Assault with a deadly weapon is an offense that is harshly prosecuted in Florida due to the alleged fear the offense instills in a victim. The offense involves the intentional act of threatening or attempting to cause harm or injury to another person. Using a weapon during an assault offense will generate more severe penalties, which fall under Florida’s aggravated assault charge.
The consequences for an assault with a deadly weapon conviction can be life-altering. Offenders can face significant prison sentencing, expensive fines, probation, and a permanent criminal record that will follow them. In the face of an assault with a deadly weapon charge, a criminal defense attorney can play a crucial role in helping you get the charges against you lessened or dismissed.
South Florida Violent Crimes Defense Attorney
The defense attorneys at Ian Goldstein Law represent clients facing criminal prosecution in Palm Beach, Broward and Martin Counties. Our team is knowledgeable about violent crimes and their possible defenses in Florida. Contact our office today at (561) 600-0950 and receive a risk-free consultation regarding your specific case.
Assault is defined under Florida Statute Section 784.011 as the act of intentionally threatening by word or act to conduct violence or physical harm towards another person. Unlike a battery offense, the defendant does not have to make physical contact with the alleged victim to be charged with assault. If the defendant had the apparent ability to conduct violence against the alleged victim and performed some act which caused a well-founded fear in the victim that such violence was imminent, then it is considered assault.
In Florida, a defendant can face charges for simple assault or aggravated assault.
Charges for Aggravated Assault
If a defendant is accused of an assault incident with a deadly weapon, the associated charge they would face in Florida is aggravated assault.
Florida Statute Section 784.021 explains that a defendant can be charged with aggravated assault if during the commission or attempt of assault:
- The defendant used or had in their possession a deadly weapon without the intent to kill the victim; or
- The defendant intended to commit a felony offense.
Intent plays an extremely vital role in an aggravated assault case. If the defendant used or possessed a weapon and had the intent to kill the alleged victim, the charges would be raised to attempted murder.
Elements of Assault with a Deadly Weapon
For the State to convict a person accused of assault with a deadly weapon (aggravated assault), they must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The defendant knowingly and purposefully threatened the alleged victim with violence or physical harm;
- The defendant’s threat or actions created a well-founded fear in the victim, which resulted in the reasonable fear that the defendant could act out such violence;
- The defendant used or possessed a deadly weapon during the assault offense, without the intent to kill; and
- The defendant’s threat was considered credible and conveyed genuine and immediate danger.
What Constitutes a Deadly Weapon?
Florida courts define a deadly weapon is as either:
- Any instrument which, when used in the ordinary manner of its design and construction, will or is likely to cause death or great bodily harm; or
- Any instrument likely to cause great bodily harm because of the way it is used during a crime.
The following objects are examples, though not an exhaustive list, of items found to be “deadly weapons” by Florida courts:
- Chemical weapon or device;
- Glass bottle;
- Metallic knuckles; or
- A rock.
Whether an item is a “deadly weapon” is a question of fact to be examined by the court in light of the circumstances of the case. Florida courts have even found that large, aggressive breeds of dogs can fit the definition of “deadly weapon” under certain circumstances.
In Florida, aggravated assault is classified as a third-degree felony offense. If the State convicts the defendant, the penalties for a third-degree felony include:
- Up to $5,000 in fines
- Up to five years of imprisonment
- Up to five years of probation
Florida Statute Section 784.021(3) states that any person who commits an aggravated assault offense while in furtherance of a riot is ranked one level above the offense ranking, thereby increasing the sentencing guidelines range..
Florida Statute Section 775.084 explains that a person who was previously convicted of assault with a deadly weapon or another violent crime and is charged again while serving a prison sentence, under court-ordered supervision, or within five years of a previous conviction can face more severe penalties.
Aggravated assault can result in more severe penalties in cases where the alleged victim is considered a protected person.
Under Florida Statute Section 784.08, the aggravated assault charge will be reclassified one degree higher in cases where the alleged victim is 65 years of age or older. Such a charge carries a minimum sentence of 3 years and up to 15 years imprisonment, a fine up to $10,000 as well as mandatory community service work.
Under Florida Statute Section 784.07, the aggravated assault charge will also be reclassified one degree higher if the victim is any of the following individuals while in the line of their duties:
- Law enforcement officer;
- Law enforcement explorer;
- Emergency medical care provider;
- Hospital personnel (taking effect October 2023);
- Railroad special officer;
- Traffic accident investigation officer;
- Traffic infraction enforcement officer;
- Parking enforcement officer; or
- Licensed security officer in uniform.
With any of the above enhanced penalties, an aggravated assault charge would go from a third-degree felony to a second-degree felony. The penalties for a second-degree felony include:
- Up to $10,000 in fines
- Up to 15 years of imprisonment
- Up to 15 years of probation
Defenses to Aggravated Assault Charge
Facing a violent criminal offense can be a stressful experience. Our firm wants to remind you that even if you have already been charged with aggravated assault, it does not mean you are automatically guilty. By collaborating with the experienced attorneys at Ian Goldstein Law, you can discuss building any of the following defenses for your case:
- Stand Your Ground;
- False Allegations;
- Justifiable Use of Force;
- Necessity or Duress;
- Fear of victim not justified;
- Lack of intent to carry out threat;
- Instrument not considered deadly weapon; or
- Insufficient evidence.
Just as the specific circumstances for each case will differ, so will the applicable defenses. To break down your case and strategize a strong defense, contact an experienced defense attorney near you.
Contact a South Florida Aggravated Assault Attorney
Florida State Attorneys take violent crimes very seriously. If you or someone you know is facing charges for aggravated assault or another violent crime, your first move should be hiring an experienced South Florida defense attorney. An aggravated assault conviction can cause life altering consequences such as extensive prison sentences, expensive fines, or both.
The attorneys at Ian Goldstein Law can help you fight the charges against you and gain back your freedom. We will review your case details and help build a strong defense, all while ensuring your rights are protected. Contact our office today at (561) 600-0950 to receive a free consultation regarding your case.