Aggravated Assault in Arizona: Five Things You Should Know

In Arizona, “Aggravated Assault” charged under ARS § 13-1204 is a Class Four Felony, and in some cases with mandatory prison.  Today, we’ll discuss some of the most common  types of Aggravated Assault.

DUI & Motor Vehicles as “weapons”

First, a common type of Aggravated Assault Charge in Arizona is a Vehicular Assault by an impaired driver  Pursuant to ARS  §13-1204(a)(1) an assault becomes a felony where  a victim sustains “serious physical injury” or  there is “substantial disfigurement.” 

So where there is a  Drunk driving collision and someone gets seriously  hurt,  in addition to other charges, there can be an aggravated assault  

But a vehicular  aggravated assault charge can  happen even where there is no serious injury or any injury  at all. Pursuant to ARS § 13-1204(a)(2) an aggravated assault can happen where a  person recklessly causes injury with a “deadly weapon or dangerous instrument.  Courts have held that a motor vehicle can be a deadly weapon for purposes of Arizona’s Aggravated Assault statute.

Reasonable Apprehension Assaults: Deadly Weapons & Dangerous Instruments

Second, an Aggravated assault can also occur where  the defendant puts  the victim in “reasonable apprehension of imminent physical injury,” and doing so with a “deadly weapon or dangerous instrument.”  Think of a defendant pointing a gun or wielding a knife in a threatening manner.  Those are inherently  dangerous in nature.  But what about a car?  What about a beer bottle, what about an ashtray?  Arizona law says that a “dangerous weapon” can be any object which through use can be readily able to cause serious physical injury.  There seems to be little or no limit.

Dangerous Offenses

Third, what’s worse, is most assaults committed with a “deadly weapon or dangerous instrument” qualify as “dangerous offenses,” where if charged probation is not available, even for first time offenders.  We’ve seen cases where there is no contact, no injury, no words, but dangerousness is alleged.  We’ve seen cases where there the “weapon” or dangerous instrument is a telephone receiver or ashtray.

Strangulation & Airway

Fourth, a separate type of aggravated assault is known as “Domestic Violence/Airway Restriction.”  Thought of has strangulation cases, the statute is very broad and often used.

Domestic Relationship

In Arizona,  a domestic partner may be a blood relation, a parent, child, sibling,  but also a housemate or cohabitator, or someone who is the parent of the defendant’s child, and also someone who is in or has recently been in a “romantic relationship.”  

Airway Restriction

No one needs to pass out, but only that their blood or airway is restricted to any meaningful degree even for a brief amount of time.

We have seen many domestic violence aggravated assault cases where there is arguably no airway restriction at all, of if it is it is de minimus

Spitting on a Police Officer

Finally, In Arizona an assault can occur without any injury.  Pursuant to ARS 13-1203(A)(3) an assault can occur any time the defendant knowingly “touches” with “intent to harm, harass or provoke.”  We has seen assaults where someone throws water at the victim, pokes the victim in the chest, grabs the victim’s arm, or spits at the victim.  

What makes this a felony is the status of the victim.  If the victim is a police officer, prison guard, teacher, a firefighter, a doctor or nurse, a prosecutor or public defender, that  “touching” with “intent to harm harass or provoke” is a felony.  The most common of the cases we see  is spitting on law enforcement by a person either under arrest or soon to be under arrest.  


I hope this short discussion has given you some idea of the contours of Arizona’s Aggravated Assault Statute.

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Michael Harwin

About Michael Harwin

Michael’s skill and experience have been recognized repeatedly. He holds an A-V 5/5 preeminent rating by Martindale Hubbell. He has been named one of the top lawyers in Arizona by Southwest Superlawyers, and one of the best lawyers in Tucson by Tucson Lifestyle Magazine. He also has been named one of the best lawyers in the United States by , and given the highest rating possible by AVVO, 10/10 Superb. Amazon Books