Assault and aggravated assault are both forms of a violent crime. Any person charged with an aggravated assault crime can face harsh legal consequences. The offense is classified as a felony, and a conviction can result in a lengthy prison sentence, hefty fines, and a criminal record that can follow you for the rest of your life.
If you or someone you know is facing criminal charges for aggravated assault, it is imperative that you speak to a defense attorney to understand your rights and how to proceed with the charges against you. Whether you’re facing these charges or simply wish to learn more about Florida’s criminal justice system, this page will provide valuable insight into charges for aggravated assault, along with information on the penalties and possible defenses to use to fight a violent crimes case.
South Florida Aggravated Assault Lawyer
Facing a violent criminal offense on your own can be extremely difficult. With the help of a South Florida defense attorney, you won’t have to. The legal team at Ian Goldstein Law has spent years representing clients in Florida for various criminal offenses such as aggravated assault. Our firm represents defendants across multiple counties in South Florida. Contact our office today for a free consultation regarding your case at (561) 600-0950.
What is Assault/Aggravated Assault?
The criminal offense of assault is when any person intentionally threatens to cause physical harm to another person. The accused person does not actually have to place their hands on the alleged victim, as the threat of violence is enough to charge a person with simple assault. Under Florida Statute Section 784.011, any person who commits simple assault and creates a well-founded fear in another person can face a second-degree misdemeanor. The penalties for a second-degree misdemeanor in Florida include up to a $500 fine and 60 days in jail.
Aggravated assault is a more serious form of an assault charge. Under Florida Statute Section 784.021, aggravated assault is defined as when a person commits assault in one of the following two scenarios:
- The defendant used a deadly weapon without the intent to kill the victim; or
- The defendant committed the assault offense with the intent to commit a felony offense.
In Florida, aggravated assault is considered a third-degree felony. The penalties for a third-degree felony include up to a $5,000 fine and five years in prison.
Examples of each of the assault charges are as follows:
- Assault – Defendant threatens to hit or cause physical harm to the victim;
- Aggravated Assault – Defendant threatens to hit the victim with a baseball bat, but without the intent to kill;
- Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon – Defendant threatens victim with a firearm or other deadly weapon.
Elements in an Aggravated Assault Case
For the State Attorney to prosecute a defendant for aggravated assault in Florida, they must prove the following elements beyond reasonable doubt:
- The defendant intentionally and unlawfully threatened to commit assault upon the alleged victim, with either verbal or physical threat(s);
- The defendant had the ability, or appeared to have the ability to act out the physically violent act after threatening the alleged victim;
- The threat or act of assault caused the victim reasonable fear; and
- The defendant either attempted to commit a felony or used a deadly weapon during the aggravated assault.
What is a Deadly Weapon?
One of the elements in proving an aggravated assault case is the existence of a deadly weapon in the defendant’s possession. Florida law defines a deadly weapon as any instrument which is used to cause great bodily harm towards others. Examples of deadly weapons include, but are not limited to:
- Baseball Bat
- Broken Bottle or Glass
Aggravated Assault Penalties
Aggravated assault is a felony offense, which can result in paying expensive fines and imprisonment. There may be enhanced penalties, depending on the surrounding factors of the case.
For example, if the weapon in the defendant’s possession was a firearm, they may be charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. A conviction for aggravated assault with a firearm carries a mandatory minimum sentence of at least three years in prison. That is a day-for-day sentence, meaning there is no ability to earn gain time or otherwise be released earlier than the full 3 years. If the defendant used the firearm during the aggravated assault offense, by discharging or causing injury to the victim, the mandatory minimum sentence can be increased under Florida’s 10-20-Life statute.
In addition, a defendant who has committed aggravated assault while participating in a riot can also face harsher penalties. Under Florida Statute Section 870.01, a riot is defined as any violent, public disturbance which involves three or more people who act with the common intent to help one another in violent or disorderly conduct. Using this definition, a riot occurs when the disorderly conduct results in:
- Injuring another person;
- Damaging property; or
- The imminent danger of damaging property or injuring another person.
Special Victims and Increased Penalties
Florida has a specified list of victims which trigger increased penalties in an aggravated assault case. If certain “special victims” experience an aggravated assault, enhanced from a third-degree felony to a second-degree felony:
Examples of protected classes of victims include elderly victims (age 65 and older), law enforcement officers, emergency responders, health care workers, school employees, and certain public employees (such as transit workers and child protection workers ).
The charge for aggravated assault against a special victim is considered a second-degree felony. In Florida, the penalties for a second-degree felony include up to $10,000 in fines and up to 15 years in prison.
Aggravated Assault Defenses
Getting accused of a violent crime can be stressful and confusing. The defendant may be feeling as if the arrest is the same as being convicted. However, you can still fight the charges against you by working with an experienced defense attorney. Aggravated assault is an offense that has multiple defense options, which include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Conduct exhibited by defendant did not constitute a threat;
- False allegations by the alleged victim;
- Defendant used justifiable use of force;
- Necessity or Duress;
- Defendant lacked intent;
- Inability to carry out threat of violence;
- Insufficient Evidence;
- Instrument used by defendant not considered a deadly weapon;
- Victim’s fear was not justified; or
- Self-Defense or the defense of others.
As each case will vary in its details, so will the possible defenses to fight the aggravated assault charge. It is in your best interest to speak with a skilled defense attorney to determine which defenses are applicable to your case.
Speak with a South Florida Violent Crimes Attorney
If you are facing criminal charges for aggravated assault or any other violent crime, it is in your best interest to reach out to one of the South Florida criminal defense attorneys at Ian Goldstein Law. Our attorneys have years of experience representing those accused of crimes in the following counties: Palm Beach, Broward, Dade, Martin, and St. Lucie. Not only will our attorneys work towards building a strong defense for your case, but we will also ensure that all of your rights are protected throughout the legal process. Contact our office at (561) 600-0950 today to receive a free consultation regarding your case.