Your Guide to Aggravated Assault in Florida
Aggravated assault in Florida is an offense that refers to using a deadly weapon to threaten physical harm to another person, or in conjunction with the intent to commit a felony. It is important to remember that according to Florida state law, assault does not have to include physical contact with the victim.
What is Aggravated Assault?
An attack is considered an assault when another person is in fear of an immediate physical attack. Threatening to beat someone up isn’t necessarily considered assault, there has to be a genuine concern on the part of the victim that they are about to be attacked.
So if someone is attacked from behind, and has no idea that an attack is imminent, this action would not constitute an act of assault, though it would meet the standard for battery. Charging at someone while launching haymakers at them does meet the standard for assault as it is clear to the victim that there is an intention to cause imminent harm to their person.
Assault with A Deadly Weapon
Aggravated assault escalates a simple assault to a felony assault when a deadly weapon comes into play during the assault but without the overt intention to kill.
Under Florida law, a “deadly weapon” refers to “any dirk, knife, metallic knuckles, slungshot, Billie, tear gas gun, chemical weapon or device, or other deadly weapon except a firearm or a common pocket knife, plastic knife, or blunt-bladed table knife.”
So, under the letter of this law, throwing a heavy object at someone’s head would satisfy the standard for aggravated assault, even if the object misses the person’s head entirely.
Assault While Committing Another Crime
Similarly, brandishing a weapon while committing another felony like a robbery, for example, escalates the assault to an aggravated assault in that the person who is forced to give up their wallet, phone and other valuables sincerely believes the assailant will use the weapon to harm or even kill them.
Penalty for Aggravated Assault
Aggravated assault is a third-degree felony punishable by as much as five years in prison, and a fine of up to $5000.
Domestic Violence – Domestic violence is assault and/or battery where the victim is a domestic partner. To meet the standard of domestic partner, the victim and perpetrator must:
- Be currently living together
- Have lived together formerly
- Have a child or children together
- If there are no children involved, the two must be:
- Former spouses
- Related by blood or marriage
- Currently living together as a family
- Have formerly lived together as a family
Special Victims of Aggravated Assault
Aggravated assault charges can be pursued as a second-degree felony with a maximum sentence of 15 years, if victims meet certain qualifications. These qualifications include being:
- First responders, including officers of the law, emergency medical care providers, and firefighters
- Public transportation workers
- Corrections officers
- Department of Children and Family Services investigators or other personnel
- Any person over the age of 65
- A school employee
Aggravated Assault with A Firearm
Aggravated assault with a firearm in Florida is an extremely serious crime even for a first offender with no criminal record.
A conviction comes with mandatory minimum sentences of no less than 3 years in prison, as many as 20 years if the firearm is discharged during the assault and 25 years to life if death, disfigurement or other grievous injury has been sustained as a result of the attack.
Aggravated assault with a firearm is a charge that more than one horrified person has found themselves facing while sincerely believing they were defending themselves the entire time.
Defending Against A Charge of Aggravated Assault
If you have been charged with aggravated assault or aggravated assault with a firearm, retaining experienced legal counsel well versed in criminal defense should be the first step taken in defending against these extremely weighty charges.
Defense against these charges will fall into one or more of several very basic categories.
Self-defense is among the most common defenses used against a charge of aggravated assault, and particularly against aggravated assault with a firearm. Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law has been changed significantly in recent years. The law now places the burden of proof in such cases squarely on the shoulders of the prosecution to prove:
- The defendant had the intention of threatening violence, by word or act, against the victim
- The defendant had the means or appeared to have the means to act with immediacy on the threat of violence against the victim
- The actions by the defendant caused the victim to have a justifiable fear of imminent harm by violence as a result of the threat
- That a deadly weapon was used during the alleged assault, or that the assault was perpetrated with awareness of and a fully conscious intention to commit a felony against the victim
Even if a judge should rule that the Stand Your Ground law does not apply in a given case, a person accused of aggravated assault can still claim self defense as a justification.
If the judge or jury should determine that the case shows reasonable doubt as to the justification of a person to protect themselves, then the court must find the person not guilty.
As it relates to the imposition of the mandatory minimum prison sentence in the case of aggravated assault with a firearm, Florida state law dictates the judge must rule in favor of the defendant if:
- There is a good faith reason to believe the aggravated assault was justifiable
- There incident was not committed during the commission of another felony offense
- There is no threat to public safety by the defendant
- The circumstances of the offense don’t warrant the imposition of a mandatory minimum sentence
Because Florida law grants immunity in legitimate self-defense cases, legal counsel for the accused can move to have the charge dismissed before it goes to trial. If a motion to dismiss is filed, an evidentiary hearing is set, and testimony is heard. Should the motion to dismiss because of immunity be granted, all charges are then dropped against the defendant.
The law does make allowance for people to defend themselves or others by way of assault, aggravated assault or even battery, if there is a credible, provable reason to believe such force is necessary in light of an immediate threat, but the words “imminent” and “immediate” are critical here. Without the belief that danger is coming within the next few minutes, a conditional threat to do harm does not rise to the level of assault.
Means to Carry Out the Threat
If a person does not have the ability to act on the threat at that time, there can be no assault. Someone who is handcuffed or otherwise restrained has no means to carry out a threat, and thus would not be guilty of assault.
Contact Smith & Eulo, Aggravated Assault Lawyers
If you have been charged with aggravated assault or aggravated assault with a firearm, or have reason to believe you will be, let the criminal defense attorneys at Smith and Eulo Law Firm defend you against these very serious charges.
The lawyers at Smith and Eulo have years of real time courtroom experience, and the deep knowledge of criminal law you want when facing a charge of aggravated assault or aggravated assault with a firearm.
Call Smith and Eulo Law Firm: Orlando Criminal Defense Lawyers today.