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Is It a Felony to Assault a Medical Professional?

Posted on April 14, 2023 in assault & violent crimes

Arizona’s assault laws make attacking or causing physical injury to another person a misdemeanor or felony crime, depending on the circumstances. If the victim is a medical professional who was engaged in the execution of official duties at the time of the assault, a recent law change in Arizona makes this crime a felony, up from its previous classification as a misdemeanor. This means heightened sentences and penalties for offenders.

House Bill 2538

Arizona House Bill (HB) 2538 recently changed the classification of assault of a health care practitioner from a misdemeanor to a felony. More specifically, it upgraded the criminal classification of assault against a medical professional from a Class 6 undesignated felony to a Class 5 felony. As a Class 6 undesignated felony, this crime was often pleaded down to a misdemeanor. Now, as a Class 5 felony, the odds of it being downgraded to a misdemeanor are much lower.

 The legal definition of a health care worker is a professional who is certified or licensed to practice medicine, or a person summoned and directed by a licensed health care practitioner while engaged in professional duties. Any licensed professional who is employed or contracted to work at a health care institution can qualify as a health care worker. This includes a nurse, physician, physician’s assistant, paramedic or emergency medical technician. 

Penalties for Felony Assault Against a Medical Professional

Arizona’s definition of assault as stated in Arizona Revised Statute (A.R.S.) Section 13-1203 is intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causing physical injury to another person, putting another person in reasonable fear of imminent physical injury, or touching another person with intent to injure, insult or provoke the person.

Aggravated assault against a health care worker can result in a prison term of two to four years, with a presumptive sentence of three years. If the medical professional was seriously injured, the charges may be enhanced to a Class 4 felony. This can result in a longer prison sentence and other enhanced penalties, including a fine, probation or community service.

Defenses to Assault Against a Medical Professional Charges

Assault of a medical professional is a serious crime in Arizona. If you get arrested on suspicion of these charges, protect yourself by hiring a Mesa criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. An attorney can create a defense strategy to argue against the charge based on your unique circumstances. Potential defense options may include:

  • Mental illness: Arizona’s health care practitioner assault law does not apply if the person who commits assault is seriously mentally ill, as defined in A.R.S. 36-550 as exhibiting emotional or behavioral functioning that is so impaired as to substantially interfere with the ability to remain in the community without treatment. Affliction with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia is also a defense.
  • Self-defense or defense of others: the argument that the actions you took against the health care practitioner were necessary to defend yourself or others against an imminent fear of bodily harm. You or your lawyer must show a threat of unlawful force or harm used against you by the practitioner, or a real perceived fear of harm to yourself or others.
  • Lack of evidence: the prosecutor has the burden of proving you are guilty of the crime(s) beyond a reasonable doubt. Your attorney may be able to file motions to have evidence against you suppressed, such as evidence obtained from an illegal search and seizure.

 If you or a loved one has been arrested for allegedly assaulting a medical professional, contact AZ Defenders for a free case consultation with a criminal defense attorney. We can customize your defense according to the evidence against you, your criminal background and other factors to achieve the best possible case results on your behalf.