the law is not a defense). The main difference between intentionally and knowingly is a person does not have to intend for the victim to be hurt or harmed if they acted knowingly.
- Recklessly: When an offense is committed recklessly, that means that a person is aware of a substantial and unjustifiable risk that something will happen based on their conduct, and that person consciously disregards that risk anyway. A good example of this would be throwing your drink into a crowd of people at a sporting event.
ASSAULT CAUSING PHYSICAL INJURY
As mentioned above, when a person intentionally or knowingly causes any physical injury to the victim, they can be charged with the highest level of assault under the statute, which is a class 1 misdemeanor offense. Also, if the person acted recklessly and caused any physical injury to the victim, they can be charged with assault as a class 2 misdemeanor offense.
But what does “any physical injury” mean? Under A.R.S. § 13-105(33), “physical injury” simply means an impairment of a person’s physical condition. This definition is not exactly helpful, but the statute is vague on purpose. By phrasing the definition of physical injury in those words, it leaves the question on what constitutes a physical injury up to the jury at a trial. If a jury believes that a broken fingernail is enough of an impairment of a person’s physical condition, than a person could be found guilty for the assault. If the person intended to break the person’s fingernail, then they would be charged with a class 1 misdemeanor assault.
REASONABLE APPREHENSION OF IMMINENT PHYSICAL INJURY
Under the second part of the assault statute, a person can be charged with assault if they place a person in reasonable apprehension of imminent physical injury. This means that a person can be charged with assault, even if they never actually touch the person. A person is in reasonable apprehension of imminent physical injury if they are in fear that another person is about to harm them, and that fear is reasonable under the circumstances.
The key to this section of the statue is the word “reasonable.” What constitutes a reasonable belief that a person is in fear of being harmed? Again, this is a question that is left for a jury to decide at a trial. If a jury believes that it was reasonable to believe the conduct would result in a threat to the victim, then the person can be guilty of a class 2 misdemeanor assault.
TOUCHING WITH INTENT TO INJURE, INSULT, OR PROVOKE
Under the third part of the assault statute, a person can be charged with assault if they touch another person with the intent to injure, insult, or provoke that person. This means that a person can be charged with assault if they try and instigate a fight, or if they are harassing a person by touching them. A great example of this would be pushing somebody to try and get them to fight back.
The key to this section is the phrase “intent to.” If a jury feels as though the person intended to injure, but did not cause any physical injury (then it would be an assault under the first section), or if they intended to insult or provoke the person, then the person can be guilty of a class 3 misdemeanor assault.
PENALTIES AND PUNISHMENTS FOR ASSAULT IN ARIZONA
In Arizona, a class 1 misdemeanor assault is punishable with up to six (6) months in jail, a fine of $2,500 plus an 78% surcharge, and up to three (3) years of probation.
For class 2 misdemeanor assault, the offense is punishable with up to four (4) months in jail, a fine of $750 plus an 78% surcharge, and up to two (2) years of probation.
For class 3 misdemeanor assault, the offense is punishable with up to one (1) month in jail, a fine of $500 plus an 78% surcharge, and up to one (1) year of probation.
For all assault convictions, a person could also be required to undergo substance abuse treatment if the court finds that the offense was committed while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Further, the court could also impose anger management treatment if the court feels it is appropriate under the circumstances.