Misdemeanor Assault

Tempe Lawyer for Misdemeanor Assault Charges

You may be surprised to learn you can be charged with misdemeanor assault even when you didn’t actually leave somebody with significant injuries. Arizona allows prosecutors to charge people based on biting, slapping, pinching, or hitting. Assault can also be charged for verbal threats and swearing that is intimidating. An assault conviction can result in incarceration, fines, surcharges, a loss of certain rights and it can leave a lasting criminal record. If you were charged with misdemeanor assault, you should discuss your situation with experienced Tempe violent crimes attorney James E. Novak. Mr. Novak is a former prosecutor who brings technical knowledge and deeper insights into how the state handles assault cases than most criminal defense counsel can. He understands which defenses to misdemeanor assault may be worth pursuing.

Defenses to Misdemeanor Assault Charges

Assault is typically charged as a misdemeanor in Tempe, Phoenix and elsewhere in the state, but it must be taken seriously. Under Arizona Revised Statute 13-1203, Arizona defines assault as any one of the following:

  • Physically injuring a person
  • Touching somebody while intending to provoke, insult or injure him.
  • Intentionally making someone reasonably apprehend imminent physical injury.

Every criminal charge must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a tough burden, but one that the prosecutor may be able to meet because it has a head start in gathering evidence for its case. It is important to call our lawyers as soon as you realize you are being charged.

Building Defenses to Misdemeanor Assault Charges

In some situations that involve ambiguously motivated conduct, the strongest defense is raising reasonable doubt about an element of the charge. For instance, we may be able to raise reasonable doubt as to whether you had the requisite intent if you were charged because you touched somebody inadvertently or made someone else fearful that they would be injured, but there are alternate explanations for the touch that are also more plausible. Similarly, it may be appropriate to raise reasonable doubt about whether the alleged victim was “reasonable” in believing he would be physically injured.

There are also many other defenses that it may be appropriate for us to raise including:

  • Intent
  • Necessity
  • Fabricated claims
  • Self-defense
  • Defense of others
  • Provocation.
Intent and Necessity

Sometimes it is straightforward to negate the element of intent. When the charges involve an accident outside your control, for instance, we may have a clear path to negating the “intent” element of misdemeanor assault. For example, if you performed the Heimlich maneuver on somebody in a bar, and inadvertently cracked a rib, and you were then charged with misdemeanor assault, we may be able to show that the assault charge is not appropriate because you did not intend harm.

Similarly, we may be able to raise necessity as a defense if you touched somebody or placed them in fear of imminent harm during an emergency in which you were trying to prevent a greater harm.


Unfortunately, there are situations in which an alleged victim fabricates charges of violence. In that case, the strongest defense may be trying to find inconsistencies or other reasons his or her testimony is not credible. If you and the victim were alone when the assault supposedly occurred, it may be possible to defend you by showing a prosecutor these inconsistencies. If that is insufficient, we may be able to show the court that the victim’s testimony has holes. However, when there are other witnesses, it can be a bit more challenging to mount this defense.

Self-Defense in Tempe

When you are acting in self-defense, you have a complete defense. This is an affirmative defense, meaning that even if you perpetrated an assault, you did it for justifiable reasons. Your force must have been proportionate to the situation.

Defense of Others

Defense of others is an appropriate defense to raise when you were acting to defend someone else. For instance, if you and your friend were walking down the street, and someone tried to violently mug your friend and brandished a knife, you would be justified in intervening to physically defend her even though the other person was assaulting her, not you. The force you use in your defense of another must be proportionate to the potential harm.

Diversion Program

When you’re charged with misdemeanor assault, our lawyers may be able to persuade the government that it is appropriate for you to go to a diversion program rather than serve time or be fined heavily. We will only be able to do this if it is the first time you have been charged with a crime. There is no guarantee the prosecutor will offer you this opportunity, but legal representation by experienced counsel may improve your odds.

Retain a Tempe Misdemeanor Assault Lawyer

You should seek an experienced Tempe violent crimes attorney to build a strong defense for misdemeanor assault charges. James E. Novak represents those accused in Phoenix, as well as Gilbert, Chandler, Mesa, and Maricopa County. Contact him at undefined or complete our online form.

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