Andrew Long Rising Phoenix Law Group. I recently received a question regarding what happened at the Oscars between Will Smith and Chris Rock. Of course, as you probably well know at this point, I’m referring to Will Smith slapping Chris Rock. At that event, the question I received was whether or not that SLAP could be considered a felony assault under Arizona law.
I can answer that pretty simply, and that is no, a felony assault, would be an aggravated. And there has to be something that would aggravate it to a higher level above a misdemeanor assault. What can often aggravate an assault and what does constitute an aggravated assault are things such as, the victim being under 15 years old, a weapon being used or a serious physical injury being inflicted.
I think we can all agree, that none of those things did happen at the stage, of the Oscars. However, to follow up, would it be considered an assault under Arizona law? And my answer to that is yes. There are three types of actions that can be considered an assault under Arizona law, and those are all misdemeanor offenses, in fact, different levels of misdemeanor offenses.
So under ARS 13-120. A person commits assault by intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causing any physical injury to another person. Now, I think this may be a stretch for the state to charge and convict Will Smith of just based on the barrier of saying that the slap, which probably just left a mark, if it even left a mark, constituted a physical injury now a physical injury has to be an impairment of physical condition. So I think for this to occur for Will Smith to be charged under a one of the statute, I, I think that’s pretty unlikely in quite a stretch. However, going to the second paragraph of that statute, A two, if a person intentionally places another person in reasonable apprehension of imminent physical injury, now.
In analyzing this paragraph, I think we can simply look at Chris Rock’s face. Just shortly before he was slapped, clearly he was in apprehension of physical injury. He didn’t know if what was being inflicted upon him would be a punch a slap as it were, but would it be reasonable for a person to believe that they’re about to be physically injured?
As Will Smith raised his hand to slap him in the. This is much stronger under Arizona law to say that this is an assault. Now, under this paragraph, it would be a class two misdemeanor. The first paragraph would be a Class one misdemeanor. Now, another paragraph under which Will Smith could have been charged and likely convicted is a three, which is knowingly touching another person with the intent to injure or provoke another person now this would be a class three misdemeanor.
Again, by revisiting knowingly touching another person with the intent to injure or assault, I think this one is a pretty open and shut case for the state to charge him with at least the A-3, very likely the A-2, and I think A-1 would be quite a stretch.
So, yes. what Will Smith did on the stage of the Oscars would be considered an assault under Arizona law, but not an aggravated assault, which would be a felony. If you have any questions about Arizona criminal law, please reach out.