Arizona handles charges related to assault with a deadly weapon very seriously, and the state has specific statutes defining what a deadly weapon is and what constitutes serious physical injury. In this blog, we will cover the specific elements of an assault with a deadly weapon charge according to Arizona’s specific definitions, as well as the associated penalties for such a charge.
What Is Considered Assault?
Any form of assault is considered a misdemeanor in Arizona. For an assault to be assault with a deadly weapon, the perpetrator must use a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument to:
- intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly cause a physical injury to another person;
- intentionally place another person in reasonable apprehension of imminent physical injury; or
- knowingly touch another person with the intent to injure, insult, or provoke the person.
Note that the three mental states required for assault as listed above are:
- Intentionally – their objective is to cause the result or to engage in the conduct in question.
- Knowingly – the person is aware or believes that the conduct is what it is (it does not require any knowledge of the unlawfulness of the act or omission).
- Recklessly – that person is aware of and consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the result will occur or that the circumstance exists (the risk must constitute a gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a reasonable person would observe in the situation).
Be aware that a person who creates a risk but who is unaware of such risk solely by reason of voluntary intoxication still acts recklessly with respect to such risk.
What Is a Deadly Weapon or Dangerous Instrument?
A deadly weapon under this statute is anything designed for lethal use, including a firearm, even if it is unloaded. However, this definition does not include a firearm that is permanently inoperable. Common examples of deadly weapons include brass knuckles, handguns, and swords.
Similarly, a dangerous instrument is anything that, under the circumstances in which it is used, attempted to be used, or threatened to be used, is readily capable of causing death or serious physical injury. Often, if an object is not inherently dangerous (unlike a gun or a knife), a judge or jury must decide if the defendant used the object in a way that made it a dangerous instrument. For example, a court may consider a defendant’s shoe could be considered a dangerous instrument under this statute if the prosecutor proved that the shoe caused greater or different injuries than would have been caused by a bare foot, or that the shoe had been wielded as a weapon.
What Is Defined as Serious Physical Injury?
Serious physical injury refers to physical injury that creates a reasonable risk of death, or that causes:
- serious and permanent disfigurement;
- serious impairment of health; or
- loss or protracted impairment of the function of any bodily organ or limb.
Note that serious physical injury requires more than a temporary impairment, even if it is substantial. More specifically, the fracture of a body part that heals normally may not constitute serious physical injury.
Penalties and Sentencing
Arizona classifies assault with a deadly weapon as a Class 3 felony that includes 5-15 years in prison and/or a fine up to $150,000. If the alleged victim is a peace officer, prosecutor, or under 15 years of age, assault with a deadly weapon is charged as a Class 2 felony punishable by 7-21 years in prison and/or a fine up to $150,000.
Be aware that penalties for Class 2 and Class 3 felonies can increase based on aggravating factors, such as:
- harm to the alleged victim’s family;
- the manner in which the assault was committed; and
- if the victim was elderly or disabled.
Penalties can also increase if the defendant has a prior criminal history involving dangerous felony offenses. However, penalties can also decrease based on mitigating factors, such as the defendant’s age, mental capacity, and level of participation in the crime.
Seek an Experienced Attorney Today
If you have been accused of assault with a deadly weapon, speak with an attorney immediately for legal representation. The penalties for such a charge can be severe, and it will be critical to enlist the help of an experienced lawyer to defend your innocence. For example, a good lawyer can defend that you did not utilize a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument as defined by the Arizona statute, or that you did not inflict serious physical injury on an alleged victim.