What Is Considered Aggravated Assault With a Vehicle?
Arizona law states that anyone who uses a "deadly weapon or dangerous instrument" to commit assault and cause serious injuries to another individual can be charged with the felony offense of aggravated assault, as seen in A.R.S. § 13-1204. Aggravated assault is a more severe form of assault than the misdemeanor assault offense (which is addressed in A.R.S. § 13-1203) since "aggravating factors" are involved that may lead to a victim's serious injuries or even lethal harm.
That said, there is not an express statute that addresses committing aggravated assault with a vehicle in Arizona. Instead, the legal issue of vehicular aggravated assault is handled by viewing a vehicle itself as a "dangerous instrument", according to A.R.S. §13-1204.
What Is Vehicular Aggravated Assault in Arizona?
The standard for aggravated assault with a vehicle is generally met in one of two ways, based on the language of this Arizona statute. First, understand that aggravated assault is charged in Arizona if an individual causes a serious injury either knowingly, intentionally or recklessly, which are also the mental state standards for misdemeanor assault in Arizona. Most often, prosecutors charge drivers with vehicular aggravated assault based on recklessness, which involves knowing there is a serious risk of causing an accident but choosing to drive regardless of this risk. The reason this is the most common charge is due to the prevalence of drunk driving and other extremely negligent behaviors when drivers get behind the wheel.
It is, generally, far less common that a driver intentionally tries to cause serious injury in a pre-meditated manner. If there is evidence that running someone over or causing a vehicular accident was truly intentional or they intended to scare someone with their vehicle, however, then such findings can also constitute vehicular aggravated assault based on A.R.S. § 13-1203's "intent" language.
Legal Consequences of Vehicular Aggravated Assault
The punishment for vehicular aggravated assault partially hinges on the type of conviction the prosecution pursues. For example, aggravated assault due to the use of a deadly instrument is a Class 3 dangerous felony that carries a mandatory range of a:
Minimum sentence of five years
Presumptive sentence of seven years
Maximum sentence of 15 years
These prison times also increase if the aggravated assault victim was a minor who was less than 15 years old.
Alternatively, the vehicular aggravated assault charges may be based on a Class 3 "non-dangerous" felony. These charges are brought if a jury determines that the car is not a dangerous instrument as defined by Arizona statute, yet the defendant's behavior did still cause serious injury or substantive disfigurement. The sentence severity is reduced for a felony charge of this nature, but the sentencing range is still severe.
An Arizona Class 3 non-dangerous felony conviction carries a wide range of sentencing outcomes, including:
Up to one year in jail
Two to 8.75 years in prison
An increased prison sentence range of 3.5 to 16.25 years in prison is possible if the defendant has a prior conviction.
Depending on the facts involved, the legal consequences can vary dramatically, but the key takeaway is that a vehicular aggravated assault conviction can permanently change the course of a defendant's life.
At Tyler Allen Law Firm, PLLC, we provide a strong legal defense that asserts your rights by raising every possible legal defense. If you are ready to speak with a criminal defense attorney in Phoenix who commits to protecting your constitutional rights in pursuit of the best possible outcome, contact us online for a legal consultation to discuss your vehicular aggravated assault case today.