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Aggravated Assault with a Firearm

If you have been arrested for Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon or Firearm in Tampa or Hillsborough County, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at the Sammis Law Firm. We help our clients aggressively fight firearm charges and crimes of violence. Florida Statute 784.021 defines the crime of aggravated assault as an assault with either:

  1. a deadly weapon without intent to kill; or
  2. with an intent to commit a felony.

In many of these cases, the aggravated assault charges arise out of self-defense. Florida law provides for special self-defense provisions if you were attacked while in your home, vehicle or place of business. Florida law also provides for the Stand your Ground defense that may be applicable in your case.

Call 813-250-0500 to discuss your case with an attorney today.


Aggravated Assault Charges in Tampa, FL

Florida law defines the term "assault" as an "intentional, unlawful threat by word or act to do violence to the person of another, coupled with an apparent ability to do so, and doing some act which creates a well-founded fear in such other person that such violence is imminent." See Florida Statute 784.011.

For assault cases that involve the use of a deadly weapon, then prosecutors in Tampa, FL, with the State Attorney's Office for the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit will often file the assault charge as felony Aggravated Assault under F.S. 784.021.

The criminal offense of aggravated assault does not require a touching of another person. Instead, the crime is focused on the threat of violence. Deadly weapons can include items designed, made, or adapted for the purposes of inflicting death or serious physical injury on another including a knife or brass knuckles. Other items such as a baseball batter, or a wrench can be considered a deadly weapon depending on the circumstances.


Elements of the Criminal Charges of Aggravated Assault

For aggravated assault with a firearm, the following elements must be proven beyond all reasonable doubt at trial: 

  1. The defendant unlawfully and intentionally threatened another person through an intentional act;
  2. At a time that the defendant made the threat, he appeared to have the ability to carry out the threat;
  3. The act of the defendant caused the alleged victim to have a well-founded fear that the violence was about to take place;
  4. The defendant used a firearm by pointing the firearm at the victim in a manner which threatened to use the weapon in a way likely to produce death or great bodily harm; and
  5. The defendant had a fully-formed, conscious intent to commit the aggravated assault with a firearm upon the alleged victim.

The prosecution is not necessarily required to prove that the defendant intended to kill anyone.


Penalties for Aggravated Assault in Florida

An aggravated assault is a third-degree felony punishable by five (5) years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Prior to July of 2016, if the assault involved the actual possession of a firearm, then the offense also carried with it a three (3) year minimum mandatory prison sentence. The Florida Legislature recently enacted legislation to eliminate the minimum mandatory prison sentence for aggravated assault with a firearm.

Effective on 7/1/2016, the Florida legislature passed CS/SB 228. This new legislation eliminated the minimum mandatory sentences for aggravated assault in the 10-20-Life statute by deleting aggravated assault from the list of crimes to which 10-20-Life applies. Many believe this change resulted because of the disparate application of these two legal concepts as highlighted in several high-profile cases including:

  • the Marissa Alexander 10-20-Life cases in Florida’s Fourth Judicial Circuit 
  • the Ronald Thompson 10-20-Life case (also prosecuted in Jacksonville); and
  • the George Zimmerman “Stand Your Ground” or justifiable use of force case in Sanford, FL.

See Heller, Use a Gun and You’re Done: How 10-20-Life and “Stand Your Ground” Together Have a Disparate Impact on Florida Citizens, Vol. 43, 2014, Southwestern L.R., available at http://www.swlaw.edu/pdfs/lr/43_3levitt (last visited Feb. 2, 2017).  

Because of this legislative change, any person convicted of only aggravated assault will no longer qualify for the 10-20-Life penalties. The new legislation in 2016 also repealed exception for sentencing in aggravated assault cases enacted in 2014. That 2014 legislation allowed the sentencing court to deviate from the minimum mandatory sentences for crimes of aggravated assault if the court makes certain statutory findings based upon mitigating evidence presented at sentencing. As a result of the legislative changes in 2016, because a person convicted of aggravated assault will no longer qualify for 10-20-Life sentencing, the repealed language would have no further application in cases of aggravated assault committed after the effective date of the new legislation.


Lesser Included Offenses to Aggravated Assault

The lesser included offenses of aggravated assault can include the improper exhibition of a dangerous weapon or firearm under Florida Statute 790.01, or discharging firearms in public under Florida Statutes 790.15.


Finding an Attorney in Tampa for Aggravated Assault Charges

Any arrest for any offense involving a firearm is serious. If you believe your case involves the use of force in self-defense or the defense of others, then call us to discuss your case. We represent clients on Aggravated Assault charges and other violent crimes involving a gun, firearm, or weapon throughout Hillsborough County and the surrounding areas.

Call 813-250-0500.


This article was updated on Thursday, March 2, 2017.