Flagstaff, AZ – No matter who you are, it is disturbing when there is an assault on a police officer. In this article, I will talk about Arizona laws relating to simple assault and how, when the simple assault is against a police officer, it becomes a serious felony offense.
Recently, the Arizona Daily Sun reported on an assault on a police officer.
“A man attempted to run down a Flagstaff police officer in a car on Tuesday morning while officers responded to a domestic violence call.”
According to police data, a Flagstaff officer tried to stop a man from driving away after a domestic violence incident, and the man did not stop. He accelerated his vehicle at the police officer, trying “to run him over.”
The officer, in a wise display of courage, pulled out his gun but decided not to shoot. He dove to the side and avoided serious injury. What kind of crimes might the driver be charged with?
First, let’s talk about simple assault. In Arizona, a person commits assault by:
- Intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causing any physical injury to another person; or
- Intentionally placing another person in reasonable apprehension of imminent physical injury; or
- Knowingly touching another person with the intent to injure, insult or provoke such person.
A.R.S. section 13-1203.
All simple assaults are misdemeanors, not felonies.
Applying facts laid out above, did the driver intentionally place another person (i.e., the officer) in reasonable apprehension of imminent physical injury? You bet.
That’s a simple assault even though the driver never caused physical contact with the police officer. Had he touched or injured the officer, he’d still be guilty of, at least, simple assault. Now let’s look at a special provision that takes a simple assault, and raises it to the level of “aggravated assault,” a felony.
Aggravated assault occurs under Arizona law when there is a simple assault and, in this case, when
“the person commits the assault knowing or having reason to know that the victim is… [a] peace officer, or a person summoned and directed by the officer while engaged in the execution of any official duties.”
A.R.S. section 13-1204(A)(8)(a).
In plain terms, a simple assault on a police officer is no longer a simple assault. It’s an aggravated assault, automatically. It’s not a misdemeanor. It’s a felony. If the aggravated assault on the officer involves a deadly weapon (think: gun or knife) or dangerous instrument (think: vehicle accelerating toward a police officer), the seriousness of the felony and severity of the punishment upon conviction goes up significantly.
Referring back to the aggravated assault described at the beginning of this article, the driver of the vehicle could very possibly be charged with aggravated assault on a police officer using a dangerous instrument (i.e., the vehicle).
What he is accused of doing is an extremely serious crime under Arizona law, even though there was no physical injuries of any kind. Other classifications of protected persons, like police officers, include: constable, firefighter, teacher, health care practitioner (i.e., nurse, doctor, etc.), prosecutor, code enforcement officer, park ranger, and public defender.
Any simple assault on a person in one of those classifications is automatically a felony case. Aggravated assault has many more definitions, nuances, and categories. Just remember, based on the facts we’re talking about, any assault on a police officer, even if it is without injury to anyone, is an aggravated assault and a felony offense.