Assault / Domestic Violence (A.R.S. §13-1203)
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In Arizona, per A.R.S. §13-1203 “Assault,” occurs when a person either intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causes any physical injury to another person; knowingly touches another person with the intent to injure, insult or provoke; or intentionally places another person in reasonable apprehension of imminent physical injury.
Normally, any type of red mark or scratch can qualify as an “injury” under this statute. If the Assault incident involves two (2) people who live together, were romantically involved, or who are somehow related, then this is “Domestic Violence” charged under A.R.S. §13-3601 “Domestic Violence Assault.” The Domestic Violence designation carries some serious ramifications in addition to the standard punishment. For instance, you can no longer carry a firearm if a Domestic Violence conviction is on your record. This could cost a police officer, security guard, or military person their job.
Possible Punishment for Domestic Violence
Most misdemeanor Assaults are charged as a class one (1) misdemeanor, however, sometimes they are charged at the lower levels of class two (2) and three (3) misdemeanors if the defendant is found to not have intentionally committed the assault or didn’t cause any physical injury. A class one (1) misdemeanor carries a range of punishment of probation, a maximum punishment of six (6) months in jail, and a $2,500.00 fine with an 80% surcharge. A class two (2) misdemeanor carries a range of punishment of probation and up to four (4) months in jail. Additionally, a fine of $750.00 plus 84% surcharges can be imposed.
A Domestic Violence conviction carries the same punishment as the Assault charge, but the real additional punishment attached to a Domestic Violence conviction is the fact that it can be used against the defendant in the future in a Child Custody / Divorce proceeding. A Domestic Violence conviction could cost a person to lose custody and the right to have visitation with their children. In addition, during background checks, most potential employers will not hire someone with an Assault or Domestic Violence conviction on their record. It goes without saying, a second or subsequent conviction for Assault or Domestic Violence Assault carries very serious ramifications.
Possible Defenses for Domestic Violence
The most common defense utilized with regard to Assault or Domestic Violence Assault is Self- Defense. In most assault situations, the alleged “victim” will often be the one who makes the first aggressive movement towards the defendant. This usually occurs when alcohol is involved. For example, if the alleged victim is impaired by alcohol and then attempts to push or grab the defendant, if the defendant simply pulls away the “victim” can lose their balance and injure themselves. Unfortunately, the defendant now automatically becomes the prime suspect because they were uninjured in the altercation. Additionally, if the Domestic Violence or Assault involves a man and a woman, then typically regardless of who started the physical altercation, the man will usually be charged with a crime while the woman is automatically seen as the “victim.” It is necessary to emphasize the “victim’s” violent and aggressive behavior and the defendant’s calm and peaceful behavior.
The key to defending Assault/Domestic Violence cases will depend on eye-witness testimony, physical evidence analysis, finding and interviewing other witnesses not listed in the police report, the search for any potential security video cameras which may have been present at or near the scene (i.e., security cameras which are located at all Wal-Marts and gas station parking lots) and character evidence. In addition, many times the alleged victim will want the charges to be dropped; this is what is known as a recalcitrant witness. Unfortunately, the State is the one bringing the charges, and not the alleged victim. The State can force the alleged victim to appear and testify against the defendant if they so desire. When we are involved in a case, if there is a recalcitrant witness, we can most often convince the prosecutor to either dismiss the charges or plead the case to a non-Domestic Violence charge (i.e., Disturbing the Peace).
Additional Defense Tactics for Charges of Domestic Violence
An additional defense when the defendant is charged with a violation by “placing the victim in reasonable apprehension of physical injury” is presenting evidence that it was unreasonable for the “victim” to be fearful. We would present evidence that a reasonable person in the “victim’s” shoes would not have been frightened because the defendant did not present any sort of threat. Testimony about the victim’s state of mind, especially alcohol or drug use, is crucial in demonstrating the defendant’s reasonable behavior and the victim’s irrational behavior.
Additionally, because our law firm fights conviction from all angles, we would assert a wide range of defenses and challenges to constitutional violations that apply in all criminal cases. The possibilities are numerous and diverse. One of those we frequently assert is a “Miranda rights violation.” In Arizona, the standard of whether any incriminating statement (i.e., a statement which tends to admit guilt) is admissible into evidence is based upon a “voluntariness” standard. If we can demonstrate that the police coerced you (i.e., intimidated or tricked you) into making a confession or inculpatory statement, or that they did not properly read your Miranda Rights, then we can suppress those statements and any evidence gathered as a direct result of those statements. In addition, the “denial of right to Counsel” is another common defense which is often raised. This occurs when a suspect is in custody and requests to speak to their attorney, but is denied and questioning continues.
Other defenses may include challenging the validity of any search warrant, or whether there were any “forensic flaws” during the investigation of your case. Depending on what else you have been charged with, this could include exposing flawed procedures regarding blood, breath, and urine testing; fingerprints analysis; DNA testing; ballistics; gunshot residue testing; computer analysis/cloning hard drive procedures; forensic financial accounting reviews; etc..
Lastly, one of the most common defense tactics is exposing sloppy or misleading police reports which include everything from misstatements, false statements, flawed photo line-ups and witness identification procedures, and inaccurate crime scene reconstruction. It is important to hire a skilled Assault/Domestic Violence lawyer to defend you who has knowledge of all the possible defenses to assert in your case.